Cultural Note: Greetings
Greetings are a very important part of the culture of the African people. Likewise, Swahili speakers take greetings very seriously. People take time to greet others even if they are strangers. This cultural habit is more visible in the rural areas than in the city where the pressure to greet others as a cultural norm is minimal. However, when friends and acquaintances meet, they generally stop and exchange an extended greeting ritual.
The general greeting that can be used by anyone is ---jambo and habari gani. When one says hujambo/hamjambo or habari gani, the respondent is expected to affirm rather than respond to the contrary. In other words, one does not say for example I am not well as their initial response to hujambo. The proper way is to say I am fine and after a few exchanges bring up any unpleasant news.
The length of a greeting exchange depends on the level of familiarity between the parties concerned. Thus it may take between a minute and longer. Even when people are in a hurry, they will take time to exchange greetings in a proper fashion. Most men would shake hands when greeting one another.
When greeting each other, people may SHAKE HANDS Men more than women will initiate a greeting especially a handshake. Also when men shake each other s hands they use both hands, women tend to use only one hand when greeting men. Women rarely greet each other with a hand shake. Rather they may use body language such as a nodding of the head or a raising of the eyebrows. Influences from other cultures have also been introduced into greetings, especially in the case of women, a hug, a kiss on both cheeks, and holding each other's hands while conversing.
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