As we traversed 5 countries, and many various landscapes, I began to question the meaning of greeting.
In Thailand and Laos, the greeting at least holds connotations of well-being ‘dee’ meaning good. In Vietnam, however, most people shout ‘Hello’ at us.
I do not use the word ‘shout’ lightly. The first few days of being in Vietnam were actually disconcerting because of ‘Hello’. People seemed to be shouting it as a declaration, as opposed to an invitation for reciprocity.
This got me thinking – what is ‘Hello’ anyway? Why do we say it? Does it hold any meaning beyond its own two syllables? What is the function of a greeting? Who is it for? Can it be one-sided?
A greeting (and all language) is said with intent – but I wonder how much of that intent can be deciphered by examining the tone with which it is delivered, versus the meaning imbedded in the word itself.
Further, what accountability is imbedded in a greeting? Are some greetings meant for those who are passing by, and others for those who are coming in?
In Swaziland, the greeting ‘Sawubona’ translates to ‘I see you’. It demands a reciprocal acknowledgement – the affirmative ‘Yebo’. A similar exchange seemed to take place in Thailand with ‘Sawatdee kah’ and the culture of wai-ing.
I wonder what these different greetings might reveal about the responsibility of a person towards another.