While exploring a new country usually gives you ample opportunity to soak up the stunning scenery and uncover world-renowned landmarks, traveling also allows you to create amazing human connections, immerse yourself in vibrant cultures, and get to grips with some fascinating customs.
There are many different ways to discover a nation’s special traditions, including taking part in various unusual and wonderful welcome rituals. From lively dancing in Kenya’s Masai Mara region to ceremonial gift-giving in Fiji, here are six of the most unique greetings which are still practiced around the globe.
1 The Maasai “Jumping Dance”
If your next big vacation takes you all the way to the plains of Kenya, you’ll likely get to experience a very unique welcome tradition! As well as being the location of one of the greatest wildlife migrations on Earth, the country’s Maasai Mara tribes are famed for their hospitality and energetic welcome ritual.
Known as the adamu (but nicknamed “the jumping dance”), their traditional greeting sees up to 12 warriors from a single tribe perform a lively dance and tell a story with their movements. Towards the end, the group gathers in a circle and competes to see who can jump the highest into the air. Guests too have the opportunity to join the group and compete with the Maasai to see how high they can jump!
Accompanied by chanting and war cries, it’s a real treat for the senses and an ideal opportunity to experience Maasai culture!
2 New Zealand’s Maori Hongi
Is New Zealand currently on your bucket list? As well as its gorgeous landscapes and laid back culture, it’s home to one of the most well-known welcome rituals on the planet! Known as the hongi, this symbolic custom has been practiced among Maori people for generations. It essentially sees you rubbing or touching noses with someone either when you greet them or as part of a celebratory ceremony.
Being asked to participate in hongi is seen as the ultimate sign of respect and signifies that you have been properly embraced by a community. The act itself is sacred in Maori culture and stems from a local legend about the creation of women; supposedly, they were given life when the god known as Tāne breathed air into their nostrils.
3 The Fijian Sevusevu Ceremony
If Fiji’s idyllic shores are calling your name, you might want to familiarize yourself with the island nation’s sevusevu ceremony. This age-old welcome tradition is one of many key cultural activities and sees guests presenting gifts to the chieftain (or head) of a community in exchange for entering their land and meeting their people.
While sevusevu ceremonies are not typically practiced in built-up areas, you may have a chance to take part in one if you’re heading off the beaten path to one of the island’s sleepy villages. Beforehand, you’ll need to select a gift or token to take. Kava root is a popular pick and available in most markets.
As part of the sevusevu ceremony, you should request to see the chief when you visit a new settlement and then present them with your gift. If you’ve brought kava root, they may brew it into a tea which is then shared by the group as part of the welcome ritual.
4 Fragrant Omani Coffee and Incense
Oman is another country that places huge emphasis on hospitality. For any coffee lovers among you, you’ll be glad to hear that a traditional Omani greeting usually involves sipping on a freshly brewed cup!
Known as Qahwa in the local lingo, Arabic coffee – often spiced with cardamom, cloves, and saffron – is typically served to guests in Omani homes. Both its scent and taste will instantly give you a warm welcome!
You might also receive delicious treats such as dates, nuts, and regional baked goods to eat with your coffee. In return, it’s good practice in many areas of the country to present your hosts with a gift of incense (historically frankincense) just before you leave.
5 The Australian Aboriginal “Welcome to Country”
Greeting visitors respectfully is a long-standing custom among Australia’s indigenous communities. The “Welcome to Country” ritual has been practiced for centuries and was once standard protocol when non-natives wanted safe passage through Aboriginal or Torres Strait lands.
Nowadays, the Welcome to Country custom allows visitors an opportunity to honor Aboriginal culture and ways of life. It usually takes place at the beginning of a meeting or event and can be anything from a speech through to singing or dancing.
An ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ is another form of welcome tradition in Australia which can be performed by non-natives and is considered respectful if you’re congregating on Aboriginal land.
6 India’s Royal Welcoming Ceremony
For centuries, Indian’s have lived by the adage ‘Atithi Devo bhava’, meaning ‘the guest is equivalent to god’. Indian hospitality traditions are warm and inviting, and none more so than the welcome ceremony.
As you step inside a heritage hotel or palace, expect to be welcomed with ritual items: fragrance or incense to purify the surrounds, a lamp to light up the way (a throwback to a time without electricity), a tilak made of vermillion and turmeric painted on your forehead, and a garland of fresh flowers, to signify goodwill.
Despite its name, you don’t have to be a member of royalty to enjoy this welcome ritual in India. Once reserved for the high ranking members of society, this ceremony is very much in practice at accommodations such as Taj Rambagh Palace or Umaid Bhavan in Rajasthan, adding a touch of warmth and tradition to your stay!
Experience a warm welcome no matter where you vacation when you book your trip through Enchanting Travels!