The place to Explore Benin and its Culture

The Art of Traditional Greeting in Benin

Young girl kneeling to great

Young girl kneeling to great

Greeting is Benin is a special unique art that one must understand to comprehend it significance. You can greet people as you normally would. However, the traditional greeting one will come to witness, requires skills and patience during the salutation process. Beninese people tend to have time for leisure therefore, greeting someone tend to be an activity that is long and filled with different components as compared to other cultures.

There is a lot of emphasis in respect especially when it comes to elders. It’s important that anyone visiting must greet people in the polite and courteous manner at all times. It’s common courtesy. For Caucasian, you may find kids singing a song that sounds like this:  “Yovo Yovo Bonsoir! Ca va bien? Merci”. This translates to “White, White, Good evening! Are you well? Thank you” . The term “Yovo” , which means “White” as in Caucasian, is not used in a racially offensive manner. It’s how those from Caucasian descent are called.No one knows the origin of when this trend started but, essentially the verse turned into a  jingle is really about basic greetings that normally happens between 2 people.

Imagine greeting someone for longer than 30 seconds. The length of a greeting in Benin can last anywhere from 2 minutes to 5 minutes depending on who you’re greeting and what part of Benin you are. For example, the older the person, the longer the greeting. In the Northern part of Benin, the salutations are the longest as they include prayers and blessings as part of the greeting.Usually women, younger children and younger men are expected to kneel. Elders are not expected to kneel.


Traditional Greeting – Step-by-step process

Men laying on the floor to greet

Men laying on the floor to greet

So, what can one expect during the the process. First, you start by taking your shoes off and leaning or kneel quickly to greet the person you’re visiting. Kneeling is considered to be a sign of humility and respect to the host or elder.  Some people will remain on their knees during the whole process This is usually observed in the North. It makes sense since the salutations are longer. In addition, in the North, some individual completely lay on on floor to greet. The greeting starts by welcoming the visitor and ask about their well-being. It’s followed by asking about the well-being of their loved ones. After that, the blessings and prayers are made not only for the person kneeling but also for all their loved ones. It’s ended by asking the visitor to get up and seat. Water or other refreshment is served immediately after.

kneelingGreetings_Unseen Benin

It’s normal that some questions asked may be repeated. It’s not done on purpose and happens usually because so many questions get asked that it’s possible that the host might have forgotten that they’ve already asked them. It also makes sense since the greeting process tend to be long.

Men kneeling during a Wedding

Men kneeling during a Wedding

Kneeling to greet someone is not only observed in Benin. Many African countries have their greeting ritual where kneeling is customary. In addition, it’s also observed in foreign countries such as China, Japan or India and more…


Nota Bene:An important note to make is that the subject of racism isn’t one that’s part of Beninese culture. Everyone is treated and respected equally and without any questions.  As a tourist, Beninese people will be one of the most hospitable African individuals you’ll ever met. We strive to make foreigners feel welcomed and well catered to.




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