Lesson 1 : Greetings!
In Northern Thailand there are three appropriate greetings (salutations) you may use when greeting the Akha. All are thought to have been influenced by other cultures, but the Akha, especially in Thailand, will understand and appreciate them all as gestures of goodwill.
Most of all, they will appreciate it if you greet them in Akha instead of Thai or English (although they are likely to greet you with a Thai Sawadee or a big English Hello! because they will assume you did not take the time to learn any Akha).
Learning Akha : Greeting One
The first greeting is obviously a result of Thai influence. It is most commonly said by the younger person to the older person (as is also true in Thai tradition) and is often responded to by an affirmative eu (comparable to our affirmitive uh huh) by the person receiving the greeting.
The translation of the greeting is: "I bow my head in greeting to you"
Generally this would be accompanied with a nod or with a Thai-style Wai.
To greet someone this way, Wai them and say "U du ta ma de"
Learning Akha : Greeting Two
The second greeting is thought to have been introduced to the Akha in Burma by missionaries, and that is the handshake. Nearly all the Akha in Thailand would prefer to shake hands than to Wai, so it seems most appropriate within their culture to greet them in this way.
Very few Akha (especially the adults) will Wai back to you, but they will nearly all shake hands.
To greet someone in this way offer your right hand (you may hold your right arm with your left hand to show it is being offered and say "A la sta ma".
Learning Akha : Greeting Three
For the courageous at heart, do not just greet them, but ask how they are doing. This is often done while shaking hands, just like you might be accustomed to.
To ask about themselves personally (literally: are you living well) say "Jaw sa daw mia lo"
Next time we'll learn how to answer the question "How are you doing?". Happy learning!