Winter 1999 (7.4)

Sociolinguistically Speaking - Part 5
Saying Goodbye

by Jala Garibova and Betty Blair

You are welcome to reproduce these Sociolinguistic articles for individual or educational study.

Recently an Azerbaijani family was saying goodbye to their hosts after enjoying dinner and an evening together, and their child started down the stairs on his own. His parents stopped him and made him come back and say goodbye. It didn't matter that the child was only four years old. Goodbyes are a crucial part of etiquette in Azerbaijan. They are often elaborate and drawn out depending upon the situation and relationship. To show respect, you say goodbye to your hosts at a party, your professor or teacher, your classmates, your co-workers, the shop clerk who helped you in a store, and even your cab driver. In all cases, these goodbye phrases contain a wish for continued well-being.

Photo: Blair, Sabirabad Refugee Camp, Summer 1999.

This word doubles for "Thanks" and "Goodbye" in both singular and plural forms.

So long!

The reply can be the same, plus additional wishes.

Have a safe trip home. (Good way).

Go smiling. (Smiling-smiling).

Go happy (singular / plural).

See you.

Until we meet.

Come often.

Often, a simple exchange of goodbyes consists of three, four, or even more phrases. In the evening, you may say "Good night" rather than "Goodbye".

A. All right. So long. We'll leave. Thanks a lot.
B. Goodbye. Good way. Go smiling. Come often.
A. You come to our place, too.
B. If God wills.
A. Good night. (May goodness be with you at night.)
B. Good night. (May you encounter goodness.)

C. Thanks for everything. Goodbye.
D. Goodbye. Say hello to your mom.
C. Thanks so much.
D. Next time bring the children.
C. We will, thanks so much. You come to our place, too.
D. OK (Fine).
C. Goodbye. (God be with you.)
D. Goodbye. Good way.

Of course, if you unexpectedly meet someone in the street, the goodbye procedure is somewhat briefer. Note that the word is quite formal and rarely used in everyday situations as it implies "goodbye forever" (Arabic). You're more likely to encounter it in literary works and poetry.

Greeting Family Members

It's always appropriate to send greetings to other family members.

Say hello to your mother. / (plural).
Say hello to your aunt (mother's side).
Say hello to your sister.
Say hello to your uncle (father's side).
Say hello to Lala.
Say hello to Natig.

At Someone's House

For the sake of propriety, it's important to follow the Azerbaijani traditional procedures in leave-taking. At a party in someone's home, for example, it's crucial to say goodbye to the host or hostess before you leave. If the host happens not to be available at the moment that you want to leave - perhaps because he's talking on the telephone - you should wait until you have an opportunity to say goodbye.
But don't just disappear and slip out the door, it's important to say goodbye to the other guests as well - always starting with the elderly ones first. (If there's not more than 20 guests or so, you should say goodbye to everyone).

Repeat the same physical gestures (hugging, kissing or shaking hands) that you used earlier that evening. Children are usually kissed, as are adults who are close friends or relatives.

If you have to leave early, your host will appreciate an explanation. It's typical for the host to insist several times that you stay just a bit longer. Explaining why you can't will prevent hurt feelings.

If you're leaving a dinner party, the host may offer food to take to other family members who weren't able to come. This is done so that pregnant women, children, elderly or sick relatives won't feel left out. The food is not considered "leftovers", since each person's share was set aside before the food was served.

When seeing guests off, don't close the front door as soon as your guests leave. Instead, step outside and watch as your guests walk down the stairs. If you have a courtyard, see your guests to the street entrance.

Sometimes one set of goodbyes is not enough. After saying goodbye to the host, its usual for guests to gather in front of the house and continue talking. When it's time to leave, goodbyes are said a second time, repeating the same kissing and handshaking routine that occurred earlier.

There's an Azeri expression: "You can never say 'Go home' to a guest, but you may pull the mattress out from under him." In other words, the guest is made to feel uncomfortable as, for example, when family members argue or watch TV instead of entertaining their visitors. The guest considers this disrespectful.

One well-known anecdote talks about guests who don't know when they've outstayed their welcome: "Molla Nasraddin falls ill, so his friends and relatives come to visit. They sit around giving advice and asking questions for such a long time that Molla gets tired of them. He and his wife don't feel comfortable telling their visitors to leave, even though Molla needs to rest. In the end, Molla gets up, puts on his coat and walks out of the room. When the visitors ask him what he's doing, he says: 'I've recovered. And you can go home.'"

On the Telephone

Ending a telephone conversation should not be done abruptly. Usually, the person who initiated the phone call is the one who determines when to finish the conversation. The other person is expected to be patient and wait until the caller is ready to close the conversation and say goodbye.

If something urgent comes up and you need to hang up first, apologize and explain why you have to go. If you don't provide a reason, the caller might get offended. Before closing, set a time to call back.

E. Are you going to be home this evening?
F. Yes (colloquial expression, but not used with strangers or elderly).
E. Is it OK if I call back in the evening?
There are guests at the house.
I'm going to put my child to bed now.
I have to go now.
F. Sure. I'm at home. Call when you have time.
F. OK. Sorry that I couldn't talk. Goodbye.
G. No problem (OK). Goodbye.

On a Journey

When seeing someone off at the airport, train station or bus stop, the family tends to stay as long as possible before that person leaves. Instead of just dropping the person off, all the friends and family members usually go inside the train car and stay there right up until the loved one must depart. If the person is going to a distant place, use the following phrases:

Be under God's care.

Take care.
(Meaning, look after yourself well.)

Take care of yourself.

Don't miss.
(Meaning, don't get homesick and miss us).

Call frequently.

The person who is leaving replies with many of the same phrases and may add:

(Remain) safe and sound.

At a Meeting

In formal, business-related conversations, a goodbye is usually followed by phrases such as:

So glad to see you.

So glad to meet you.

A phrase often used to preface the goodbye, especially at business meetings:

If you would permit (singular/ plural)

Before leaving, a business person is likely to apologize "If you permit, I must leave because..."

Goodbye to an Audience

Phrases used to say goodbye addressing an audience on TV or radio, or at a meeting or concert, are different from those used in everyday situations:

Until future meetings.

Literally, remain with health.

Looking forward to meeting you again.
(Literally, with the desire to meet with you again.)


When guests are leaving and thanking the hosts, they often add:

May we meet in happy celebrations.

If the host knows that the guests have young children in their family, they may add:

May this also happen to your young ones.
(Meaning, may they get married, too).

From your singles + you see
(Meaning, may single people in your family get married, too).


If the occasion is a funeral, the departing guest is expected to say a phrase such as:

May it be your last grief.

Literally, may God rest the souls of your dead ones.

May we meet in happy celebrations.

Back to Sociolinguistically Speaking

From Azerbaijan International (7.4) Winter 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.

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