It is customary in Tanzanian culture to exchange greetings before engaging in a conversation or in any other activities, which is why ‘Greetings’ is one of the first skills of the Swahili course.
Hand shaking is used a lot. In some areas of Tanzania people kneel down or bow, or bend down a little as a sign of respect, children bow their heads for a blessing from elders. In other areas elders bow their heads for a touch from children when being greeted.
People take greetings seriously as they help to maintain good relationships.
The word habari literally means news, but it is often used to ask How is ---?.
Some Tanzanians use the greeting Jambo when greeting foreigners. In most cases Jambo is considered to be a touristic greeting. Generally foreigners are associated with tourists and for that matter this greeting is commonly used with foreigners.
When using the forms of -jambo, negative prefixes will be used (such as asking, Hujambo?). This can be translated as a way to say Hello! or How are you?. More about this will be explained in later lessons, but for now, just remember that Jambo is technically used for tourists only.
To a friend/colleague, one can say Mambo? or Salama? or Vipi?, but not to an elder or to a senior person. These phrases are slang for Hello.
Articles "a", "the", and "some" are not used in Swahili. One can say "mtoto" meaning "a" or "the" child.