Afghan Culture

Greetings

  • Greetings between people of the same gender usually involve a handshake with the right hand.
  • Close friends and family may hug, backslap and kiss one another on the cheeks. 
  • People generally do not touch those of the opposite gender during greetings unless they are a close family member. Therefore, men should wait until a woman extends her hand first before extending his own hand for a handshake.
  • Men may greet women by placing their hand over their heart and nodding. This greeting may also be used to greet other people who you perceive are unaccustomed to being touched.
  • People may kiss a person’s forehead or right hand to show deep respect. However, it is not acceptable for a male to kiss a female in this manner if they are not related.
  • Eye contact should be kept to a minimum during greetings out of modesty, especially between men  and women.
  • A common verbal greeting is “Salam” or “Salam alaikum”, meaning “Peace be upon you”. People usually place their right hand over their heart when they speak, to show respect and sincerity in the greeting.
  • Greetings are usually prolonged as each person enquires about the other. Afghans usually ask about how a person’s health, business or family is going. Wait for these initial pleasantries to finish before asking a direct question.
  • People ask “How are you?” by saying “Tsenga yee” in Pashto, “Chutoor hasta” in Dari or “Shoma chetur hastin” in Farsi.
  • Use a person’s last name and title when greeting them unless they permit you to move on to a first-name basis. The title comes after the last name in Afghanistan (e.g. Smith Mr.), such as "Hussaini Sahib". If someone is a doctor, you would say “Dr. Hussaini Sahib”. 
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