You’re packed and ready to head to the idyllic islands of the Maldives…all that is left to do is to learn a few of the local words and phrases. Learning the national language of Dhivehi isn’t a necessity, as the majority of the population speak English very well but knowing a few words will enrich your holiday and show respect for the local people.
The national language of the Maldives is called Dhivehi. Dhivehi language is an offshoot of the Indo-Aryan language family. Though Dhivehi is the official language, English language is widely spoken in the country. Practically every Maldivian speaks English because it’s the language used in Maldivian schools. English is the Maldives’ unofficial second language.
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 language.
Here are some basic phrases you can learn before your once-in-a-lifetime getaway.
Hello – Assalaamu Alaikum. (from Arabic)
How are you? – Haalu kihineh?
How are you? (informal) – Kihineh?
Fine, thank you – Ran’galhu, shukuriyaa
What is your name? – Kon nameh tha kiyanee?
My name is ______ – Aharenge namakee ______
Nice to meet you – Baddhalu vee thi varah ufavejje
Please – Adhes kohfa (I beg you- not commonly used)
Thank you – Shukuriyaa (from Hindi)
You’re welcome – Maruhabaa
Yes – Aan
No – Noon
Excuse me (begging pardon) – Ma-aaf kurey
I’m sorry – Ma-aafu kurey
Goodbye – vakivelan / Dhanee
I can’t speak (name of language) [well] – ahannakha “____” eh negey maa rangalhakah
Do you speak English? – Ingireysin vaahaka dhakkan ingeytha?
Is there someone here who speaks English? – Mithaa ingireysin vahaka dhakan ingey mehaku eba huri tha?
Help! – Salaamai kurey!
Look out! – Balaa balashey!
Good morning – Baajjaveri hendhuneh
Good evening – Baajjaveri haveereh
Good night – Baajjaveri reygande
Good night (to sleep) – Ufaaveri nidhumeh
I don’t understand – Ahannakah neyngunu
Where is the toilet? – Faahanaa kobaitha?
Gestures and Manners
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.
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.
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.