Views #1004 | Intermediate (B1)

Touchy Feely

Cheryl compares physical touch about friends and acquaintances in Hong Kong, America, and Guam.

Nick: You've lived in three different parts of the world, so is there any difference between each part in terms of physical contact?

Cheryl: Yeah, I have lived in Hong Kong, Guam, and the U.S. Hong Kong is in Asia. Guam is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the U.S. is American culture. So in Hong Kong I think most people would not touch each other, just give each other a little bow. I find that a bow is very common in Asia. If you're very good friends, you wouldn't really hug. Hugging I think is a very American thing to do. I think you would just touch each other on the shoulder, or give each other a side embrace. A mini-hug.

In Guam, you would definitely greet your friends and family with a kiss on the cheek. A handshake is much too formal for island culture because Island culture is so relaxed and laid-back. You would only do a handshake with business partners or in a really formal setting, but usually a kiss on the cheek is what you receive and give when you see your family and friends.

In the U.S., hugging is most common I think for friends and family, but if you're not friends and family, a handshake would probably be the most common.

Nick: Is a handshake always the same or is there different styles of handshake?

Cheryl: From what I've observed, Guam has American culture so Guam handshakes and U.S. handshakes are the same. I think in Hong Kong, it's got a bit of a British background, so that's also very similar. I don't see any difference with the handshake.

Nick: So, what about young people? Is there a different way they interact physically with each other?

Cheryl: Yes, definitely. In Guam, I always see people do a fist bump for close buddies of theirs. Girls would definitely hug and give each other a kiss. In Hong Kong, I don't see the fist bump often. I don't think I've ever seen it at all actually, but for close friends, I think a side embrace, or a semi-embrace would happen, but mostly just some form of touch or acknowledgement of the other person.

I think it's also very common for people of the same sex to hold hands in Asia and just be friends. Woman and woman hold each others hand if they are very, very, very good friends, and it's apparently very normal. I don't know about a guy holding another guy's hand, but if a woman and a woman hold each other's hands, it does not signal that they are together as a couple. It might just signal that they are very, very good friends or sisters.

Nick: In Australia that would be very strange.

Cheryl: Yes, it would, wouldn't it. Even in America and Guam.

Learn Vocabulary from the Lesson

formal setting


You do a handshake in a formal setting.

A formal setting is a place that has a formal atmosphere or feeling. When something is formal, it is official or highly regarded. For example, most business offices have a formal setting. The opposite of a formal setting would be a casual setting or a laid-back setting. Notice the following:

  1. In a formal setting, you should not speak slang.
  2. It is a formal event, so please wear a suit.

side embrace


You give each other a side embrace.

To embrace is to hug or for two people to hold each other. A side embrace would be when two people have mainly only one arm around each other. A full-embrace, would be more like a hug. Notice the following:

  1. The two lovers embraced for a long time.
  2. The two men embraced awkwardly.



It's got a bit of a British background.

Here, the word background means influence or history. For example, if someone has an American background, that means they have been exposed to a lot of American culture. Notice the following:

  1. I was born in Nepal but grew up in Toronto so my background is more Canadian.



Close buddies

A buddy is a very close friend, and usually a person that you spend a lot of time with having fun. To call someone your buddy is a way of showing someone you consider then a close friend or someone you care about. Notice the following:

  1. Hey, buddy. How are you doing?
  2. This is my golfing buddy, Tim.

fist bump


They gave each other a fist bump.

A fist bump is like a hand shake. It is a physical contact with the hands used when greeting people. It is a very casual way of greeting friends. You would never use a fist bump in a formal setting.

Vocabulary Quiz

embrace • formal • buddy
background • bump
  1. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to into you.
  2. This is not a meeting. Anyone can come.
  3. A common way to a friend is with a hug.
  4. Everyone in her family has a in music .
  5. I want to introduce you to a of mine.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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