A quick Introduction to Manden Culture
Greetings are one of the corner stones of Manden culture.
Years ago, long before I thought of going to Europe or to America, I had a French friend while I was in Monrovia, Liberia. One afternoon, as we were having tea at a local sidewalk restaurant, another European passing by us greeted us.
I could see that my friend was annoyed by the stranger’s action. Later that day he made a comment “why that person would greet us since he did not know us”. I, in turn, was very surprised that one would be annoyed or be angered because of being greeted by a stranger. I didn’t understand his reaction until years later, after I spent some time in Europe, Asia, and America. I realized that greetings can be an act of friendship, or one of invasion of personal space; depending on the culture, or the situation.
By contrast in the Manden culture one is expected to greet first before any activity takes place, even if such activity is simply two strangers passing by each other. It is considered an ill manner to pass by someone without greeting the person. Any visitor to a Manden society should be careful to greet the host first before engaging in any conversation for business or otherwise.
Rules for greeting: Although the rules of greeting in Manden culture is not easily articulated, one can observe with frequency the following:
Before transacting any kind of business or friendly exchange, one must first engage in a period of formal or informal greeting depending; on the occasion.
A person who is approaching, or who is moving while the other is standing still or sitting greets first.
A person who is entering another’s domicile or place of business is the one to greet the occupant first.
One of the significant signs of how important greetings are in Manden society is the length of time it takes to greet a friend or relative one has not seen a long time. Such a greeting can take an hour or more before it is completed. It will include asking about the person, asking about the family members one at a time, the friends, and other acquaintances. It may also include sharing the souvenir of one or more common events.
The following are some common greetings. Be aware that the words may vary slightly from locality to locality or from group to group; but they are, nevertheless, part of Kangbe (the clear language).