As is consistent with Afghanistan's modest and extremely hospitable culture, greeting Afghan people correctly is important to show both sincerity and respect. Follow our guide to Afghan greetings and discover why they are particularly suitable to our new COVID-19 reality.

Languages in Afghanistan

Dari and Pashto are official languages in Afghanistan and are both part of the Iranian language family. Dari is the official name of the Persian spoken in Afghanistan - although it is widely known as Farsi, the Afghan government changed its name to Dari in 1964. In addition to Dari and Pashto, there are a number of regional languages spoken across Afghanistan including Uzbek, Turkmen and Balochi.

Verbal greetings

Arabic greetings and phrases are widespread in Afghanistan as it is the language of Islam, the official religion in the country. The shortest common verbal greeting is Salaam or Salaam Alaikum, meaning "Peace be upon you" in Arabic - it is used amongst Muslims across the world.

It is then customary for prolonged enquiries to take place, with each person asking about the health, business, or family of the other - "how are you?" is "tsenga yee? in Pashto and “chetoor hasti? or "khoob hasti?" in Dari. Starting off with a direct question can be considered impolite when greeting people in Afghanistan. 

Image description: Stood on dusty sand-coloured earth in Samangan against the backdrop of rocky mountains and a sliver of faint blue sky above them are 2 men shaking hands. The one on the left is wearing a black turban and long-sleeved top and grey-b

Physical greetings

The handshake is a common form of greeting, however this greeting is dependent on your gender, as well as the gender of, and your relation to, the person you are meeting.

Generally, people of the opposite gender who are not family members do not touch during greetings. As a reflection of modesty, it is polite to keep eye contact to a minimum during greetings with people who are not close friends or family, especially if you are greeting someone of the opposite gender, or as a means to respect the wisdom and seniority of someone who is older.

A very common form of physical greeting is to place your right hand over your heart and nod gently to show both respect and sincerity in your exchange. 

Coronavirus and traditional greetings

Amidst the spread of COVID-19, there has been plenty of discussion about the sue of traditional physical greetings when promoting the reduction of virus transmission. The avoidance of the common handshake or cheek-kissing has led to many coming up with new substitutions - as such, we have seen the proliferation of 'footshakes' and elbow-bumping in our new Coronavirus-etiquette.

What this pandemic has therefore made clear is the need for a physical greeting which conveys both respect and sincerity without the need for physical touch.

In this way, we could all learn from Afghanistan - with a hand on our hearts, a gentle acknowledgement of the head, and plenty of questions about our families and well-being, we can all pay our respects to one another whilst keeping a safe two metre distance! So join us and #SalaamForSafety!

How can you help people in Afghanistan against the spread of COVID-19?

Afghanaid is working incredibly hard to protect vulnerable communities in Afghanistan during this Coronavirus crisis. During challenging times, donations from our supporters are an absolutely vital resource for Afghanaid, and will help to ensure we can continue to reach those who need it most, and provide vital assistance to the most vulnerable.