Gestures, Greetings and Manners in Maldives

  • July 28, 2017


Useful words and phrases to get around Maldives

The national language of the Maldives is called DhivehiDhivehi language is an offshoot of the Indo-Aryan language family. It is a pidgin language that combines the basic syntax of the Sri Lankan language Sinhala with words, phrases and grammar borrowed from every nationality that has used the island nation as an anchorage over the centuries. Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Dravidian, French, Portuguese and English influences can all be found in Dhivehi,

Though Dhivehi is the official language, English language is widely spoken in the country. English is also used as the business language. Practically every Maldivian speaks English because it’s the language used in Maldivian schools. English is the Maldives’ unofficial second language.

If you have already reserved a room at a resort, there would be no problem when it comes to speaking with them because almost all resort islands and hotels employee are trained to converse in different languages, especially English. Also, some offer translating services of renowned international languages like English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Japanese.

But, it won’t hurt if you familiarize yourself to some phrases you can use when going around the islands. You never know when it will come in handy. When traveling, it’s always a lot more fun to be able to speak with people in their own language.

Here are some basic phrases you can learn before your most awaited summer getaway.

“Hello” is translated to “Assalaa mu alaikum.”

Courteously asking “How are you?” could be said in two ways: the formal way to phrase this question is “Haalu kihineh?” while the more casual, informal way is frequently shortened to “Kihineh.”

Asking some favor and you want to say “Please”, you say “Adhes kohfa.”  “Thank you” is translated to“Shukuriyaa.”  And “You’re welcome” is “Maruhabaa.” in Dhivehi.

Expressing your apology, or excusing yourself is said through “Ma-aaf kurey.”

Useful questions:

If you want to ask if they speak English, you ask “Ingireysin vaahaka dhakkan ingeytha?”

During boat rides and you want to know what island is on sight, you can ask “E-ee kon rasheh?”

Asking for the time: “Gadin kihaa ireh?” and asking for the price: “Agu kihaavareh?”


The majority of the indigenous population does not mix with the tourist visitors, with the exception of those involved with tourism in the resorts and Malé.

Just like anywhere in the world, the people of Maldives are warm and accommodating, as long as you treat them with respect and as equals, nothing less. Despite it being an island country, its norm, and general practices don’t differ that much from what we have in our respective countries.

Meeting & Greeting

When meeting a local for the first time, a handshake is the most common form of greeting, accompanied by the Arabic expression ‘Assalaam Alaikum’, which can be roughly translated to “Peace be upon you” in English.

As for greetings between a man and a woman, while handshakes are a common form of greeting, many times a simple nod or slight bow will do as many men and women generally do not engage in physical contact. Keep in mind that the Maldivians are very conservative, following their Islamic belief and religion. To be sure, let the woman offer her hand first. If they don’t then the nod is good to go.


When a Maldivian friend invites you home, make sure to remove your shoes or slippers upon entering their house. Leave them at the front door, where the owners leave theirs.

Dining Etiquette

At the dinner table, it is expected that visitors should wait until all guests are seated before commencing eating. Doing so is disrespectful and sends out the wrong message.

It’s polite to try a little of everything that you are offered. Others would find it slightly offensive if you say no to something that they dedicated time and effort to prepare. At the same time, avoid emptying your plate completely as this might infer that you were not offered enough and may be taken as an insult by your host.

When you invite Maldivian friends for a meal at a restaurant, you are expected to take the bill.

Eating pork and drinking alcohol is not allowed in Islam, so it would be best to avoid offering it to anybody. But you are allowed to eat if you’d like.

Gift-Giving Etiquette

If you wish to give parting gifts by the time of your departure, Maldivians gracefully accept any gift given to them, but this doesn’t mean that it is necessary, nor they are expecting you to return the favor. Every gift is gratefully accepted, especially an item from your country, or something that is unavailable in the country.