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Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: Bow, Kneel & Greet



Good morning guys!

Did you have a restful weekend? Did you wake up this morning thinking about Friday? I hope all is going right and dandy with you? Well…

Oh gosh! That felt absolutely tedious. My friend, Nengi, has been trying to school me in the art of greeting before jumping into conversations. She says it’s a thing ‘normal’ people do. So in the past two weeks she has been working on me. If I send her a message rattling on about something or the other she replies with “Good morning to you too. How are you this morning?” Urgh! It’s maddening, but I’m learning. This thing called greeting properly is a serious issue.

As a Yoruba girl, the art of greeting and politeness was ingrained in me even before I could walk. You see an adult coming and you drop down to your knees… or receive a slap on the back of your head. Men had to drop flat – prostrating to greet. It was culture and it was the norm that I knew. Then I became a teenager and I started visiting non-Yoruba friends at home and I saw that things operated quite differently. First, the fact that nobody was acknowledging my ‘good upbringing’ evidenced by my darkened knees was quite jarring. Small curtsy, scraping of knee, midway curtsy… they all had the same effect as a simple “Good morning Ma” said standing upright. Ah! What is going on here?

As much as Nigerians like to pull the card of “Nigerian Culture” when things don’t sit comfortably with us, realistically, there’s nothing called “Nigerian Culture” (Unless we’re talking about corruption & living without basic amenities). With over two hundred ethnic groups, the entity called Nigeria is too large to be aptly categorized into one box. Thus, leading to the conclusion that something as basic as how you greet each other will be markedly varied.

It becomes even more interesting when someone from one part of Nigeria is offended that someone from another part of Nigeria isn’t giving the appropriate and required deference he/she believes they should get. My friend, Seun, always gets a weird reaction from older people who expect her to drop down to her knees to greet them when she mentions that her name is Seun. Although she has a Yoruba name, she is Kalabari. Both her parents are Kalabari (Don’t ask why she has a Yoruba name, it’s a long story).

I asked my Bini friend how she greets her parents; I asked if they knelt down as they’re geographically close to Yoruba people. She replied that they didn’t kneel, but only genuflected in deference. I know from living in Kwara State that Ilorin men don’t prostrate. This is because some part of the culture has its roots in religion and they’re not supposed to bow to any man; any signs of deference should be reserved for God.

Last week, I received a phone call from someone who is significantly older than me. I picked the call, greeting and subsequently genuflecting to show some respect. {I don’t know who I was showing since the man couldn’t even see me over the phone}. Deep in the recesses of my mind, I have been conditioned to believe that it is the way to show respect – and you know how much we value respect around these parts {Remember I wrote about appropriate tags for anyone who has had a child} I can’t seem to help myself and sometimes it is a little embarrassing when I drop to my knees in a place where it’s totally awkward – like the time I dropped down in front of my brother’s Tiv father-in-law. I must have confused the man because he didn’t know what to do with this girl who was now on her knees in front of him. Since then I’ve learned to carefully gauge the environment before knowing the method of greeting.

Exploring the idea of the acceptable mode of greeting across cultural platforms becomes even more intriguing when one considers marriage and raising children. How do you teach your kids to greet if you’re from one part of Nigeria and your partner is from another part? How do you start learning the ways of your in-laws?  How soon do you start teaching your kids that this is an aspect of culture which you’d like to foster. In my conversation with Mo, he mentioned that his parents didn’t insist on any style of greeting. In their house it was “Good morning Mummy: Good morning Daddy”, until their late teens when some ‘nosey’ relatives started complaining that it wasn’t right for children to greet their parents in that way.  When I was younger, I used to greet my parents – knees kissing the ground. However, as an adult, it’s simply “Good morning” with a hug or a side hug. Does this, therefore, mean culture has taken a back seat? Does this mean I respect them less?

These things are just mind boggling. Can we just live? Really? Or is this one of those things which make us “Proudly Nigerian”?

I’ll leave you guys to ponder on it for a bit. Have a fantastic week ahead. Please, stay safe and stay healthy. If you live in Nigeria, please don’t bath with salt in the hopes of killing the Ebola virus. Please. Read and be informed.

I have to leave now. Don’t forget to share how you greet where you’re from. Tell us if you’ve had any awkward greeting moments. Share some of your fun stories with us… you know how much I love to learn from y’all!

Peace, love & carrots.


Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Katrina Brown

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. Lerato

    August 11, 2014 at 9:05 am


    • olami

      August 11, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Guess you are having a bad day!!!pele ehn

  2. fifi

    August 11, 2014 at 9:07 am

    A proper Bini person has a way of greeting their parents,elders..depending on your lineage,its cud be la mo gun,la vie ze,la gie san, etc(sorry abt the speLling)…in my house we greet la vie ze, don’t no wot it I’ve grown older I don’t do the two knees on the floor but I curtesy..even after eating there’s a greeting of appreciation u have to say to ur parents and male and female children have a different phrase..i like our culture sha, the binis,very rich in respect

    • i scream

      August 11, 2014 at 11:12 am

      You are supposed to kneel and greet. That is how the Binis greet. I guess some Parents don’t enforce it anymore. Am Bini, I kneel to greet my mumsie’s siblings, cos I don’t want any lecture, buy I just bow my knees lightly to greet my mum cos she doesn’t complain, I even stand to greet my dad sef, Bt I dare not try that with any Bini old person, at least not the ones in my mother’s family. The talk ehn, u go hate ur self. Bt generally, I bow my knees to greet my elders, I feel awkward just standing, twas how I was brought up. I just adjusted d whole two knees on the floor to bending them. An Urhuobo friend of mine used to laugh at me, I schooled in PH, and I dint see any form of “courtesying” der. I used to attribute it to lack of respect. My mother and her sisters still drop their two knees on the floor to greet some people, one of her sisters is 71. So, Atoke take note, u spoke wt d wrong Bini person.

    • OvieEdo

      August 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Very correct. I am Bini and culturally we kneel to greet. I greet my mum though with Whatsup nah lol. Ever since I became a mum myself, my mum became my paddie so we’re cool like that. I can’t try that with my aunts or yoruba inlaws though.

    • iRen

      August 11, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Lol! ‘proper’ sha…. What’s an improper Bini person?

  3. CHY

    August 11, 2014 at 9:09 am

    i came to lagos and found out the knee bending thing, i tried but got awkward cos yorubas courtesies came same time as the greeting was coming out of their mouth but my courtesy was lagging behind my greeting so had to stop cos it felt fake.

  4. Omoté

    August 11, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Lol! I think we’ve all had those awkward greeting moments especially with the in-laws. When I was younger I did do all d genuflecting, these days I just say “good morning ma or sir” as d case may be n be on my way. I think that the fact that we have become more liberal has made us drop a lot of the cultural practices we grew up with. The next generation may never know it was very normal to kneel n greet someone older.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      August 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      I knew awkward when my mum passed the phone to me speak to my uncle one day and I bent my knees in greeting as I said, “Good afternoon, sir” into the phone.

    • TA

      August 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      @ Bobos & Lara B Lool 🙂
      It has happened to me before and my sister on the streets of Birmingham which drew awkward stares and then my brother whispered into my other ear ‘Grandma can’t see you,you know’. Lmao

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      August 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      On the streets of Birmingham! Geh, you fall ma hand o!
      In my own case my mum collected the phone back and yelled to my uncle, “Se mo pe bo shen kiyin loshen kunle?’ (Did you know that as she greeted you she was kneeling as well?)

    • TA

      August 11, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      Lool! Sorry dear. I nor go do so again.
      Good to have you back. Xoxo

    • Jo!

      August 12, 2014 at 11:58 am

      LOooooool, this used to happen to me all the time. I had to consciously stop it.
      There are still some people whose calls I can’t pick sitting/lying down sha, for some weird reason, I have to at least get up, loool, mehhhhn

  5. Vics

    August 11, 2014 at 9:31 am

    For me in terms of greeting, I’l say it’s better to continue with what you were brought up with, if it’s kneeling then it won’t take anything from you to still do it, and if it’s a side hug or just verbally then so be it. I think deep down our parents will love to see some that we still have that ‘touch of culture’ regardless of liberalism or age.

  6. Fashionista

    August 11, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I’ve always said it, that genuine respect can be shown without crawling on your knees. But the kneeling and bowing is so deeply etched in the minds, heads and hearts of we Yoruba’s, that the lack of it is almost unfathomable. Thank God for the few who appreciate a genuine smile and warm hug over the perfunctory kneeling.

  7. Vics

    August 11, 2014 at 9:36 am

    For instance I live abroad, and whenever my mum comes around sometimes I kneel to greet her in the morning. And I see how pleased she is from that single gesture, her prayers for me doubles instantly!lol

  8. Adeola

    August 11, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Hmmz mine was with my then fiancé’s family. Im yoruba and I know I just drop down on my knees. But his mom who is isoko says I drop down saying ‘diwo’ and I dont stand up until she replies vredoo… so I could be there on d floor for an everlasting 2 mins till d magic word is said…..twas always so funny

  9. Nahum

    August 11, 2014 at 10:03 am

    You are like me, I find greeting properly so tedious cause I was not brought up like that. A proper good morning sir/madam while standing up would suffice in my father’s house. However, when I married into a strong yoruba family, I started getting the evil eye and I knew I had to change. But I still believe that my knees are meant for no other but my Lord and I keep it like that….until I cross my father in law and then things change.

  10. Blue

    August 11, 2014 at 10:35 am

    My great aunt came to visit, sat down, then my daughter came from her room, hugged her, simultaneously planting a kiss on her cheek and said good morning “ma”, My great aunt instantly started ranting….”Laide! omo e ti wa baje gan-an ni, shey emi lo n kiss? ko le kunle ese mejeeji ni? (Laide, your daughter is now such a spoilt child, did she just kiss me? cant she go down on her two knees?)
    I had to remind her that her father is not even Nigerian, and such is their way of greeting. However, that didn’t stop her, she spent the next 10 mins lecturing me on how I must ensure that I “activate” the Yoruba in her blah!blah!!blah!!

    • atoskin

      August 11, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      LOL @ activate the Yoruba in her

  11. Adwoa

    August 11, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Wow!! Its amazing how we are all Africans yet so diverse. Ghanaians greet differently. Girls greeted by bending their knees slightly and resting the palms in each other. Boys simply saluted with the right hand. Greeting one’s own parents in the morning wasn’t even there. We only greeted our parents when we came back from school and it was a simple “good morning maa”, “good morning daa”. The bending and all that was “reserved” for teachers and other adults. it wasn’t even really expected or required when the girl or boy reached puberty.

  12. Tim

    August 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Personally I think a little grovelling solves the problem in most cases.

  13. Adwoa

    August 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

    let me add though that, these days greeting of parents in the morning is very common. It just wasn’t there when i was growing up in the mid ’80’s

  14. Mz Socially Awkward...

    August 11, 2014 at 11:00 am

    It’s way too early to be doing this… but whatever brings a bit of levity this glorious Monday morning, biko

    And Atoke, you berra not be like some people I work with, who send me emails first thing on Monday morning with neither “Hello” nor “Hi” to preface their query, just a straight “Could you assist me with blah-blah-blah [for whatever reason]”. To which I make the point of responding with a pointed “Good morning, I trust you had a good weekend. With regard to your request … (etc. etc. etc.)”. I’m very big on etiquette, mbok. Don’t be emailing me like your parents didn’t teach you any basic common courtesies.

    Maybe my stance on manners is why I don’t have a problem with using other people’s cultural norms when it comes to greeting them (except when it comes to that whole “sister/ brother/ mummy/daddy” mode of addressing people who I’m not related to… can’t identify with that one in any form). I don’t kneel down to greet my Igbo parents or elders in my larger Igbo family but I can kneel for the parents of my Yoruba friends. I understand its part of who they are and it’s my way of showing them that respect. Of course, there are times I don’t do it properly (only half kneeling with one knee as opposed to the two hitting the ground) or I’ve even completely forgotten to but that’s simply because it’s not in-bred behaviour and hopefully said parents don’t vex too much when I get it wrong.

    I also feel no embarrassment whatsoever in carrying out our greeting traditions in public places with oyibo people milling around. Let the oyibos stare if they want; it’s good for them to be aware that we have cultural attributes we’re not ashamed off. Then again, I’m a grown ass woman who can’t be bothered but I’m aware that it must be hard for the young’uns being raised in Western countries by Nigerian parents who’re fighting to educate their children on the Naija way of life. Witnessed an episode once, where my friend’s parents (an Igbo couple) were visiting and another friend (who is Yoruba) came to say pay her respects. This 2nd friend arrived with her 9yr old son who she told to dobale (is that the right spelling?). The little boy was seriously mortified and kept telling his mum he didn’t want to do it but she insisted. After many threats being whispered in his ear, he finally dragged his heels in front of the older couple and lay down. The couple had no idea what he was doing so they continued their conversation to each other. That’s how the poor boy ran into the kitchen crying hot tears and accusing his mum of humiliating him in front of strangers. How we laughed (of course, we hid our faces)! And I had to go and explain to the couple that the young boy was greeting them because they honestly didn’t understand the import of what just happened.

    That’s just a little illustration of how different our cultures are so let nobody vex if someone shows different behavioural traits to what people in your village practice. 🙂

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      August 11, 2014 at 11:06 am

      That should have been either *conversation with each other* or *chatting to each other*.

      It’s too early, man. Brain’s saying one thing, my fingers are doing something else… 🙂

    • Nonnienie

      August 12, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      I have a verrry strong feeling I Know you… Your internet Stalker/Admirer. I know you go to RCCG too.. biko I want to meet you!!!!

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      August 15, 2014 at 8:42 am

      @Nonnienie, we may already have met! 🙂

    • slice

      August 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      Lol at the greeting stuff. With coworkers, I want to believe I preface requests with greetings when I email em. But I don’t really do that with frds or famil when I call or email nor do I expect or prefer it really. I call and just go straight to the point esp if the convo somehow involves money. I really don’t like to be buttered up before a request is made. If u need help, call and just say so. If u’re just calling to say hi, then let’s do all the gisting and greeting stuff

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      August 11, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      To be honest, I’m not even adamant that it has to be strict “Good morning/afternoon”. Simply typing “Hello” before typing my name in any email to me, will suffice. I just can’t stand people who walk up to my desk or shoot me an early morning missive, communicating like we both left the house together and are continuing the discussion we had in the car. And I dey do am steady with oyibos, I no get time. Dem must learn by force! 🙂

      [As an aside, I may accept a “Hi” from certain parties, but any youngster who I could have given birth to if I’d chosen to be a teen mum (meaning anyone aged 18 and below), has to spout a “Good morning/afternoon”. Must be the Naija factor in me. 🙂 ]

  15. koko

    August 11, 2014 at 11:00 am

    i remember once when we went to the village from lagos for xmas .i saw my grandma and knelt down to greet her she was surprised and asked my mum if i was well why was i kneeling down lol..then i knew that wasn’t the igbo style lol

  16. TA

    August 11, 2014 at 11:09 am

    @Atoke your Bini friend is wrong o. Binis expect male and female to kneel when greeting someone older.
    I will raise my kids to kneel when greeting someone older,they have nothing to lose. Kneeling/genuflecting in greeting never killed anyone.

    • iRen

      August 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

      Err, I beg to differ. I’m Bini as well – we ladies were taught to genuflect; the broses were to bow slightly. O tan.

    • Ashley

      September 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      …..I see you Isoken.


      August 19, 2015 at 4:11 am

      @IREN for where Dem teach yu DAT wan?

  17. Chinma Eke

    August 11, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I’m Igbo $ we don’t keel to greet our elders, we just respectfully greet. And trust me, those elders know when you are being disrespectful. I have a Yoruba friend who always kneels to greet my mom, we’ve known each other for years still its funny when she does it and we keep telling her it isn’t necessary. I don’t kneel in greeting her parents, I just genuflect, and I guess they understand.
    Its all culture dependent.

  18. idolor

    August 11, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Migwo means literally ‘I’m kneeling down’ and I was brought up to kneel or genuflect while saying that. ‘Vre do’, the response, means ‘Get up..’ Don’t know how to translate ‘do’. I still genuflect for my elders and really do not mind doing so now that I’m older, and I’m yet to have an awkward moment with it. However, I’d always remember my friend, Nike, in all her white wedding dress glory, struggling to kneel down and greet some of her relatives during the reception ceremony. I had to steady her so that she didn’t fall in the process. After her relatives left, I asked if a simple greeting (sans the kneeling) wouldn’t have sufficed. Surely they would have understood!

  19. Neo

    August 11, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Spending formative years in the west was an experience, I grew up in a home where i could high five my Dad in the morning and say “How far Chief? U sleep well” Everybody was Uncle and Aunty and as far as you attached that to an audible and appropraitely timed greeting you were fine. It took me a while to get the kneeling/genuflecting thing in Lagos and i only do it for close pseudo parents or when i’m in a large group and everyone is doing it.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      August 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Yes, this “Uncle” and “Aunty” bit… ehen, let’s address it for a moment, if you please.

      Like you, when I was growing up, all the friends of my parents were called “Aunty” or “Uncle”. It was the respectful mode of address that we the children used and didn’t cause any offence at all – in fact, I have continued over the decades to refer to such older people in this manner. However, I have now been told that it’s insulting in other cultures to call such an older lady or gent “Uncle” or “Aunty”, so I have to keep re-adjusting my brain depending on my environment. When I’m back home in PH, I stick with the “Uncle” and “Aunty” but when I get back to the UK (ironically), it’s “Ma” and “Sir”.

      Things got a bit interesting when a friend’s mum came to spend some time after the friend had a baby. I had grown up with this friend (actually have known her all her life since I’m older) and her parents are good friends with mine, so her mum has always been “Aunty Mosun”. Se we all went out for dinner one night and the wife of my Pastor was there; both ladies were sitting right next to each other and I turned to the Pastor’s wife and said “Good evening Ma”, then I turned to my friend’s mum, who is almost 10 years older than the Pastor’s wife and said “Good evening, Aunty Mosun”. I noticed my term of address caused a slight reaction from the wife of the Pastor (she’s Yoruba) and even in my head, the endearment sounded very wrong, seeing that I had released the “Ma” title to a younger woman.

      So for the rest of Aunty Mosun’s visit, I just referred to her as “Ma”. It felt very different and to be honest, I felt a bit disconnected calling her a generic “Ma” when, in my mind, “Aunty Mosun” is a fonder reminder of my decades-long relationship with her. However, for the sake of appearances, such terms couldn’t be used. Too many things for man-pikin to worry about, abi? 🙂

  20. Chichi

    August 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

    hmmm….had this constant fight with my yourba boss coz i, an ibo girl dint greet him the way he wanted to be greeted. for him pocket. I guess he adjusted coz i wasn’t about changing coz of his culture im not very particular about. *rme*…. i can also relate to caling people and ranting away but one of my friend does the ‘good morning to you too’ then i pause and start over…lol!

    • Di

      August 11, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      I knew someone would share that infamous experience. While in Lagos, when I greeted an elderly Yoruba individual with my 32-carat smile, wahala! Some would ignore me or give me the evil eyes, now am Igbo and do know the way Yorubas greet but I didn’t think it was that serious until then. Now I don’t mind going out of the norm to do something awkwardly unfamiliar but when you try to impose it on me then you got it all wrong. I ignore the arrogant expectations from some and kept greeting them the way I know how; after a while they gave up and started responding.
      Thankfully, here in US, the elderly Yorubas don’t care, I approach them with a buoyant greeting, a big smile and a tight long hug; am warm like that. They understand it’s not my culture and my friends (their kids) do not try to correct me anyways.
      I grew up seeing my parenting greet people and make some type of contact, a handshake, tap on back or hug and that’s how I’ve been inculcated to greet.

  21. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    August 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Half mast always works. Not too high, not too low. Everybody is happy.

  22. Temi

    August 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    My mum is yoruba but she grew up in England. She told me about how she used to come to Nigeria on holidays and she’d get so confused about how people are so fussy about greeting. They’d be like “cant you say good morning?” when she’d say “hello”; and then after getting lectured she and her sister would now be asking themselves “but what’s so good about this morning?” lol.

    Anyways, she sha learned when she moved to NIgeria finally, and greeting was always a big deal for my brother and I. We’re quite chilled in our house though. Simply saying “morning mummy” and “morning dad” is fine. Sometimes if i’m bored and I see my mum in the morning i’ll say “hey boo” lol. Just for bants though. But when it comes to elders, theres no playing. For aunties and uncles we greet and I curtsey slightly while my brother bows slightly. But for the really old people, its full on kneeling and prostrating. I personally think its good like that.

    I remember I had an igbo friend when I was younger and she never used to curtsey and stuff whenever she saw older people and the rest of us thought she was so rude. But i guess its a culture thing.

    I might only be 21 but I know i’ll definitely pass the whole greeting thing down to my children for sure. I like seeing respectful kids.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      August 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      The day I met my cousins husband for the first time, my knees were already hitting the ground in time for his air kisses to be just that; “air kisses”. If I could blush, my shade of red for no dey market. but he overcame it gracefully as I rose awkwardly to receive the consolation price of a hug. This man is a proper Yoruba man oh although obviously trained abroad (In fact his surname can like to elicit some kain epithet from biting the tongue when pronouncing it because of all the jaw movement involved). But I moved away from that experience that day thinking shey na my lecturer, pastor or oga I wanna blow kiss for air near their face? Well, Lesson Learnt: when in Rome, kiss the Pope….

  23. the flygirl

    August 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Yes it is good to greet and acknowledge people, spoken or typed, however I really don’t see why it is sooo important and how it really affects the price of tomatoes in the market or whatever. Respect goes beyond simply greeting… *shrugs, I can kneel to greet you, in yoruba and then the next statement i utter could be a coated abuse.
    IMO, if one doesn’t genuinely mean stuff, don’t bother saying the stuff

  24. Que

    August 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Ooo dis has happened to me last yr. I was visiting a friend’s home for an occassion, n met her parents for d first time. My normal mode of greeting is verbal, and occasionally a slight curtesy if greeting pple who expect d whole knee movement. But the part of d country I was visiting customarily (to my knoelwedge, cos I have relatives frm that side) greet verbally… so I went in to greet her parents n everyone stood to greet d mum, but den much later d dad was around n d same friends and I went in wit to greet him, n both were on their knees b4 I could say jack….it felt extremely awkward cos I only did my slight knee bending move n greeted ‘good evening sir’…. I couldn’t bring myself to kneel for someone’s father when I have never knelt to greet my own father whom I love and respect to the heavens and back….. just not happening, no matter how awkward!

    I guage my environment too. For my friend’s parents and not so close pple I generally do d slight knee bend thing….anything else and you’re on your own. I try to smile nicely n show care and respect by compliments or asking about you, if we’re comfy enuf….but kneeling aint gon happen. My inlaws will get used to it sooner or later. We all have to learn to accommodate each others’ differences.

  25. ao

    August 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Igbos do not prostrate on the ground and generally, do not kneel in greeting, but one must still greet properly depending on the person and environment. There are special greetings like when one visits their maternal home. The nwa di ani has to greet their older maternal male and female relatives a special way. I observed that these greetings seem to be fading out or maybe it’s just me.

    • Di

      August 11, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      How is the nwa di ani suppose to greet, biko enlighten me? Cause I go around jumping and hugging everyone when I hit my maternal home lol.

  26. slice

    August 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    My parents are largely informal about greeting and culture but for one moment everyday they do have a formal requirement. They and esp my mom want to be told good morning mommy. Nt hello, not hi not good morning but gd morning mommy. It’s like food for her or something lol.. My dad is happy with a hello. No kneeling or bending in my house but I do that to grown up yorubas and ibos respectively. As I grow up, I insists that my frds’ kids treat me informally. It’s just more fun for me that way.

  27. Neo

    August 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    On this matter ehn! Our admin assistant was admonishing a little child the other day for greeting her as “Aunty” said she should call her Mummy, that she could as well be her Mummy and was a mother intact. I smiled when i heard the little girl reply her with “I’m only supposed to call my Mummy mummy” and later with the permission of her mother she switched to Ma.

    Its not rocket science really but this our Nigeria is a country, some elderly women will say calling them Aunty is a curse to their womb that they will never know the joy of motherhood. Who don think the matter go far like this? Na wa.

    Mw, u’re a Pitakwa somebody? No wonder we have bonded (in my head) Lol.

    • TA

      August 11, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      Lol! Dead at who don think d matter go far like that. He!he!he,my dear Neo it will interest you to know that in some cultures in Cross River State the elderly women get offended when they are referred to as Ma,Madam,Mama or Mummy. They prefer you addressing them as Aunty,Sissy,Miss,Sister so and so. Yes ke! The matter dey tire me. Nigerians are as diverse as they are similar.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      August 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      In fact! That little girl is a very wise child. Person wey no born you (and wey never even sow anything as basic as Tom-Tom sweet into your life) na im you wan call “Mummy”? On top what, na??? Imagine. I know a couple who have even told their kids to stop using the “Uncle” & “Aunty” title, sef, because apparently, the little children started getting confused about all these “Uncles” and “Aunties” they have no familial or blood relationship with. So the parents decided that their children will call any grown-up who’s not family (or a close friend of the family) a straightforward “Mr.”, “Mrs” or “Miss”. Simples.

      Even that “Ma” title sef, the amount of relatively young women I see struggling to be labelled in this fashion just baffles me. Women in their early 40s and who, to my mind, are still relatively young enough to enjoy the time left in this chapter of their lives before heading into middle-age territory. See these Nigerian women around me wanting to be addressed as “Ma”. For what, na? Why do you want to be older than your season?? When you turn 60, how we wan take dey refer to you??? My sister, the matter don go far pass wetin we dey see so.

      And yes oh, I stay repping pitakwa (born and raised). We dey always recognize ourselves. 😀

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      August 12, 2014 at 9:58 am

      The church itself has got its own version of the mummy thing going: “Mummy G.O” “Daddy G.O”, “Mummy Elder”, “Daddy Elder”, “Mummy Pastor”. “Daddy Leke”, “Mummy Okonkwo” The ones that aren’t old enough to be referred to as “Mummy” but appear certainly too young to have the “Sister” or “Brother” prefix, settle for “Auntie” or “Uncle”.

      Me, I have only one mummy, (whom I even sometimes call by her first name or childhood nickname) and goes by different names depending on the occasion. My daddy is my only daddy is my only daddy (2ce). I reserve the “Auntie” or “Uncle” thing for people I feel extremely warm and comfortable with.

  28. frostycake

    August 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    @ao nwa Di. Ana in my mums village I hve to kneel down and they will tell u to get up by giving you money….
    But most times before u complete the act they hold u up..haha cuz no money..

  29. Ose

    August 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    this post is very timely for me…..this IT girl in my office keeps bending the knees to collect or receive stuff from my desk… i really want her to STOP….i have told her to stop jokingly many times cos i dont know how to tell her with a straight face….but she still does it anyways…..

  30. Grace E

    August 11, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I say good morning to my parents and sometimes my mum calls me and I’m like “waddup” and she still talks…she is very humble and doesn’t see that as a big deal because I still respect her more than anything..for my friends, depending on their culture, I like to refer to their parents or other family members the way their ethnicity or tribe or whatever permits (If I’m aware) just as a sign of respect. However, I DO NOT expect them to call me out if I’m unable to completely do like their culture because c’mon it is really not that serious….all that bow, bend knee, prostrate, push ups and crunches in the name of greetings abi respect is just…..!!!!!!goodmorning ma’ and sir will suffice…

    The one I don’t understand is the older women u call MA dem no gree…u call aunty dem no greee say by force u must refer to them as mummy!!!to hell with that BS….only u waka come???OK

  31. Olohi

    August 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Atoke God bless you! I’ve been struggling with this topic for a long time. I’m from Edo State (Ora and Esan) but I was raised abroad from an early age. My parents have never been particular about kneeling and using ‘ma/sir’. Its always been ‘good afternoon aunty/uncle’ etc. and at home its ‘good morning/welcome mummy/daddy’.
    However when in Nigeria, or around certain other older Nigerians it becomes a little awkard trying to figure out how to greet them. I’ve tried genuflecting and using ‘ma/sir’ but if often comes off awkward because of my accent and I’m not used to it. I don’t think I’ve ever knelt to greet. I want to pick a traditional method of greeting to use in these situations (and I’m going to Nigeria soon) to avoid offending anyone/insults/lectures/”disgracing” my folks.

    Any advice?Anyone know how Edo people (Ora and Esan) greet? Should I gauge how to greet my friends parents by the way they greet mine? I’m female by the way but I’d like to know for males and females, so I can teach my siblings. Thanks.

    • Cynthia

      August 11, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      Hi olohi, im from Edo state(Ora). The greeting is ssssssssss, yeah just genuflect and say sssssss. ThAts all I know. Then Esan say la gie San .
      All the best

  32. omoobanta

    August 11, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    that’s how i sent a text to my very youthful and cool aunt that I had been texting back and forth with that hey I wont be back till midnight…. see the digital slap I received that I should never in my life “Hey” her again. Me I always begin sms messages with hey o. I learned my lesson sha

    • iRen

      August 12, 2014 at 1:07 am

      Lolololol! #faint
      Warm regards to your aunty, biko. And I’m considering the digital slap thing for my ‘small’ (muuuuch younger) cousin who be greeting me with ‘how are you?’. Chai.
      (She prolly doesn’t get it, but in my generation that question is asked by the older – when used as an opening greeting)

  33. D

    August 11, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    @ SA I feel you on the aunty and Uncle deal, there were people we called Aunty and Uncle growing up, you know the ones that saw you running around the house in your underwear and birthday suite and those I still call Uncle and Aunty, and even when I visit home these people are happy when I call them that and you can see it in their faces because we are well known in our church, neighbourhood and school for not doing the aunty, uncle, sister or brother deal. Even in Church it was Mrs so and so. Pastor’s wife included. People tried telling my parents but they did not give in. We never used to kneel and still don’t when greeting my parents, but my mum used to make us when elder family members visited but we are so used to not kneeling that we just “bender low with one knee without the said knee getting to the floor” and waka pass and with my in-laws its the same. But when my parents come to visit I purposely kneel at the airports I know it makes them happy one because it makes my dad believe his pikin as not lost in oyibo land and secondly and most importantly its part of my “culture” (yoruba) and one I am proud of, so I do it in public as i see it as sharing a little culture with those around me including the rude ones that stare.

    • Que

      August 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm

      Pls be proud of your culture anyday, welldone. Just tot to point out their staring is probably cos they find your kneeling strange. I doubt its about being rude. If i saw u kneelin in church/mosque I certainly wouldn’t notice twice, cos its commonplace around there…. but I would certainly stare too if I saw u kneeling at heathrow…common….!

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      August 11, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      And my dear, when you decide to use that greeting for your parents, it comes from a place of true respect. I can imagine how pleased it makes them when they see you doing it of your own free will in this “obodo oyibo”. 🙂

      And your comment reminded me of a tale my sister once told me about a protocol team from an RCCG parish in DC who went to Dulles Airport to receive Pastor Adeboye and how they all lay flat on the ground in the middle of the arrivals hall when the man emerged. I can only imagine how all the Yanks must have been so confused when they saw that happening. 🙂

  34. sum1special

    August 11, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Greeting is very important..parents should teach their children how to greet,most kids this days just stare at you, you practically have to scream, cant you greet before they do.

    • MC

      August 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      (as a child and even as an adult )I never did understand the shouting of “can’t you greet”
      My answer has always wanted to be “well evidently not’ or “how does me greeting you or not benefit your life in anyway…especially as its now a forced greeting”
      It just doesn’t make sense to me. Cant ever imagine shouting at somebody to greet me.
      If you want to purposely ignore or not acknowledge me….then surely I shouldn’t want to chat to you anyway???? no???

    • iRen

      August 12, 2014 at 1:31 am

      Well, I don’t think it is about the adult. Nigerians (perhaps Africans) typically practise communal.raising of children, and that’s why relatives or friends of the family will demand the greeting, as a reminder. As for the expectation that a child greet, it’s same as expecting a child to pick up other good habits; the earlier the better, and when they are clearly of age then it is a bit disappointing if they aren’t ‘displaying the virtues’. Greeting is an important social etiquette; it’s quite a sorry state of affairs when Westernisation equals people not acknowledging each other.

    • Grace E

      August 11, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      LMAO @sum1special is it by force to greet? I know it is manners but I’m just curious what will happen to u if they don’t greet u? that u should get so far as to yelling or telling someone “can’t u greet?”

  35. Owelle

    August 11, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Being igbo, we weren’t taught to kneel or genuflect while greeting our elders. My friend (who is also igbo but grew up in yorubaland) knelt to greet my dad once and it was so awkward. So far, I’ve never had to kneel to greet anyone. I don’t think it’s necessary. A sincere and respectful greeting is sufficient.
    People who actually demand that u greet them get on my nerves. Will my greeting add money to ur bank a/c or give u a green card? Abegi

    • Grace E

      August 11, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      @owelle thank u oh..or will it eradicate ebola virus? smh!!I find it very silly when adults stand there and demand they be “greeted” as if u have stripped them off their dignity by not greeting them or that is the last “greeting” they will receive in the world..SMBH

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      August 11, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      See ehn, nne. I will proudly stand up and admit that “ayam” one of those adults. 🙂 And I don’t even care about people calling me “Aunty” or “Sister” or worreva floats your boat; but, haba, there should formal and civil greetings exchanged in polite society, na. I’m a very staunch proponent of the belief that kids should learn that early.

      Also? I have to admit that I inflict this rule particularly for the children of those aforesaid women I referred to in an earlier comment who’re in their early 40s and are seeking for you to kneel with both knees whilst calling them a reverent “Ma”, when you greet them. One particular lady in question has a VERY rude pre-teen daughter and this is a woman who will flay you alive with her eyes if you waka past and call out a cheery “Hello, Mrs. XYZ”. Only for me to personally experience her child’s rudeness and seeming lack of any respect. For children of this ilk, I no dey gree at all, oh. You must greet me well.

    • MC

      August 12, 2014 at 11:54 am

      If these adults want to be greeted soooo badly, why not do the greeting first. why wait for somebody?
      makes no sense!!

  36. Annie

    August 11, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Hmmmm, mummy ko, mummy ni, truth be told in this Lagos there are some women i can never bring mysef to call mummy, infact i only call my mum mummy. Most people in my compound call the landlords wife mummy but ayam sorry, i cannot, that woman is wicked and has no attribute of ‘mummy’ so i cannot, i can do the ‘ ma’ for all elderly women, yes ma, yes sir, good morning ma, good morning sir, thats all.

  37. NaijaPikin

    August 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    I’m horrible with greetings before ranting off on my message. My sis keeps reminding me everytime i send her an im or bb message without a greeting.

    Omo Igbo pple no dey kneel down. In fact the men na to shake her finish. It’s also interesting how it’s ok to refer to titled men by their title. No uncle, just their title. But if you will call them by name, then uncle/de goes before.

  38. cos I say so

    August 11, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    I’m ibo but I had a close yoruba friend when growing up,1st time I genuflected to my parents,they seemed to like it and the fact that most of my uncles and aunts loved it just seemed to spur me on
    Funny enough it’s opened many doors for me cos when a cool opportunity arises in the family,im the 1st pick cos everyone feels I’m “humble and respectful”
    If only they knew…. hehehe

  39. Oyems

    August 11, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Growing up, the drama involved in greeting wasnt such a big deal. maybe due to the fact that i grew up in the northern part of Nigeria. But when i was in my teens my dad mentioned to try do the courtesy thingy when other people were around. That continued but whenever its just us, we switch back to comfy mode: Good mornig, how far, whatsup. Sometime just a big squeezy hug sufficed, words werent needed. And back to the aunty uncle thingy, i’ve got siblings 15-20 years older than me, and its just their names nor bro or sis. I feel its sounds awkward. If u aint my aunt and uncle, that prefix aint for you. If you are related to me, i’ll give you the appropriate prefix.

  40. iRen

    August 12, 2014 at 1:55 am

    Atoke, I think before we rush to say such and such a manner of greeting is old fashioned, we should remember that they are normal for whichever generation is expecting it of us. Should we cast them off just because we are old/independent enough to get away with alternatives? What if in a couple years our kids want to greet us by hi-fiving us or rubbing our heads (fondly)? Would that be ‘cool’ by us?
    If you were raised to greet in a certain way, and there’s nothing wrong with it, I don’t see the need to outgrow it.

  41. ada

    August 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I’m igbo but grew up in Lagos so I pretty much grew up knowing to greet elderly people by genuflecting. Though we greeted our parents with goodmorning mummy/daddy but now I still greet my dad by bending a knee when I haven’t seen him in a while. In fact recently I was handing something over to my boss who is from Zimbabwe a document and I bent one knee which felt awkward. Also I grew up calling some older people Uncle and Aunty or just saying ma or sir depending on who you are. Recently a friend’s older cousin was helping me sort out something. So after everything, I called to say thank you. She picked the call and I said “hello xyz, this me blabla’s friend” and the “Aunty” started crying oh “blabla doesn’t even call by name so you shouldn’t. I am not your mate and ended the call.” I was so pissed. But for my friend, I was going to call her back to put her in her place. Like seriously who cares. If I had worked to her office and she had to attend to me or if I were her colleague in the office, would she expect that I call her Aunty.

  42. babygiwa

    August 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I’m Yoruba and I learnt how to greet in the ‘Yoruba way’. Luckily for me, I have not and will not depart from it.

  43. Taye

    August 13, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I’m a British-born Nigerian and was raised to always greet adults by kneeling down. Now that As a 20-something year old woman, I don’t particularly kneel down to greet my mum, maybe occasionally. I do however, kneel down when greeting my mum’s friends because I know how Nigerian women behave when you do not necessarily follow the ‘culture’.

    The only major time I struggled with the whole kneeling down thing, was when I went to Nigeria in March to work at the Lagos branch of the Nigerian company I worked for at the time; there were two Yoruba women who worked closely with and they were older than me, I did not know how I was supposed greet them – in fact I felt awkward by calling them by their first names, without dropping the ‘aunty so-and-so’. I’ve worked alongside older Yoruba colleagues and did not feel the pressures of culture…

    Those were the challenges I faced in those three weeks. Do Yoruba people in Nigeria kneel down and call their older colleagues aunty/sister??? I would love to know for the next time (although I am no longer working for the Nigerian company)

    • Crystalkeye

      December 21, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      You don’t have to kneel or geuflect to greet colleagues. A simple good morning sir or ma would do. I have worked with a couple of bosses with whom i and my family have developed a close relationship, I greet them normally in the office and kneel or genuflect as required when I visit or meet them at functions.

  44. portable

    August 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    so, I’m a late comer but i still want to drop my two cents. I’m one of those ladies that can kneel on both knees in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and in front of the whole world. my friends joke that i find it so easy cos I’m already so short and close to the ground. And i have had such days that the kneeling has shown me pepper, like that day while i was serving and came to civilization to visit friends . Dem girls decided to trip me to the new KFC outlet, that’s how we got there and I saw someone that looked like my uncle. see me running from my circle of friends to the center of the eatery, in my khaki o, quickly knelt on my two legs to greet the man only for him to ask me how he knows me. my sisters in the Bella kingdom, it wasn’t funny at all. on the flip side though, kneeling has brought me loads of good too, people cant stop granting me favors cos I’m so respectful.. like that KFC day sef, a certain middle aged man who was peacefully having his lunch and witnessed the drama paid for everything my friends and I bought, said he was shocked a graduate could be so respectful to kneel, especially in public and he wanted to encourage me to remain respectful.. come and see us girls doubling our orders one time. moral of story: culture might be burdensome but it has its perks.

    • richbee

      August 15, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      mrs portable haff kill me with laughter ooooooooooooo!!!!! …your figure of speech is very comical walahi….and i can imagine the man’s puzzled look!!! for me, i like kids to greet in a respective manner sha , i do the bending thingy but d knees kissing the ground get as e be for me cos i will rather move to the agbalagba and hug and knee slightly biko.. the one that is ingrained in me is the courtesying when i drop or receive sth from someone older than me..even as i work in my office that is first name basis, sometimes i find it ridiculously H-A-R-DDDD to call someone in his fifties by name and i see some colleagues who dont even give a breather and shout hello Tunde, hello yemisi..i don work here for 5 years oo but my liver no reach so tay i will rather speak english at all times to hide my akwardness…sometimes i summon up courage but menn..this yoruba culture na die.

  45. Koffie

    August 13, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    I’m yoruba and I greet the way I was brought up to. It doesn’t cost me anything so I do it willingly. I felt what those aunties feel the day my cousin’s little child called me by my name and asked “how are you?”


    August 17, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    I am yoruba but was born and raised in Benin. My Ora grandmum taught us to kneel and greet every morning,my parents really dint emphasize kneeling down to greet. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with being respectful to elders,it won’t take anything from you as an individual. It is also important to understand the context and other peoples culture.

  47. Slim

    October 6, 2014 at 8:34 am

    What I find annoying is where Yoruba parents/people expect people from other tribes to kneel down (or prostrate) to greet EVERY TIME. They should understand that it is not a common culture and getting angry because a non-yoruba decides not to kneel, is imposition of culture. Bowing your head should be enough to show that you respect them. The others na jara that I should be allowed to decide whether or not to do.


    August 19, 2015 at 4:04 am

    Ms.Atoke, first, we are not “BINI” we are “EDO” and refer to ourselves as “evbiedo” in plural and “ovbiedo” in singular. And we DEFINITELY do not stand to greet elderly persons * who born you? Much less (and significantly too) your parents. Its a BIG NEVER. Both male and female KNEEL down.

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