Though I was born and raised in India, it’s rare to use the formal “Namaste” with another Indian. We rely on the English words “Hello” or “Hi”, or “Good morning” and “Good evening” for more formal situations. Namaste, or its original version, “Namaskar”, is reserved for interactions in the more conservative northern states of India, or for greeting a much older relative or stranger.
Sometimes, people who are unfamiliar with Indian culture and the usage of the word “Namaste” will greet me with that word. It’s cute in yoga class, but feels awkward otherwise; at best, it’s trying to impress a native speaker, but at worst, can seem like they didn’t take the time nor interest to learn about how 15% of the world’s population greets each other. It almost makes you want to say, this person is not interested in me nor my culture.
That’s why it’s critically important to begin a conversation with the right greeting.
When you’re introducing yourself on a dating app, using the right greeting can make a world of difference in showing the other person that you’re a culturally-sensitive individual genuinely interested in getting communication right.
The classic greeting of “Hi how are you” is exactly that: cliché, and often ineffective.
However, since greetings vary across the world, using the greeting appropriate in your city will win you points and show that you took the time to learn at least one word of the local language.
Here, 21 women, both expats and locals, share how they say hello in their home countries and where they now live:
“I’m Brazilian, and in Brazil we say: “Oi!” Which means ‘Hi’. Now I live in Poland, where they say “Dzień Dobry”, which means Good morning. Even at night, they say “Dzień dobry”.” – Lets Texeira
“In Taiwan, our building’s security guard would always ask if I had eaten (“Chi fan le ma”) or if I’m heading out to buy food. My family in Hong Kong also greets me like this; it’s a way to care for the other as food is SO important for our culture.” – Angela Wai Ting Chan
“In Portuguese, “Olá” is an evolution of ‘Allah’, a legacy of less than one century of Muslim rule over the Iberian peninsula. It’s the same with Spanish, but the word is ‘Hola’.” – Sofia Castelo
“”Cześć” in Polish means “I honor you”. It lost it’s original meaning nowadays, but still the root is there.” – Agnieszka Gocalińska
“We say “Salve” in Italy, which means “well”. Or we say “Ciao” which is both a hello and goodbye. – Amanda Forman Simonelli
“The origin of the Japanese hello, “Konnichiwa”, is interesting. “Konnichiwa,” back in the day, was actually the beginning of a sentence: “Konnichi wa gokiken ikaga desu ka?,” or “How are you feeling today?” (今日はご機嫌いかがですか？）. So “Konnichi wa” exactly translated means “This day is…” ‘. – Mike Oakland, via Shelley Protte
“In Transylvania (Romania), we say ‘servus’ which comes from Latin and it means I’m your servant.” – Senida Kiehl
“I worked with people from the U.K. and they always greeted me with, “You alright?” I kept wondering if it looks like something is wrong with me until I eventually figured out it was just their way of saying hello!” – Cara Amewotowu
“In Russian it is “Zdravstvui” (ЗДРАВСТВУЙ) and literally it means “I wish you good health” Irina Prokofyeva
“In Bahasa Indonesia: “Apa kabar” means “What’s the news?” – Utami Sugianto
“In the Philippines, the formal greeting would be “Mabuhay” and though it’s not really used colloquially, it is used to greet tourists. It literally means “come alive” but also means “Long live”.””Kumusta” or “How are you?” would be more commonly used, derived from the Spanish “Como esta?” ” – Rachel Dimaandal Van Haeff
“In the southern (Catholic) part of Germany, you say ‘Grüß Gott’ – it means that God greets you, God is with you and shall stay with you throughout your day.” – Sarah Weis
“‘Gamarjoba” in Georgian means “victory” (“gamarjveba” = “victory”).” – Nino Pertenava
“I’ve been living in Korea for the last 5 years. They say ‘annyeong-haseyo’ (안녕하세요) which is formal and literally means ‘Be well’ (or ‘Peace be with you’) but it’s a greeting like hello. Informally, you drop the honorifics and just say ‘annyeong’, but only for friends or those younger than yourself. They also say ‘bab-meog-eoss-eo-yo?’ (밥 먹었어요?) which means ‘Have you eaten?’.” – Frances Frylinck
In Sinhala (in Sri Lanka), “Ayubowan” said with hands clasped together as in a prayer, means, “May you live long” or “May you have have many years”, and can also be used to say welcome, goodbye etc. It comes from Sanskrit, in which Sinhala has its roots. ‘Ayu’ means years, or life, and ‘bowan’ means “may it grow.” – Sunari Silva Syed
“In Burmese (Myanmar), “Mingalabar” means “Auspiciousness to you”, or, more simply, “good luck”.” – Kristen Palana
“In Lebanon, it’s “Marhaba” (مرحبا), from an adjective of the noun “Rahb” in Arabic, meaning ‘ample’ or ‘spacious’. There’s also “Sabah alkhyr” and “Msa’ alkhayra” (صباح الخير/ مساء الخير), which literally mean ‘Good morning’ and ‘Good evening’. If the person is very happy to see you ,they’d reply by saying “Bonjouren” or “Bonsoiren” (two good mornings/ two good evenings).” – Nour Beydoun
“Most people in Malawi greet in Chichewa, saying “Muli bwanji” which means “how are you?” literally.” – Leah Wright
“There are 11 official languages in South Africa! I only know three of them. In Se-Tswana, ‘Dumela’ means Hello, and ‘Le kae?’ is a really informal ‘How are you?’. We also say ‘Howzit?’, which is slang for ‘How is it going?’. In Afrikaans, we say ‘Goeie dag’, which is literally ‘Good day’, Or ‘Hallo’! – Frances Frylinck
“In isiZulu (South Africa), ’Sawubona’ is a 24-hour greeting. It can be AM, PM or evening.” – Lungi Mtetwa
“I have learnt that greetings and the responses are extremely important here in Tanzania. You literally greet virtually everyone you pass and they feel offended if you don’t reply. There are lots of ways to say Hello in Swahili; the most common is “Jambo” – meaning ‘news’, as in “Do you have any news?”. But this is often reserved for tourists. “Mambo” is more commonly used, and is a casual way of asking how you are. The reply is “Poa,” meaning ‘Cool’. You will also hear “Shikamoo”, which is a formal greeting showing respect from a younger person to an older one, to which the the reply is “Marahaba”. And everywhere you go, you will hear “Karibu”, which means welcome. – Alison Randles Rourke
Thank you to all these lovely international ladies for permission to print your words.
What about you? How do you greet people where you live or where you’re from?
Tell us in the comments below.
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I am from Kenya,the Nyanza province. A community called The Abagusii. Here we say ‘mbuyore’ meaning ‘how are you’
It is said at anytime of the day and anywhere. The response is ‘mbuyande’ meaning ‘I am okay’
I love that!
In Zimbabwe the most common word used to say hello is Mhoro.
Mhoro Danai! 🙂
I am from Uganda, and here the commonly used word in the central and Eastern part of the country is ‘ Oli otya’ which means ‘how are you ‘ . This can be said at any time of the day. Or ‘wasuze otya’ meaning ‘ good morning.
That’s so interesting. In what language is this greeting? Is it Luganda?
oli otya? (Uganda)
Haha, that’s so short and cute! and more musical than simply ‘hello” 🙂