CULTURAL ETIQUETTE

Saying Hello in Botswana

By Doug Johnson, Tuesday, Jan 20, 2009, 12:00 AM

Saying hello in Botswana

Saying hello in Botswana (Illustration by Kate Francis)

The quickest way to end a conversation in this southern African country is to start it without a greeting. "There is nothing more offensive than a foreigner who asks for something without first exchanging pleasantries," says Hannah Maniki, a culture instructor in the capital, Gaborone. Start with hello, which is "dumela rra" (doo-meh-lah rah) to a man and "dumela mma" (doo-meh-lah mah) to a woman. Follow that with a handshake:

Step 1 Extend your right hand and place your left under your right elbow, as if you were supporting an injured arm. Lightly clasp hands as you would in the U.S.

Step 2 Change your grip so your thumb interlocks with the other person's—almost like an arm wrestling pose at waist level. Keep your left hand beneath your right elbow.

Step 3 Return to the handshaking position and say "Le kae?" (lay ky), which means "How are you?" in Setswana, the country's main language.