Thursday, February 28, 2008

How do you greet a person?

Was thinking about how people of different cultural backgrounds greet each other the other day. Makes me wonder whether there is a co-relation between the common phrase(s) used and the historical backgrounds/characteristics of oneself.

Let us look at the English, Chinese and Thais.

English
The common greetings include 'How are you?', 'How have you been doing?', 'You alright there?' all seem to show the concern that one have for another.

I attributed that to the harsh weather over in the region. It has turned milder over the years but it was really bad back then (River Thames used to be frozen during winter). As such it could be common to ask about one's health.

Chinese
Though it has changed over the years, the older generation greets each other with, 'ni chi bao le ma?', which translate as 'Have you eaten?'.

That may sound weird or even rude to a non Chinese; whether I have eaten is none of your business and why are you asking anyway?

But famine has always been an issue as the vast fertile lands were ravaged by long periods of war as it struggled to feed the people. Asking whether someone has eaten is a reasonable question in that context.

Thais
A common greeting for Thais is 'pai nai ah?', which translates as 'Where are you going?'. A Thai friend once told me it reflects the suspicious nature of Thais. I wouldn't go to that extent. Perhaps the Thais are just naturally curious?

So how do people greet each other in your country/culture? It'll be really interesting to see the many different greetings.

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10 comments:

JC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JC said...

In the Philippines, it's "Kamusta" which means "How are you?". It's derived from the Spanish greeting "Como Esta?" which also means "how are you"

themuxicbox said...

I usually don't like people asking me how I am as the only reply I would give is "I'm fine thank you and how are you?" as its too complicated to explain other things.

Taitai said...

I think most people in the US would informally ask, "What's up? or How're things?" instead of "How are you?"

In Singapore we say, "Hey, Friend!" :D
(Have you been away too long?)

kyh said...

Malaysians should have the same greetings with Singaporeans since we both share the same ethnic compositions, history and cultural heritage. Malays would normally greet their peers with the Muslim 'Assalamualaikum' or to the non-Muslims with 'Apa khabar?'.

Midwest said...

Well in my country ( which is Romania ) we usually great our friends, relatives or persons we know the best saying "Ce mai faci?" ( meaning "How are you?" ) or simply by saying "Salut" ( meaning "Hi" or "Hello" ). There are many other forms of saluting, be the list would be too long to be mentioned here:)

C K said...

Was thinking that as time goes by, the universal greeting has converged into a simple 'Hi' or 'Hello'.

The effects of globalisation perhaps? :)

superpatches said...

taitai: I think Singaporean usually asks "Busy?" or "忙吗?“

london soon said...

Hello, brother... right?

Toby said...

And I thought "have you eaten?"/"are you full" was a Taiwanese expression based on their obsession with food.

http://toby-the-ex-ex-pat.blogspot.com