â€˘ A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
This country â€“ one of East Africaâ€™s most peaceful since its founding in 1964 â€“ is convulsed with a friendly ritual: long, involved hellos.
Your basic greeting, the salutation of choice for an acquaintance you meet on the road or stoop, or a stranger to whom youâ€™re being introduced, is a six-step exchange plus a three-step, wrist-clasping handshake:
Habari? (Whatâ€™s the news?)
Hujambo? (How are you?)
Sijambo, asante. (Fine, thank you.)
Salama? (Everyoneâ€™s safe?)
Salama. (Everyoneâ€™s safe.)
Thatâ€™s right â€“ you do this with nearly everyone who catches your eye. And in many cases, itâ€™s just the beginning. Thereâ€™s also a special hello for elders:
Shikamoo. (Respectful greetings.)
Marahaba. (Thank you for your respectful greetings.)
And an exchange for little kids, teenagers, or anyone trying to be hip:
Mambo? (Howâ€™re things?)
Thereâ€™s terse teenspeak to factor in:
Vipi? (Whatâ€™s up?)
And an extragracious greeting, usually delivered at the door of someoneâ€™s home, often with arms flung wide:
Asante sana! (Thank you very much!)
There are various intensifiers for beloved interlocutors, and choreography plays a role: an array of fancy handshakes; a dirty-or-wet-hands variant, in which the addressee proffers a wrist instead; curtsies; air kisses; and the occasional handclasp that lasts the length of the conversation.
Tanzanians are proud of this tradition, which both reflects and contributes to a pace of life thatâ€™s amiably slow. It leaves visitors feeling at home â€“ and perpetually late. But what can you do? You hate to bring up â€śgoodbye."