What's up? Coucou, ça va? Qué tal? Informal greetings used around the world

It’s been more than two years since my sons started at their current school. I still remember being nervous about them learning the new routines, meeting new friends, and interacting with their new teachers. A “new” school is always chock full of everything and anything “new.” But, for me, my nervousness was at a higher than usual level since they were going through all the usual “new” – in French.

Directions on where to stow your school supplies were given in French. Introductions to other students were done in French. Art, Music, Math, Science and, of course, French were taught in French.

In addition to hearing French, my young sons had to speak French, too. Requests for help with school work, a question on where to put your coat, or permission to go to the bathroom – it was all done in French.

As an English-only speaker, I was nervous for them. But, I didn’t need to be. As everyone seems to always say, kids adapt to change – much, much better than we, as adults, could ever do. And, my sons quickly learned how to adapt and thrive in their new school.

They came home from school excited, happy and ready to go back again the next day. They made new friends – French, English, Spanish and Romanian native speakers alike. And, they excelled in their schoolwork. All of that and more helped quell my maternal anxiety – at least a little bit.

But, even after several weeks at school, it took one simple term to show me that they were at “home” there. And, that term was “coucou.”

In French, “coucou” is an informal greeting used among friends and families. In English, it’s similar to saying “hey, how’s it going?” or “hey, what’s up?”

I’ll never forget how happy I was when my sons were greeted one morning by a teacher with a simple “coucou, ça va?”

For some intangible reason, that one term hit me hard, showing me that I had nothing to worry about at all.

It wasn’t formal. It wasn’t the expected “bonjour, ca va?” And, it was fantastic.

Of course, like the whole new school experience, my sons took the use of the term in stride. But, I’ll never forget it. For it showed me that they were familiar with, and at home in, their new school – something all parents want for their children.

It made me wonder how other children are informally greeted by teachers, parents, family and friends in other cultures around the world. To find out, I put together a short list with the help of some of my fellow Multicultural Kid Blogs and ChicagoNow bloggers.

Here are some other informal greetings used around the world:

Nick of Where Are We Going, Dad? noted that informal greetings aren’t as commonly used in China as they are in western countries. But, he did say that “Ni zai gan ma?” (or 你在干吗?) is sometimes used there. The Chinese greeting is similar to asking “what’s up?” or “what are you doing?”

Annemarie of Dutch Alien Lands in the US came to the US from the Netherlands in January 2013. One informal greeting that she uses in Dutch is – “Hoe gaat het?” (or “how are you?”) Annemarie also uses a shorter version – “Hoe ist?” – in her Brabants dialect.

Adriana of Changing Plate is a native of Costa Rica who now lives in Germany. She often uses  the informal German greeting, “was geht ab?” – which is similar to “what’s up” in English.

Ute of Expats Since Birth lives in the Netherlands and speaks German, Italian, English, French and Dutch. She also shared that “Na, wie geht’s?” is yet another way to say “what’s up” or ask “how are you?” in German.

In Hebrew (a language I studied for several years), a common, informal greeting is “Ma MaMatsav?” (  ?orמה המצב), which also roughly translates to “what’s up?” According to LingoLearn.com, “Ma Koreh” (  ?מה קורה) also can be used as a way to informally ask “what’s happening?”

In Italian, Ute of Expats Since Birth, uses “Come va?” (How is it going?) or “Tutto bene?” (Is all okay?) as two informal greetings.

Daria of Daria’s Music told me of a saying used in the Quechua-speaking regions of Peru – “Amq Q’ella, Ama Suwa, Ama Llulla! While it’s not a traditional greeting, the phrase, which can be translated as “Don’t be lazy, Don’t be a thief, Don’t Lie!,” dates back to Incan times and is often used with students and seen on the walls of local schools.

According to Varya of the Creative World of VaryaВсем привет (or Vsem Privet) means “hi, everyone” in Russian. It is often used at home, and teachers sometimes also use it with their students outside of the more formal classroom setting.

Varya also noted that parents use terms of endearment like малыш (or ma’lish), which can mean “babe,” and may greet their child with ты как, малыш? (ti kak, malish) or “how are you, babe?” – which can also be used among couples. This especially resonated with me since I informally greet my husband and two sons all the same way – “hi, my love.” In fact, I often have to clarify who I’m talking to if I just say “my love.”

Anna of Russian Step by Step went on to note that a few other very informal ways parents greet their kids are ПривЕтик (pri-VEH-tik), a more informal form of “hi;” Как жИзнь молодАя? (kak ZHIIZN ma-la-dAH-ja), a way to ask “how is young life?”; or Как делИшки? (kak de-LII-shki), a way to ask “how are things?”

According to Leanna of All Done Monkey and Adriana of Changing Plate, “tuanis, mae?” is a very informal greeting in Costa Rican Spanish. (On their own, “tuanis” means “cool” and “mae” means “buddy.”) It is often reserved for use only among friends.

Kathy of Quilting! Sewing! Creating! speaks Spanish and French, and says that ¿Qué tal? or ¿Qué pasa? (both meaning “what’s up?) are two commonly used informal greetings in Spanish. She also noted that people often text the single letter “K” to people as an informal greeting. Since “K” isn’t normally used in Spanish, it’s taken on a new modern, more “techny” place in their modern communications, and a fun way to informally greet friends via text.

My friend, Romana, told me that in an informal greeting used in the Philippines is “magandang umaga. Kumusta ka?” The Tagalog greeting can be translated as “good morning, how are you?”

How do you greet your children? How are they greeted by teachers and friends at school? Please share other informal greetings among parents or other adults with children in your language(s) in the comments below.

Informal Greetings Used Around the World

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