Each culture inevitably has it's own ways of greeting each other. Texas is no exception to this case
. What follows is a list of situations and the appropriate way to greet someone in Texas without getting shot. More importantly, it helps to know when someone is trying to be polite, genuinely likes you, wants you to go away, or is just being creepy. It is actually quite an intricate process.
Greeting Someone You Already Know: If you are already friends with someone, greetings are going to be as easy as an inside joke. If, however, you are only just aquainted with them, there are some important do's and don'ts.
- Greeting a Complete Stranger:
It is important to greet anyone who looks at you in a friendly fashion, however, the proper response and initiation of it is dependant on your situation and goals.
- You have no desire to speak to this person: If you are a male, then a simple quick nod will generally suffice. A lot can be read into a nod. Women usually smile at each other without showing teeth. Showing teeth for either gender is a bad idea because it is considered a challenge. If women ever show teeth in a quiet greeting, it is considered a threat.
- While Driving: Acts of courtesy while driving in Texas are practically law in some areas, and crimes in others. It is best to watch and see how other drivers are reacting before initiating contact. But the general guideline is this: If someone lets you cut in front of their car, it is considered polite to look at them in the rearview mirror and raise your right hand with all fingers extended (which says thank you), but do not wave your hand (which indicates they can pass you) or hold your fingers together (which indicates you are greeting forward, rather than backward). If you are at an intersection and wish to signal someone to go ahead of you, then nod while simultaneously extending the fingers your "driving hand" outward and back in. You will want to keep your fingers together while doing this. For nighttime driving, if someone is needing to cut in front of your car in traffic but appears unsure if they have room or if you are aware, you can signal the "go ahead" by flicking your brights once.
- If you wish to initiate conversation or reply: First off, if the strangers are a couple (man and woman) and you are male, you should greet the man first (this is not out of sexism, but rather to indicate to the man that you are not trying to steal his date). State your first name, then your full name (eg. "Bob. Bob Smith"). If he extends his hand, shake it firmly and release as soon as pressure ceases to increase. If pressure decreases you have held the handshake for too long. If you feel a slight tugging you have held it for WAY too long and have about five seconds before you are either punched or shot. NEVER TRY TO SHAKE HANDS WITH A POLICE OFFICER UNLESS THEY OFFER FIRST!!! Police in Texas carry their guns unstrapped at times and have in the past had people shake hands with the cop, then steal their gun and shoot them. If you are a female and greeting someone you wish to speak to, generally a smile and a comment about the stranger's clothing or the weather will suffice.
- Initial Words: Texans have a few select "hello" phrases they use to identify intruders (read as non-Texans) from Natives. "Howdy" works a lot better if you know what it stands for ("how do you do?"). "Hi" and "Hey" are most commonly used. If you wish to impress and be polite, begin your greeting with "Excuse Me" in a genuine fashion. "Hello", "How do you do?" and flashing gang-signs are generally disgarded as being someone about to try and sell you something or take your money or children away.
- Don't Hug. Some crowds are liberal-minded enough to allow this, but most places in Texas, if you are male and hug a man, there may very well be some uncomfortable reactions unless you are quite good friends with them. If you are male and try to hug a woman you barely know, you will probably get maced or kicked, or beat up by her male counterparts. If you are female, it is still a bad idea unless you are trying to seduce someone.
- Do Listen. In case my other writeups haven't given it away, Texans love to talk. The more you can listen in between speaking, the more intelligent you will appear. The more you jabber, the less so.
- Don't Interrupt. This is a vital rule. Never interrupt someone. It is considered as rude as spitting at someone. Interrupt someone too often, and they will just simply stop talking, stop listening, and start wondering where else they could be.
- Do Host. If you are having company over, it is important to be a good host. While not neccesary to lay out a banquet, having a couple of six-packs in the fridge is a must. Choosing the beer for your crowd is important. Bottled beer is the best bet. If you don't know what kind of beer fits your crowd, domestic is always a safe option. Having nothing but imported beer to offer will get you branded as "one of those" unless it is Corona or Guiness. Another very important rule of thumb. Everyone talks about how much they love Guiness, but almost no one will actually drink it when there is anything else available. A modest 4-pack in your fridge will last you for months if you have other beer available in there, and it looks impressive!
- Don't show up at anyone's house without calling first. Even if they say "Drop by anytime!", what they really mean is "Call and if I'm not otherwise engaged we might hook up somewhere."
- Do bring at least a six-pack to any party you go to. It is customary to leave any extras for the host.
I hope this helps anyone visiting Texas
, or moving here
. For those that already live here, most of these things are reflex. There are, of course, considerable variations and permutations on all of these things. But in general, to the total outsider to Texas Culture, following these guidelines should ensure that you are considered to be a polite person and generally invited back again.
Response to Wuukiee - I believe you may have missed the point in posting this. This is not for people living in Texas. This is not for people who even live near Texas, or are familiar with the state. This is for people who come from a culture alien enough to have such a different way of greeting people, and different ways of doing things that they could inadvertantly offend or cause problems. The idea that "just treat everyone as a human being" is just peachy if your idea of treating them as a human being is the same as the person you're treating. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Understand that just because a generalization is made, does not mean it is incorrect or automatically invalid. Many northern businesses (in the U.S. even) send people down to study Texas ways of speaking, mannerisms, and so forth because they want to know how to get better reactions. I am simply volunteering information on Texas that some Yankee might otherwise have to pay hundreds of dollars to learn, and hopefully being a bit more accurate at the same time.