In most African cultures, it is very disrespectful for one to walk past an elderly person and not greet him/ her. Courtesy demands that when a younger person sees older people, the proper thing to do is to greet. The ability of a child to greet elders is a sign of respect and good upbringing and children who do not greet their elders are branded as disrespectful and arrogant.
This can rub off on parents too; being branded as bad parents who did not teach their child how to respect elders. When elders complain of a particular child from a certain family that does not greet, the family will be criticized for not training that child well. Greeting binds people together and creates a cordial relationship. It can be an avenue to start off a conversation. And when people communicate, they share experiences and relate with one another.
In most Nigerian cultures like the Yoruba, Ijaw, Urhobo, Itshekiri and many others, the relevance and importance of greeting is revealed in the way they prostrate on the floor or bend one or both knees while greeting elders. Showing courtesy while greeting a person involves prostrating on the floor or bending one or both knees; in Yoruba tradition, this is called, “dor ba le” while in Urhobo and Itshekiri, it is referred to as “di gwe”. The Ijaws call it “Koi”.
When a person greets an elder, the response is sometimes a pronouncement of blessings or thanks from that elder. For example, a child courtesies and greets an elder and the elder responds, “God bless you my child” or “Thank you my child” or “It is well with you”. Among peers, friends, family and acquaintances, it is an avenue to exchange pleasantries and do a brief catching up.
In the Western world it is not so. People tend to mind their own business most of the time and greeting is mostly done when absolutely necessary. It is also done as a way of starting a conversation or trying to familiarize with someone. People walk past each other on the streets with a straight face. It is almost like they are too busy to exchange a simple “Hello”.
It is very sad, the extent and effect of globalization on Nigerian children and youths. Young people no longer deem it fit to show respect to elders by at least greeting. This sort of attitude later translates to full blown arrogance. Greeting has now become a matter of “If I so please” to young people. This is not supposed to be so. Just imagine a person walks into your office and does no greet, that tell badly of that person’s manners.
Some people complain that elders do not respond to their greetings and that’s why their stopped greeting. But the truth is that if one person doesn’t respond to your greetings doesn’t mean that the same applies to everyone else. Plus, greeting should not be to only elderly people but also to our peers and people we see around us. Some friendships today started from mere greeting.
In my opinion, greeting should be encouraged by African and especially Nigerian parents. It is a huge part of our culture and identity. Africans are known to be friendly and cheerful people and even if the world is fast becoming a global village, we should not get so westernized that we forget our roots. We must not let the good etiquette passed down to us by our fore fathers to die in our time.