Swahili in Tanzania

Greetings and Partings

Two people shaking hands

The formulas for greetings and partings are among the most complex in the Swahili language. They reflect age and class differences, formal and familiar relationships, and a genuine caring between individuals. It is important to remember that all people are worthy of the same respect and the same concern, so even though you are in an office to see the boss, you still must go through the formulaic greetings with the secretary. It would be considered quite rude and ill-mannered to enter an office and immediately ask for the boss without asking about the secretary's health, family and working conditions. The formula varies depending on the degree of familiarity between the parties. One constant is the "Shikamoo" (reply "Marahaba") which is a particular greeting given to someone older than yourself; it may appear at various times in the greeting encounter, but it must appear. For a more complete explanation of greetings, refer to the annotations accompanying this topic's video and audio segments. To access the video and audio for each category of greeting or parting, select from the links listed below.

When visiting a home, a visitor will always be offered food or drink. The offer will be made in the form of "How would you like your tea?" or "Do you prefer pepsi or mirinda?" It is not considered polite to say "Would you like some tea?" The assumption is that it is embarrassing for the guest to have to say "yes," so you assume that the guest will want the food or drink. If you do not wish food or drink, you say that you are full. If it is mealtime, guests will always be asked to stay for a meal. It is polite to leave or to stay for the meal depending on your situation.

Formal Greetings and Handshakes
Informal Greetings Among Age-Mates and Close Friends
Greetings Among Close Friends (who haven't seen each other for a long time)
Informal Greetings Among Youths
Saying Goodbye