How do Malagasy People Greet
Malagasy People are famous for their warm welcoming and respect of the Fihavanana (I need a longer reflexion to think of a possible traduction of this word). Among this is the way and manner of greeting each other.
When I was about to write this post an obvious thing hit my mind, we officially have 18 tribes spread in 22 regions (we dropped the concept of provinces in 2006) that have their own culture and traditions thus their own way of saying “Hello”. It is practically impossible for me to cover all of them unless I got locked up in a library for hours which is not likely to happen in the days, even months to come lol.
Most of what I’ll put here is mainly used in Antananarivo (or should I say Analamanga region), I prefer not to talk much about how they do in the other regions (“I only speak what I know” the RZA said).
During the first republic the “Salama Tompoko” was stated and set as the official Malagasy Greeting. My father just told me about that and I was like “really!!”. I don’t know if it was used all over the country or not. Nowadays, the majority of the people in Tana still use this phrase to greet each other with “Manao ahoana Tompoko”.
In English they mean “How are you doing?”, it’s a formal and timeless formula that you can use wherever you go and whoever you meet at anytime. The usual reply is “Tsara fa misaotra Tompoko. Ary ianao manao ahoana?” (Fine thanks and you?). There are different variations but this remains the base of all of them. In the Malagasy Culture one should respect the older people so as long as you are dealing with someone who is older than you, you should greet him with “Manao ahoana Tompoko”, this shows that you respect this one. But it’s not always the case when both sides agree to behave like friends or siblings then they use the following lines.
Greeting using slangs
“K’aiza” or “Dia ahoana hono/dia ahoana ry lety/dia ahoana ry baina ah?” is the equivalent of “What’s up” mostly heard between teens and youngsters. The French culture is deeply stemmed in that of Malagasy and you can notice that in the way we speak, “Vary amin’anana”. So it’s not a surprise to often find French words in a Malagasy discussion. We are also used to both “Sali” (from the French “Salut”) and “Bonjour”.
One thing Malagasy people have started to adopt (I may find a better word than adopt) is hugs.
Hugs, now we like it
If ten or twenty years ago somebody launched the “I give free hugs” he would probably pass for a crazy one. Hugs are new to us, I mean, in the Malagasy tradition and way of living there’s no hug lol. It is odd and rare to see for example a father hugging his son when he’s grown up. We are not really the kind of people that (publicly) show our feelings. Thank God it’s changing, TV watching, internet … well globalization has made it more conceivable – and easier somehow – to see two Malagasy people giving a hug to each other.
3 kisses, 2 or …
Here comes the big deal, we kiss three times. The figure is not official but we don’t know why we do it three times when we kiss someone. The thing is that people try to change it and it’s not anymore sure how many times you should swing your head when you greet. The situation becomes super awkward when you still wait for a third and last one while the other person withdraws lool. You are like “Oiaka be zah leh!!”. So, you better think “twice” before kissing “three times” lol.
Here are phrases used in some parts of the Island for greeting
“Salama va?” used in Ambositra not far from Fianarantsoa
“Akory aby” used by Antaisaka people in the south-east
“Mbarakaly” or “Akory lahaly” is how Toamasina greets
“Akory li eh” is used in Toliara (downtown)
You know more ways to greet in Malagasy, drop them!
It’s time I said “Veloma” goodbye.