Hello in South Africa

Heading to South Africa? Here are 8 ways to say hello in South Africa so you can greet the locals and enjoy your time to the max!

South Africa is one of the most visited countries in Africa and, when visiting, it is important to know the different ways to greet in South Africa.

It’s natural beauty means the country attracts people from all over the world. South Africa is a very diverse country with eleven official languages.

One of the many privileges of growing up in South Africa is that I had the opportunity to learn many of these and feel confident when traveling to most parts of the country.

However, the multiple languages spoken in the country do often cause languages barrier between tourists and locals because not everyone can fluently speak English.

Apart from that, people everywhere appreciate it more when travelers can say a thing or two in their native language. In South Africa, the most spoken language often depends on what part of the country you’re in.

Things to know before you go to South Africa


  1. Hello – Bet you didn’t see this one coming but as I said, English is the medium of communication, and everyone knows “hello” so if you get stuck, just simply say “hello” with a smile on your face.

2. Sawubona (singular)/ Sanibonani (Plural) – (Zulu and Swati) Zulu is the most widely spoken language in the country. You will hear this language everywhere more especially if you visit provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

3. Molo (Singular)/ Molweni (Plural) – Xhosa is the second most widely spoken language. You will mostly hear it in the Eastern Cape province, the informal settlements in Cape Town and other parts of the Western Cape.

4. Dumela (Singular)/ Dumelang (Plural) – (Tswana and Sotho) Sotho is popular in the Free State province while Tswana is popular in the North West. You will also hear these languages a lot in the Gauteng cities; Johannesburg and Pretoria.

5. Abuxeni (pronounced Abusheni) – Tsonga is not a popular language, but if you ever come across a Tsonga person then it will be good to at least know how to greet them in their language.

Hello in South Africa

6. Ndaa (Men)/Aa (Women) – The Venda language is also not widely spoken in most parts of the country but very popular in the Limpopo province. If you’re a man you greet by saying “Ndaa” and if you are a woman you greet by saying “Aa.”

7. Heita hola/howzit – Loosely translates to “Hi, how are you?” This is a “cool” urban greeting often used in the streets. You can use it when you see a young gentleman in a township pub or when you see them on the streets. They’ll find you very cool especially if it’s obvious that you’re a foreigner.

8. Aweeh – Loosely translates to “Hello” also a cool, urban street slang mainly used in the “coloured” communities. This greeting, as well as the one before it, are very popular among young people.

An extra tip from a native: When greeting older people, always follow the greeting with a nod and when shaking hands use both of your hands otherwise enjoy the braais and the chillas.

South African Slang

South Africa Travel Tips

So you are heading to South Africa and you now know how to greet others, but here are a few more travel tips for things you need to know before visiting South Africa. 

  • Don’t worry about the language – It is great to learn some basic greetings and sayings but, if you speak English, you should be able to travel well. Many South Africans speak English, whether it is as a first or second language, so you should be able to communicate with others in most situations. 
  • When to visit? – South Africa can be visited all-year round but check the weather ahead of booking to pack accordingly. November to February offer warm and dry weather whilst July to November is cold and windy but a great time for whale watching. 
  • South Africa is huge – The country is massive so don’t expect to see it all unless you are here for an extending period of time. 
  • Three Capitals – South Africa is the only country in the world with three capital cities; Pretoria, Cape Town and Bloamfontein. 
  • Cities are modern – The cities in South Africa are modern and developed.You can expect fantastic restaurants, 5-star hotels, markets, museums and shopping malls. You will have to travel to the game reserves and the nearby villages to spot wild animals. 
  • Diversity – South Africa offers so many different things to see and do, including Safaris, skiing, vineyards, canyons and bustling city life. Enjoy all sides of the country and plan longer than you think you will need – if you can. 
  • You can travel on a budget – Travel prices are considerably cheaper in South Africa than they are in the West, so travelling can be cheap. 
  • Try the food – South Africa is home to some amazing food but also diverse options to choose from. From markets to eateries to fine dining, there are lots of great choices for you to choose from – whether you want to try some traditional dishes or western fusions. 
  • Visas – South Africa offer a 90 day visa-free option for some nationalities including Europeans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and Americans. Check on this website to see if you need a visa before you travel. 
  • Safety – South Africa is safe but use your common sense. Keep your valuables locked in the hotel safe and don’t flaunt expensive electronics or jewellery. 
  • Rent a car – Renting a car is the best way to see the country. Taxis aren’t readily available here and the public transport is limited. 
  • Uber and Taxis – When in the big cities, you can use taxis and Uber to travel around. These are cheap and we recommend using them if your hotel or hostel suggests it. 
  • Take a filter water bottle – Water in the cities is safe to drink but that is not the case for the smaller towns. Bring a filter water bottle to stay safe. 
  • Stay in a lodge – There are many reserves in South Africa with lots of lodges and camps to choose from. If you have the budget, try and spend at least one night in a camp with your camping cot – they are gorgeous and offer a unique experience. 
  • Travel insurance – Make sure you book travel insurance before you visit. We use World Nomads for all our travels, with extensive affordable plans that can be booked with little advanced notice. 
  • Safaris are pricey but worth it – Your biggest expensive in South Africa is the game reserves. These are costly but worth it. 
  • South Africa is laid back – The country is a laid-back, slow paced destination so don’t expect people to be rushing around. Embrace the slow pace and relax. 

Helpful Resources

What to pack

Travel essentials:

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  1. I always try to learn a few words when I go travelling. But 8 different ways to say hello might be too much for my old brain:) It’s amazing how many languages exist.

  2. This will be extremely useful when I visit South Africa. I have wanted to go there for a while now because of it’s reputation of being such a beautiful country. Now I can try this out when I get there!

  3. This is a very useful post for anyone wanting to visit South Africa. When I was there, I only said the standard hello, but next time I’ll try one of the others. I’m not sure how my accent will sound but I’ll give it a go!

  4. Hi Katie! Loved your post on South Africa – Its amazing how they can have eight different ways to say hello! All serve the same purpose, but at the same time each greet is different. I find it fascinating 🙂 Safe travels. – Mariella

  5. How cool is it that there are so many ways to greet people? I would love to try them all out and see what kind of a reaction I would get. Of course, I would need a pronunciation guide so I don’t butcher the language and offend anyone!

  6. Greetings are very important as it connects and leaves a great impact for the first time when meeting someone. Great you have described so many ways that how to greet in South Africa. Very useful for those who are travelling to South Africa and also want to connect with the locals. Will save this information for my future visit.

  7. I had no idea there are 11 official languages in South Africa! That’s amazing. Being able to greet people correctly is a lovely thing to know when we travel, and it can have a big impact on how we interact with locals. This is definitely a useful post for anyone visiting South Africa!

  8. Learning the greetings in the local language is my way to connect more with the locals. Thanks for sharing these new words. Except for the first one I didn’t know any of those.

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