Boris Johnson has told a Māori congregation in New Zealand their traditional greeting would be “misinterpreted in a pub in Glasgow”.
The Foreign Secretary is visiting the Commonwealth nation for two days as Britain looks to strengthen its ties with its former colony.
“It’s my first time in New Zealand and of course I’m discovering there are some things we have in common with this wonderful place and with the Māori,” he said on Monday.
“A tradition of strong female leadership which we have in the United Kingdom.
“Thank you for teaching me the Hongi, which I think is a beautiful form of introduction. Though it might be misinterpreted in a pub in Glasgow if you were to try it.”
Watch video of Johnson’s comments, above.
What is the Hongi?
The Hongi is performed as a greeting among Maori, who press their nose and forehead together, and is used in place of a formal handshake.
There’s a mysticism attached to the move, with the act of pressing noses seen as a sharing of the breath of life.
Prince William and Hillary Clinton have all performed the greeting on recent visits - though they stopped short of comparing it to a headbutt.