September 1, 2017



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Why are individuals fleeing from Somalia?

  • Violence has plagued Somalia for decades and refugees flee to escape civil war and persecution from ruling clans.  Minority ethnic groups are especially threatened.

Primary language(s) in Somalia

(Statistics from “The World Factbook” on CIA website)





Religions in Somalia

(Statistics from

99.8% Muslim (majority Sunni)

<1% other religions

Guidelines for Interacting with Somali Refugees

What are some cultural differences?

  • In Somalia, extended families live together and parents always have family to take care of their children.  In the U.S., it is hard for parents to adjust to paying for daycare.
  • Using the right hand to shake hands is considered polite.
  • Somali women usually cover their entire bodies and sometimes wear veils.

What are some resettlement considerations?

  • Somali refugees may speak Swahili if they lived in Kenya before coming to the U.S.
  • Households usually include many family members, both nuclear and non-nuclear.
  • Columbus is home to the second largest Somali population in the U.S. Newly-arrived refugees are thus frequently reuniting with family and friends and/or have an existing network of support.

Common Phrases (Somali)


Welcome: Soo dhowow

Hello/How are you?: Is ka warran

Response: Fican

Yes: Haa

No: Maya

Thank you: Mahadsanid

Also – a video of greetings in Somali.

More helpful resources

  • Buckeye Ranch, an organization with a Somali outreach program.
  • SomaliCAN, a Somali organization in Ohio.
  • An article from WOSU about the recent Somali presidential election.

*This collection of information is neither perfect nor comprehensive.  Each culture is unique and cultural norms are diverse even among individuals from the same culture.  Additionally, the refugees from the following places are diverse, as is easy to see in the guidelines in this report.

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