Many of you have probably seen the posts I’ve written for Uncover Colombia dealing with Colombian slang. Today, I want to talk about common ways to greet people in Colombia, specifically, common ways to say “hello.”
This is probably the most basic form of greeting in Colombia, and most likely the most common greeting taught in any basic level Spanish class. You’ll definitely hear this greeting being used in Colombia, but I don’t know if I’d say it’s the most common greeting among Colombians.
“Buenas,” on the other hand, is perhaps the most common way of greeting someone in Colombia, and I highly doubt it’s on the list of greetings taught in your average 101 Spanish course. I am not sure how “buenas” started as a greeting, but I would take a gander that it’s a shortened version of the standard greetings mentioned in #3 below.
3. “Buenos días”/ “Buenas tardes”/ “Buenas noches”
Buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon), and buenas noches (good evening), like “hola,” will be taught in your basic level Spanish course, and are frequent greetings used and heard in Colombia. Of the three, “buenos días” is probably the most common. “Buenas tardes” and “buenas noches” are most frequently shortened to “buenas.”
“¡Quibo!” is another way of saying “hello” in Colombia. It used, though, mostly between friends or close acquaintances and is very informal. The story goes that ¡Quibo! is a shortened and morphed version of the question ¿Qué hubo? (What’s been going on?) that is sometimes used as a conversation starter.
5. “¿Qué más?”
While “¿Qué más?” literally means, “What else?” many Colombians used it to say “Hey! How are you?” This greeting is especially used when greeting someone on the phone or during a phone (or in-person) conversation where this is awkward silence to keep the conversation going.
6. “¿Cómo vas?”
“¿Cómo vas?” is another way of greeting someone and practically means the same thing as “¿Qué más?” Even so, “¿Cómo vas?” seems to be used just as commonly in person as it is over the phone, and you wouldn’t necessarily use it to keep a conversation going.
7. “¿Cómo van las cosas?”
“¿Cómo van las cosas?” literally means, “How are things going?”, and, like “¿Qué más?,” is more frequently heard via phone conversation than in-person conversations.
8. “¿Qué cuentas?”
“¿Qué cuentas?” might be my favorite greeting, because I am not sure if there is anything exactly like it in English (correct me if I am wrong in the comments section). Literally, “¿Qué cuentas?” means “What do you have to tell?” Colombians use it to simply ask, “What’s been going on?” But, the verb “contar” (to tell) is used with stories–“contar cuentos,” and so greeting someone in this way (for a native-English speaker) seems a bit surreal, as if you’re asking someone to tell you a magical story about recent events in their life. I wonder what other gringos (foreigners) in Colombia think about this greeting…
9. “¿Qué has hecho?”
“¿Qué has hecho?” is the Colombian way of saying, “What have you been up to?” Through my own observations, I’ve noticed many Colombians tend to use this greeting with people they haven’t seen in a while rather than with people they see on a more or less daily basis.
10. “Cómo me le va?”
Out of all the greetings I’ve listed, “¿Cómo me le va?” may be the most uncommon one on a national level, but is still a semi-common one in many interior cites such as Bogotá. You may notice that the formal “le” is used instead of an informal “te” here. That is because this is a formal greeting, one you would use with someone you’d like to show a decent level of respect to.
Now that you know a variety of ways to say “hello,” get out there and practice!
Until next time,
Ps. Kudos to my awesome co-worker Katrina for inspiring this blog post!