The Yoruba people comprise one of Africa's largest ethnic groups. They mainly inhabit Nigeria and other parts of West Africa, although descendants of Yoruba people are found throughout the world.
The Yoruba culture places great emphasis on the importance of greetings, which are associated with respect. Children learn to greet properly at a very young age, and those who do not greet others correctly will be thought to either lack instruction that should have been given at home or to have rebellious personalities. In fact, greetings are so important that if an observer notices that the proper greetings are not given between two people, they may approach each person to find out what is the matter, or even approach an elder so that the situation can be resolved.
Yoruba greetings involve both words and body language. There is no specific rule about which person has to greet the other first, but generally young people initiate greetings. When they greet elders, young women kneel with both knees, while young men prostrate themselves with their chests and chins on the ground. Young people keep their eyes down and do not look into the eyes of elders when they are greeting them. Elders place their hands on the heads of children and young people and tell them when they can get up.
Yoruba children and adults greet everyone they meet in their households and outside. Refusal to greet others can create long-term hostilities between families.
Every occasion and situation has its own forms of greetings. For instance, there are different greetings depending on seasons, festivals, times of day, and occupations. There are even distinct greetings depending upon the stage of a pregnancy, milestones of a journey, and whether a person is healthy or ill. At funerals, greetings vary depending on the age and manner in which people die.