Running Community – “The Wave”
Paris Luxembourg Garden Runner

Runners in the Luxembourg Gardens ParisWe runners are a big family.  No matter how fast or slow we are, we are runners!  A part of being in the running community is “The Wave.”  But, is the runner wave universal?  Or, does the runner greeting differ around the world?

As we run in Europe, we have come to notice some distinct trends, patterns or general etiquette of greeting your fellow runners when you’re out there getting your sweat on.  First of all, wherever back home in the U.S., big city or not, we find that runners tend to acknowledge each other with a nod, a quick wave or a brief “hi.”  Of course, this is a generalization, but you know what we mean.  Of course, in big cities in any country there is always an element of anonymity, so you don’t always acknowledge each other.  Living in the mountains of Colorado, we don’t have a lot of extra oxygen to expel when coming across a fellow runner, so we just give a quick little hand raise.

Enter our travels…we read recently that the French do not smile at strangers (running or strolling) and that they find it odd when we Americans do so.  They find it almost indicative of some sort of senility – that we think we know these people at whom we are smiling.  We don’t know if the French would agree with this.  But, yes, the French culture is different than ours in the U.S.  They are more to themselves, they’re not going to mow you down with a big bear hug.   So, when in Paris we’ve gotten used to not addressing anyone which was very weird at first, but then we adapted to their ways and thought nothing of it. But, at a race, it’s a different story.  The Parisian runners are full of smiles, high-fives and “Allez!  Allez!” (Go! Go!)

Enter Belgium, where we forgot our manners and weren’t quick enough to respond when we got the nod.  Yep, it’s the nod.  It took passing a few more runners to get into the nod ourselves…those who we encountered earlier in our run probably thought we were rude, nope, just slow on the draw!

Runners in SwitzerlandFast forward to Switzerland…we got a mixed bag, but one super enthusiastic and terribly cute older gentleman who we came upon on a woodsy trail stands out.  He was really chatting us up…in German.  (We don’t speak German.)  He was asking about one of our obvious injuries and trying to explain his.  We commiserated with hand gestures and each then went on our way.

Even stateside, enjoying a run along the beach in SoCal, you get a “hang loose” hand gesture.  Everyone’s got their thing!

And circling back to France, when in Brittany, running on a lovely path near a quaint little town complete with a cathedral (seriously, it could not have been more idyllic), we received an onslaught of “bonjours” complete with smiling faces.  Who’s senile now?  Well, so much for all of that business about the French.  (You can read our rant on why the French aren’t rude here.)  Perhaps, like in most places, it’s just a big city thing there in Paris.  Enjoying all of the beauty of Paris while running is certainly “bonjour” enough.  Enjoy all of the greetings (or lack thereof) along the way!


*We would like to make the disclaimer that generalizations are abundant in this post as we certainly did not cross paths with every runner of each country mentioned and hopefully no offense was taken by any smiley, wavey, chatty international runners (wink, wink).

(This post is an update of our previous post – Running Etiquette – Addressing (or not!) fellow runners)

About Author

Jessica Bergan
Hi, I’m Jessica! I hated running when I was younger but got into it as an adult. When we moved to Colorado running got swapped for hiking and skiing and the thought of running at a high altitude sounded brutal. At the suggestion of my trainer, I added running to my other mountain activities and have ended up enjoying it very much…even at this high altitude! It’s been a great addition to my exercise routine especially when we travel. It doesn’t require much gear and I’ve discovered that running is a great way to explore a new destination and burn off some extra calories as well.


May 31, 2021
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