Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

4 Things to Know When You Meet and Greet an American Person

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Thu, May 08, 2014 @ 12:28 PM

how to greet an american in business or at a partyThis week I got a question from an All Ears English listener from Brazil.

He was wondering what he should do when he meets an American person in the US for the first time.

Should he hug the person?

Kiss the person?

Tell a joke to build rapport?

Have you ever asked this question?

Today I'll show you what to do based on the situation.




In a business situation (at a conference):

how to greet an American in businessWhen you are in a business situation, you should definitely err on the side of formality and professionalism.


  • Eye contact: If you don't make eye contact, the person might think that you are not trustworthy in an American business situation. Definitely make eye contact when you are first introduced.


  • Handshake: The firmer your handshake is, the better the impression you will make. A firm handshake shows confidence and strength. Make direct eye contact as you are shaking hands with the person.


  • Who makes the introduction: In an American business situation like a networking event or a conference, it's ok to approach someone to introduce yourself. Don't interrupt if the person is already speaking with someone else. Wait quietly until you have an opportunity to speak with the person or to enter the conversation if it's a group of people.


  • Conversation topics: Keep it neutral! Business small talk topics can include the shared situation ("How are you enjoying the conference?"), the weather, but avoid these topics. Also in some countries it's common to make a joke about the person when you first meet him or her to build a relationship, but don't do that in the US unless you know the person well. It is ok to make a joke about the shared situation, but don't make a joke about the person.




In a social situation (at a party):



  • how to greet an american in a social situation (2) Eye contact: Eye contact is also important when you meet someone in a social situation. You have to show the person that you can be trusted and also that you are confident so definitely make eye contact when you meet someone at a party.


  • Handshake: Sometimes a handshake is appropriate when you meet someone new, but sometimes it's ok to just say hello and make eye contact or maybe wave. Observe the setting and the people around you and do what they are doing.


  • Who makes the introduction: It's common for the host of a party to introduce you to some of his or her other guests because they are the link between you both. It is also ok to walk up to someone to say hello and introduce yourself. This shows confidence. Give it a try. Here are a few ways to say hello.


  • Conversation topics: You can ask the person how they know the host of the party, ask them if they live nearby, what they do for work, what hobbies they are into, or what their plan is for the following day or that weekend. There are a lot of possible topics but you should still avoid these.



Do you want to learn more about how to talk to American people in business and in life?

Try our English conversation program called Speakative!





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Topics: United States Culture, English Conversation, Business English Vocabulary

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