Courteousness is a quality that is welcomed all over the world. So much so that different countries have their own special way of expressing it. The most basic courtesies is shown through greeting and gratitude. Hence, here are 62 foreign ways to say “Hello” and “Thank you” to the various people you come across in your travels around the world.
Norwegian is the most prominent language among the many dialects of Norway. And in Norwegian, the renditions of the English ‘Hello’ and ‘Hi’ are “Hallo” and “Hei”, respectively. While, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Thank you very much’ can be expressed as “Takk” and “Tusen Takk”, respectively.
An easy enough start, eh?
The Swedish way to say ‘Hello’ is spelled “Hallå” and pronounced <Hal-oo-a>. ‘Hi’, on the other hand is spelled “Hej” but pronounced the same way as in the Norwegian “Hei”. Gratitude is also expressed similarly but spelled differently as “Tack”.
The Danes, just like the Norwegians, greet each other with a “Hej” as well. However, a more formal form of greeting is “Goddag”, pronounced almost like ‘Good Day’ with the letter ‘y’ slightly held back. “Goddag” literally means the same as ‘Good Day’, hence this makes it easier to remember. ‘Thanks’, on the other hand, is translated as “Tak”.
Handmade wooden souvenirs in Finland
The Finnish greet each other just like the Norwegians with a “Hei”. Expressing gratitude, however, is where the Finnish differ from the last three Scandinavian countries.
“Kiitos”, pronounced <key-tos>, is ‘Thanks’ in Finnish.
Rounding up our group of basic Nordic courtesies: “Halló”, pronounced <hal-o>, is how the Icelandic greet each other. And just like most of the other Scandinavian countries, “Takk” is the word to use if you want to thank someone.
Though many of the Swiss do speak straight up Italian, German, and French. Swiss-German is the language that’s most commonly used. “Grüezi”, pronounced <groot-si>, is the way most of the Swiss say ‘Hello’. While, the straightforward German “Danke” <dan-ke> is ‘Thank you’. Swiss-German differs from standard German so it wouldn’t be wise to substitute one for the other.
Old Town in Salzburg, Austria
Austria, Germany, and Liechtenstein
Austria and Lichtenstein are countries where German is the most prominent language. However, Austrian German is the dialect that is unique to Austria. “Hallo” is the word to use, just like most other European renditions of ‘Hello’. “Danke” <dan-ker, silent r> is the word used to thank a person.
Though there are many differences between standard German and Austria-German starting from accents to word variations, it would be safe to speak basic German in a neighboring country like Austria as standard German in taught to foreigners in Austrian language classes.
For gestures, a firm handshake’s all well and good for first encounters, but make sure your other hand isn’t in your pocket – that’s perceived as rude.
French, one of the trio of well-known international languages, besides English and Spanish; has “Bonjour” as a greeting, and “Merci” for ‘Thanks’. Don’t forget to stress on the R’s as you attempt to emulate the way the French speak.
As far as gestures go, prepare for kisses on the cheek from relatives and friends, and handshakes from strangers. Also remember to greet salespersons when you enter stores as not doing so is considered rude. Going for a safe ‘Hello’ is unwise too since some of the French perceive it as a sign that you’re not making an effort to learn their language.
Amsterdam and one of its many canals
With Dutch being one of the most prominent languages in the Netherlands and in Belgium, their greetings and words of gratitude do not differ much from that of the German language.
“Hallo” is ‘Hello’, and ‘Thank you’ is spelled differently with “Dank je”, but pronounced the same way.
Firm handshakes along with introducing yourself by saying your last name is how greetings usually go, and if someone you’d like to greet is far off: wave, don’t shout. Shouting is often times considered rude.
Luxembourgish, the national language of Luxembourg, has its fair share of influences from German, French and Dutch. Hence, it’s no surprise that the word to use for ‘Hello’ is “Hallo” and ‘Thank you’ is “Merci”.
Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest
‘Hello’ in Hungarian is “Helló”, and though spelled differently, it is pronounced the same way. “Köszönöm” <ko-so-nom> is the word to use when thanking someone.
Here’s an easy one to remember. “Ahoj” <ahoy> is how the Czech greet each other. “Děkuji” <deye-ku-yu> is the word to use when showing gratitude.
“Pree-vee-et” is the informal way to greet each other in Russia. While, “Spasibo” means ‘Thank you’
Beautiful sunset in Sicily, Italy
Italy & Vatican City
“Ciao” <chow> is the informal greeting used in Italy and the Vatican City. “Grazie” <grat-zee> means ‘Thank you’ in Italian. The gesture that commonly accompanies the greeting of friends is a kiss on the cheek.
“Sveiki” <sve-key> is the word used to greet people in Latvia. While, “Paldies” <pal-dees> means ‘Thank you’.
“Merhaba”, similar to the Arabic “Marhaban” is the used by the Turkish to informally greet each other. “Teşekkür ederim” <te-say-kure-derim> is the phrase for ‘Thank you’.
Between males there are various gestures of greeting ranging from handshakes to hugs and kisses on the cheek. Between males and females, it’s more complicated as Turkey is still a Muslim country and is hence more reserved in its interactions between different sexes. Your best bet would be to wait for the other party to initiate their form of greeting, then respond accordingly.
Zeus Temple at the Acropolis in Greece
Greek for ‘Hello’, if spelled as it is pronounced, is “Chaírete”. And ‘Thank You’ is “Efcharistó” <ef-ka-ris-to>.
“Cześć” <chay-esch>, is Polish for ‘Hello’, and “Dziękuję Ci” <dien-ku-ye-chi> means ‘Thank you’.
Lionfish from diving in the Philippines
“Kumusta?” the informal and short form of “Kumusta ka?”, which translates to ‘How are you?’, is how Filipinos greet each other. Though a simple ‘Hello!’ wouldn’t hurt. Additionally, a greeting towards elders would have to accompany the act of taking their hand and raising it to your forehead, having their hand touch your forehead and saying, “Mano po”. This common act of respect is called “Mano”.
Gratitude, on the other hand, is expressed through the words “Salamat po”, where “po” is an additional term that is used to extend respect. Adding “po” anywhere in each sentence would help to keep a conversation going, as the locals would perceive you as an extremely respectful and polite person.
There is no Malay translation for the English ‘Hello’, but a common greeting among Malays is “Salam”, a word based in Arabic roots which means ‘Peace’. Greetings may be conveyed with a handshake among males and a slight bow between genders. Wait for the other party to cue in their gesture before responding likewise, to be on the safe side.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Singapore is a very multi-cultural society where English, Tamil, Malay and Mandarin are prominent languages spoken. So it would be safe to stick to English greetings or any of the other used languages that you are familiar with.
People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong
“Nǐ hǎo” <nee-how> is the Chinese greeting for ‘Hello’ in China, as well as in Hong Kong; where Mandarin is commonly used, alongside English. “Xièxiè” <shea-shea>, is Chinese for ‘Thank you’.
In China, when greeting a person, one must raise one’s hands in a “folded” way in front of one’s chest. “Folded” in the sense that one palm is almost wrapped around the other fist.
Macau is often called “Las Vegas of the East”
Despite there being dialects unique to Taiwan and Macau, standard Chinese Mandarin is the official language of the country so the basic greets and thanks mentioned above should suffice.
In addition to Chinese, Portuguese is also one of the prominent languages in Macau.
“Halo” is the standard informal Indonesian greeting. While “Terima kasih” is ‘Thank you’.
Gyeonbokgung Palace, South Korea
“Yeoboseyo” is ‘Hello’ in Korean. Another informal form of greeting is “An-nyeong”, which means ‘Peace’. While, “Gomabseubnida” means ‘Thank you’. Greetings should be made with a slight nod or bow.
As a country renowned for its culture of respect and honor, greetings are given by saying “Kon’nichiwa” to someone personally, while it’s “Moshi moshi” when greeting someone over the phone. In person, greetings are usually accompanied by slight nods or having hands clasped together like in prayer.
“Arigatōgozaimashita” <ari-ga-to-go-zai-mash-ta> is the word for ‘Thank you’. This can also be done while having your hands together in prayer and slightly bowing. A full 90 degree bow can also be done if you’re feeling extremely grateful.
Monks in Luang Prabang, Laos
“S̄wạs̄dī” is the general term used in greetings in Thailand. “Khrap” is added after the greeting if you are male, and “Kha” if you are female. These greetings accompany a special bow called “Wai”, where one places his/her hands in prayer then, with the hands still in place in front of the chest, you lower your head until your thumbs meet your forehead.
‘Thank you’ is expressed as “K̄hx k̄hxbkhuṇ” or <ka-khab-kun>.
Thai is the language used in Thailand’s neighbour, Laos, despite there being unique local dialects. So it would be safe to use the usual Thai greetings and thanks in Laos.
Burmese is the language of Myanmar, a country formerly known as Burma. In Burmese, ‘Hello’ could be conveyed as “Min-ga’la pa” but it roughly translates to ‘Auspiciousness to you all’. While, “Jay-zuu” means ‘Thank you’.
As a prominently Buddhist country, it would be right to accompany your greeting with the classic Prayer Hands.
Be sure you don’t ever touch a Burmese person’s head area as they find it offensive and rude.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Khmer, is the official language of Cambodia. The informal way of greeting each other in Khmer is saying “Jum reb suah” while doing the all-too-familiar prayer hands and a gentle bow. “A koun”, on the other hand, means ‘Thank you’.
Among the hundreds of dialects of India, Hindi is the official language. Indians, especially the old fashioned types, are very respectful towards each other and they regularly show it. Greetings, for instance, are expressed by bringing one’s hands together as if in prayer, and saying, “Namaste.” <Na-mas-tay>
Gratitude, is also expressed in a similar way but the word to be used is, “Shukriya”. <Shook-ri-ah>
In both instances, it wouldn’t hurt to give a very slight bow while saying the words.
Smiling woman from Pakistan
Urdu, the language of Pakistan is similar to Hindi. The biggest difference is a completely different set of alphabets that is more akin to Arabic letters than Hindi letters. “Salam” <sa-laa-am>, is ‘Hello’ in Urdu and ‘Thank you’ is the same as in Hindi – “Shukriya”.
The two main dialects of Sri Lanka are Tamil and Sinhala. In Tamil, people greet each other with a “Vanakkam” <van-ak-kam>, and thank each other with a “Nanri” <na-in-ree>.
In Sinhala, ‘Hello’ is not translated into anything particular, but the phrase “āyubūvan” is a common formal greeting that accompanies a slight bow along with the familiar “hands in prayer”. The phrase translates to ‘May you live long’ and can also be used as a way to say ‘Goodbye’. A more informal way of greeting is, “Kohomadha?” <ko-ho-ma-duh>, which means ‘How are you?’.
In Sinhalese, gratitude can be conveyed with the word “Istuti” <is-too-tea>.
Maldives is know for its romantic beaches
Dhivehi is the local dialect of the Maldives. For greetings, the Dhivehin use the Arabic “Assalaamu alaikum”, which means ‘Peace be with you’. And for thanks the Hindi “Shukriya” is used.
United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain
As in most Arabian countries, the Arab males of UAE, Egypt, and Qatar greet each other with an affectionate cheek-to-cheek gesture along with the line, “Al-salamu alaykum”, which means ‘Peace be with you.’ However, this way of greeting is usually reserved to Arab Muslims and is hence not the recommended way of greeting by foreigners. So it would be unwise to emulate this gesture if you ever see it done among Arabs wherever you go in these countries.
A more casual word of greeting is “Marhaban” <mar-ha-ban>, and, if ever you feel compelled to use a gesture, a simple handshake will suffice. Gratitude is expressed by saying “Shukran” <shook-run>.
Herd of elephants in South Africa
South Africa has a number of official dialects, among which English is one of them. So it’s safe to use regular greeting and gratuitous gestures and words to express yourself.
One of the local dialects you may come across, however, is Afrikaans; which is a Germanic/Dutch descendant. In this case “Hallo” is for greetings, and “Dankie” to thank someone.
Other than English, Swahili is the official language of Kenya and Tanzania. In Swahili, “Habari” is the word used in both formal and informal settings to relay one’s greetings. “Shikamoo!” is a term used in formal situations particularly.
In Kenya, handshakes and hugs are welcome greeting gestures.
‘Thank you’, on the other hand, is “Asante”.
“Amaharo” or “Amaho” is a common greeting in the Kirundi dialect of Burundi, which translates to ‘Peace’. While, “Urakoze” is the term used to express thanks.
Having French as one of the prominent languages of the island nation, it’s only natural that we have “Bonzur” as their word of greeting, and “Mersi” as their word of gratitude.
The people of Seychelles speak a French based creole known as Seselwa. The French is prominent in their greeting with “Allo” being the most common way to say ‘Hello’, as well as their gratitude with “Mersi”.
French is the prominent language in Réunion but an unofficial French creole is also commonly used. The normal French greetings and words of gratitude will do just fine in this little island.
Algarve Coast in Portugal
As Portuguese is similar to Spanish, their word of greeting “Olá” is pronounced the same way as the Spanish “Hola”.
“Obrigado” <u-bree-ga-do>, on the other hand is the way to say ‘Thank you’ to a male and “Obrigada” to a female.
Aside from the differences in spelling, grammar, and various words themselves between Portugal Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese; the most prominent difference is the accent.
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, USA
United States of America, Canada, England
The words to use here are obvious, but it’s the gestures that surprise most people who visit the country or get to encounter Americans and Canadians in other countries. When Americans and Canadians ask, “How are you doing today?” they mean to initiate a conversation. Most people unaccustomed to this conversation starter simply smile away the question or react awkwardly.
Gratitude also goes a step further as favors are returned in kind, not just verbally recognized. So if you ever lose your wallet and someone finds it and returns it to you, it would be appropriate to treat the finder to a slice of pizza.
“Hola!” <o-laa> is just fun to say. And it’s probably the best way to say ‘Hello’. The Mexicans and Spanish share the same Spanish tongue hence this is the way greetings are made in these countries. Gestures aren’t a requirement but hugs and handshakes are appropriate. “Gracias” <gra-thi-ass>, is the word to use to express thanks. In Spain, Spanish is spoken with a bit of a lisp, as compared to other countries like Mexico.
English is the language of this group of Caribbean islands, hence there’s no trouble here. It’s just the pronunciations of this creole that’s going to take some getting used to.
Banded Iguana fraom Fiji
If you ever make your way into this little island in the South Pacific, “Bula” <boo-la> is the informal way of greeting a single person. “Drau” and “Dou” are words to add before “Bula” when greeting two people and more than two people, respectively. “Nibula” is the greeting used to a large crowd. “Vinaka” <va-na-ka> is the word to use to express gratitude.
The dialect unique to this South Pacific gem is Bislama. Though English and French are also prominent languages so greetings and words of gratitude in these languages will also suffice. In Bislama, ‘Hello’ is simple “Helo” but a more interesting form of greeting would be, “Olsem wanem?” which translates to ‘How are you?’
Gratitude in Bislama is expressed easily with the word “Tangkyu”, since Bislama is a creole of the English language.
These may be simple words, but the meaning and the gesture of learning the language of your destination will help you in achieving you unforgettable and one of a kind experience.