Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Getting Along with Americans & Canadians: How to be liked in Canada & the U.S.
Getting Along with Americans & Canadians: How to be liked in Canada & the U.S.: "By the way, the answer to 'How are you?' in all situations is 'I am well. Thank you. How are you?' or 'Fine. Thank you,' or the more popular colloquial but grammatically incorrect, 'Good. How are you doing?' or similar statements.
The questioner does not want to know your real state of health unless he or she is a doctor or nurse in a medical office. 'My ebola virus is spreading rapidly, and I will not live more than a day longer,' is not the welcomed answer in social or business situations. 'How are you' and 'How do you do' are polite greetings, not questions."
Here is one of my pet peeves. Why do Americans insist that every single human interaction, however impersonal and trivial, cannot commence until the following magic words have been uttered:
"How are you?"
"Fine. How are you?"
Why is this incantation necessary? The grocery clerk, the bank teller, the mugger...even people who would just as soon step over your dying body to get to an ATM are asking you how you are before they will proceed further with selling you a can of Drano.
Here's how bad it is. People call a radio talk show and wait for an hour to get on the air. Then the host says to them, "OK, Bob in Denver--go ahead." And what does Bob say?
"How are you?"
The host should reply, "Is that why you called, Bob? You waited on hold for a hour to ask me THE SAME STUPID QUESTION EVERY OTHER CALLER HAS ASKED ME TODAY? Well, here's your answer: I'm exactly as FINE as I was TWO MINUTES AGO when I answered the SAME QUESTION for the LAST CALLER!"
I know I can't change this situation, but sometimes I actually tell people how I am and you should see the look of shock and horror on their face when I do. It's not that I tell them anything bad. It might be, "Well, I cut myself shaving this morning." But that is enough to send the "how are you" folks into a panic, because they didn't want any real interaction and now here it is.