Greetings are a vital aspect of connection and community building in East Africa.

And because Swahili is the common language of Tanzania and Kenya, learning a few basic Swahili greetings is a great way to ensure you’re observing local customs and culture. Below are a few greetings to get you started!

1. Mambo?

Translation: How are things?

  • Typical response: Poa or Safi
  • Translation: Cool or Fresh

Mambo generally translates to, “Whats up?” Or “How are things?” in English. First used among younger Swahili speakers, these days you’re sure to hear this greeting used all throughout Tanzania and Kenya between friends, acquaintances, and family members of similar ages and social status.

2. Habari gani?

Translation: What’s the news?

  • Typical response: Nzuri sana, na wewe?
  • Translation: Very good, and you?

Habari gani translates to, “What’s the news?”, and is also used as a fairly casual greeting. Like most casual greetings, responses are simple.

3. Shikamoo

Translation: I give you respect.

  • Typical response: Marahaba
  • Translation: I accept your respect

Shikamoo is a greeting that is reserved for elders, and is vital to know before your visit to a Swahili speaking country. Because elders in East Africa are culturally revered, learning this greeting early on will ensure that you’re respecting East African culture, and observing local customs.

4. Kwa heri!

Translation: Good bye!

  • Response: Kwa heri! or Baadaye!
  • Translation: Goodbye! or Later!

Kwa heri is a typical Swahili goodbye. It’s not so informal that it can’t be used with certain age groups, but it is casual enough to be used in pretty much any situation.

5. Baadaye!

Translation: Later!

  • Response: Baadaye! or Kwa heri!
  • Translation: Later! or Goodbye!

Baadaye is an informal goodbye, meaning “later” in English. Mostly used in comfortable situations, you’ll hear this said in informal settings all over Kenya and Tanzania.

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With these five greetings, you’ll be on your way to building connections wherever Swahili is spoken. Baadaye for now!