cultural difference 31: how are you?

I think many Americans use “How are you?” more like a greeting. The expected answer is probably “good” or something equally short.

For some Germans, the question is actually more an invitation to start a long monologue about work, health problems, and anything else going on in their lives right now. :-)

So we probably wouldn’t ask someone we barely know “How are you doing?”

9 thoughts on “cultural difference 31: how are you?”

  1. I know people for whom “How are you?” does seem an open invitation for unveiling everything they’ve been up to, fallen short of, and drowned in. LOL. I think it’s more tied to personality than nationality.

    “Hi. Good to see you again” is my usual greeting.

    • You’re right. A lot of the cultural differences I point out are more a tendency, certainly not a rule, and it all depends on the personality of the individuals.

      And maybe it’s also that people tend to want to tell me their life story if I ask how they are, just because they know I am a psychologist :-)

      Still, I think a shorter answer to “How are you?” is more often given in the US.

  2. You’re right about the differences here. In the UK, they tend to hate that Americans say things such as, “Have a nice day.” They don’t want to be told what kind of day to have, and they feel that it’s sort of a throw-away phrase. It’s not full of meaning and intention, by in large.

    I remember traveling there quite a bit for work, and I learned a variety of things not to say, “How are you” among them. ;-)

    • Interesting. I don’t mind someone wishing me a nice day.

      In certain parts of Germany, especially Bavaria, they have a greeting “Grüß Gott,” which translates to “greet God” and is used to mean “hello.” Personally, I really dislike that greeting.

      • My response to “Greet God” is always “why don’t you greet him yourself” – naturally you have to have a very pleasant smile on your face while saying it :-)

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