Serbian Greetings Everyone Should Know

September 15, 2020

Once you start learning Serbian Greetings or you arrive in Serbia, the first words you will hear will be a big warm-hearted "Dobro došli" (Latin Alphabet) or "Добро дошли" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "Welcome". The younger people in Serbia usually speak English, but the older generation still relies massively on Russian, and don't know a word of English other than "No problem" or "O.K." -  transliterated into Serbian as "Okej".

The second thing you can expect to be asked, without any doubt, is "Odakle si?" (Latin Alphabet) or "Oдакле си?" (Cyrillic Letters) which means "Where are you from?". Even though it would be nice to know the answer in Serbian, you can just say the country’s name in English – everyone will most probably understand it. You can form your answer by starting with "Iz" (which means ‘from’) and the name of the country in the Genitive Case (I will explain cases thoroughly in my future blog posts). So, you can say "Iz Engleske" (from England), "Iz S.A.D" (from the U.S.A), "Iz Francuske" (from France), or "Iz Srbije" (from Serbia).

When we are talking about Serbian greetings, there are many different phrases you can use. Depending on the situation, they vary from formal to completely informal.



Formal And Informal Serbian Greetings

The most common Serbian greetings are:

"Dobro jutro" (Latin Alphabet) or ""Добро јутро" (Cyrillic Letters)  which mean "Good morning"

"Dobar dan" (Latin Alphabet) or "Добро дан" (Cyrillic Letters),  which mean "Good afternoon",

"Dobro veče" (Latin Alphabet) or "Добро вече" (Cyrillic Letters),  which mean "Good evening",

"Laku noć" (Latin Alphabet) or "Лаку ноћ" (Cyrillic Letters), which mean "Good night".

These Serbian greetings are mostly used when talking to strangers, older people, or when entering a store, a bank, etc. However, when you get into one of the stores that are more “hip” and a young person works there, you might be greeted with a simple "Ćao!" (Latin Alphabet) or "Ћао!" (Cyrillic Letters) and "Zdravo!" (Latin Alphabet) or "Здраво!" (Cyrillic Letters), both of them mean "Hello"

Serbians (as many other nations) have adapted 'Ćao' from the Italian ‘Ciao’. However, the main difference (besides the letters) is that in Serbian, people use it both as informal ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’.

On the other hand, formal "Goodbye" has two versions: "Doviđenja" (Latin Alphabet) or "Довиђења" (Cyrillic Letters) and "Prijatno" (Latin Alphabet) оr "Пријатно" (Cyrillic Letters). The funny thing about the word "Prijatno" is that it's a double agent- the first one is a greeting, and the second one is "Bon Appetite". Having in mind the fact that Serbians are obsessed with food and enjoy saying "Živeli" all the time, this is the word every foreigner in Serbia should learn.  ?

In general, Serbians tend to be as informal as possible in all of their conversations. So, if you want to feel and act like one of them, I encourage you to talk informally. Also, when you are talking with the elderly, you will often be addressed with "Sine" (Latin Alphabet) or "Сине" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "My Son" or "Dete" (Latin Alphabet) or "Дете" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "My Child". Talking like that, they are expressing their closeness and affection towards you. So, don’t worry, they don’t think you are their long lost child. ?

Serbian Greetings

How To Answer Serbian Greetings

After "Dobar Dan", you will usually be asked "Kako si?" (Latin Alphabet) or "Како си?" (Cyrillic Letters) which means " How are you?" (informal), or "Kako ste?" (Latin Alphabet) or "Како сте?" (Cyrillic Letters), which means the same thing but in а formal way. The answer to this question should be something like this: "Dobro, hvala napitanju. Kako si ti ?" (Latin Alphabet) or "Добро, хвала на питању. Како си ти?" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "Good. Thanks for asking. And how are you?".

Again, this is an informal way. If you want to make it formal, just say "Kako ste?" (Latin Alphabet) or "Како сте?" (Cyrillic Letters) instead of "Kako si?" and the rest of the answer is the same. If you are among the younger crowd, you could just say "Šta ima?" (Latin Alphabet) or "Шта има?" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "What’s up?", or "Gde si?" (Latin Alphabet) or "Где си?" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "Where are you?".

Expressions Of Gratitude In The Serbian Language

As you could see from the last few examples, expressions of gratitude are an integral part of some responses to Serbian greetings. They are very welcoming words you should use even in some cases when you don’t think you should say ‘Thank you’. The usage of those gratitude words also depends on the situation, and range from "Hvala" (Latin Alphabet) or "Хвала" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "Thanks", "Hvala puno" (Latin Alphabet) or "Хвала пуно" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "Thanks a lot", or "Hvala Vam puno" (Latin Alphabet) or "Хвала Вам пуно" (Cyrillic Letters), which means "Thank you a lot".

When someone thanks you, you should reply saying: "Nema na čemu" (Latin Alphabet) or "Нема на чему" (Cyrillic Letters), which in literal translation to English, means "Nothing to thank me for". Тhis one is kind of silly because there usually is something to thank for.

But before you rush to talk with Serbian people or visit their beautiful country, you should learn some Serbian greetings and how to respond to them with knowledge like you are a local.

One way to do that is to use language learning apps such as the Ling App.

Until the next time, or I should just say – "Doviđenja"!

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