This morning, before the start of our staff meeting I approached Dr. Jacqueline. I was hoping to ask her to see one of my patients before she left the hospital that day. However, rather than launching right into my request, I stopped myself and said “How are you?”
She laughed and both she and the nursing supervisor stated that I was truly “Cameroonian”:-)
One of the most difficult things for me to learn about living here was the importance of the greeting. In the states a simple “Hi how are you?” while breezing past someone will suffice, but not in Meskine.
Here it’s “Hi, how are you? How’s your health? How’s the fatigue? How’s your family? How’s the work? How’s the heat/cold.” and on, and on, etc.
A few important points;
When greeting, it is preferable to stop walking, stand still and say hello.
When swapping salutations with one person in a group, all of the group needs to be addressed.
Before requesting something, one must greet.
When I burst into the wards in the morning, wanting to get the rounds started as soon as possible, I grit my teeth, and consciously remind myself to slow down and say hello to everyone before getting the workday rolling. When I am running like a chicken with my head cut off and someone stops me in the hallway, it takes all my strength and concentration to stand still and focus my attention on that person.
It has taken some practice, and it doesn’t come naturally, but I can appreciate the need to recognize the presence of another, to take a moment to say hello.