In Botswana, it is customary to greet every person you see. In my village, the younger person must greet the older person first. And then if you forget or ignore them, you are often given a verbal lashing. I have grown to love this custom and don’t mind commanding small children to say Dumela or else I will their mother that they were being rude. But sometimes I forget this small cultural eccentricity and I rush into an office to ask my counterpart a question. Without answering she says, Dumela Refilwe and then I stop, slow down and reply oh yes, Dumela Mma. She replies O tshogile? and then I say Ee Mma, Ke tshogile… equivalent to ‘How are you?’ ‘I’m fine.’ And it is only after this that I can continue with my work.
O tshogile literally means ‘you have woken’
Ee, Mma, Ke tshogile then meaning ‘yes Ma, I am awake’
Another common expression is Le kae with the answer Ke teng… which means the same as How are you but literally translates into
Le Kae Where are you?
Ke Teng I’m here.
Yes Ma, I am awake. I am here.