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The 'Hi, how are you?' question

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Chat' started by LinLV, Nov 30, 2015.

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  1. LinLV

    LinLV Low-Roller

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    Hi! (how are you?)

    Okay, this might be a bit of a weird question, but I'm gonna ask it anyway.
    In the US, when you walk up to a counter, cashier, front desk, etc you mostly get the same: 'Hi (or good afternoon, goodmorning, you get it...), how are you?'
    The question is: are you supposed to answer the question?

    Us Dutch people are really straight to the point. For example, we walk up to a counter and the person behind it says 'hi' or something like that, you say hi and tell them what you came there for.
    No 'how are you' or 'how is your day going' etc.

    I've also heard this type of conversation:
    Hi, how are you?
    - Hey, how are you?
    If you're not even answering the question, why bother to ask it yourself?

    Bottom line: I don't always get the 'how are you'- etiquette. Should I answer? Should I ask the same?

    Thanks!
     
  2. ExVegasLocal

    ExVegasLocal Low-Roller

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    Asking "How are you?" is a way for a stranger to be pleasant and empathetic. If it is being asked by a cashier or front desk attendant, the correct answer is "Fine, thanks." Just say those two little words and then you can get on with your business.
     
  3. shiner1724

    shiner1724 Newbie

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    Always keep in mind these three words, when in Rome.
     
  4. captainron62

    captainron62 VIP Whale

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    ^^^^ THIS!! I just say fine, thanks for asking and go on to state my business.
     
  5. Suekel

    Suekel VIP Whale

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    This is sort of a thing for me. If a clerk, cashier, waiter etc takes the time to ask how I am, I always answer with some version of "I'm well thanks, how are you?" It's a small exchange that sets a pleasant tone for the interaction. It is a HUGE pet peeve of mine when a server asks "How are you?" and a customer answers "I'll have an iced tea" or some such. If it's someone I'm with, I will actually say, in as light a manner as I can manage "He didn't ask you want you wanted, he asked you how you are." Probably because I waited tables/tended bar for several years in my younger days and the outright rudeness of some customers was so annoying to me.
     
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  6. bdautch

    bdautch High-Roller

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    Isn't some of this regional, though? I live in DC, and we're not a chit-chatty town. If the server or bartender approaches, it's to take your order, period. On the other hand, I was in Minnesota and as the server walked by, I asked, "Can you bring by the check when you get a chance, please?" The local I was sitting with was astonished. She scolded me by saying, "In Minnesota, you don't ask for the check. She'll bring it when she's good and ready." Other Minnesotans I know thought that was a little extreme, but I still think there are cultural differences depending on where you are.
     
  7. Hobofrank

    Hobofrank Prime Minister of Idiocracy

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    On that last?...yeah its regional...back east in big cities? Its just a perfunctory question
    The opposite of the ending statement "have a great day"....nobody means it or either one in fact
    The answer to the first and last is "fine and "thanks"
    Out west and down south? Maybe you might be more open
    But nobody wants to hear "well i just lost my dog, my truck broke down and my wife ran away and i tnink my mom has alzhiemers "

    Just say fine and thanks, because they don't really want to know unless your crying and bleeding
     
  8. Suekel

    Suekel VIP Whale

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    I am originally from the Northeast (Boston) and that's where I worked in the industry. While I agree that absolutely people are more terse and to the point up there, even there most people could manage a "Fine and you?" response. If a clerk doesn't ask how I am it does not bother me at all, I'm more than willing to get down to business and get on my way. My only point is that if someone - regardless of region or function - takes the time to say "Hi, how's it going?", it's only polite to acknowledge it, IMO.
     
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  9. LinLV

    LinLV Low-Roller

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    Thanks for all the responses!!
    I'll go with the fine, thanks. I always used to say: fine (or good, or whatever), thanks, how are you? But asking how they are is not really 'how it works', is it? I get sometimes get some surprised faces when I ask that. People do seem to like it though...

    Thanks for being so helpful!
     
  10. Suekel

    Suekel VIP Whale

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    "Fine, thanks" is more than good enough. It's just one of those small pleasantries people sometimes exchange.
     
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  11. hammie

    hammie VIP Whale

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    I know Holland is not Germany, but I thought a common greeting in German is "wie geht's" (how goes it) and the response is "danke, gut" (good, thank you).

    You Dutch are so efficient I suppose, and that's not a knock. I have a few Dutch customers and they have no time for idle chit-chat, it's get down to business.
     
  12. WichitaMuskie

    WichitaMuskie Low-Roller

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    I like to actually answer the question. Throws people off. Or at least throw in a "Tremendous" or "Fabulous" or something they were not expecting.

    "Living the dream" is actually a pretty standard response to the "How are you doing?" question these days.
     
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  13. hotreds

    hotreds VIP Whale

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    and when in Turkey.......
     
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  14. LinLV

    LinLV Low-Roller

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    Thank you!
     
  15. LinLV

    LinLV Low-Roller

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    Yeah, If we meet someone we know we'll say Hi, how are you? But not to strangers..
    Dutch people are a little too efficient sometimes. We do come off as blunt every now and then when we don't mean to be.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Hahahaha, you made me smile :)
     
  16. Sonya

    Sonya Queen of VMB

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    This in one of my favorite things to ask people about. I live in Seattle where we are all friendly on the outside, but don't really want to know about your drama. :) I was having kind of a rotten day and had to stop at the grocery. The checker says "How are you?" and I automatically replied, "Fine, how are you?" But then I turned back to my cart and thought, "That was a big lie, Sonya. You are not fine. You are crabby and kind of want to sit on the floor and cry while eating all the candy bars."

    I asked the checker if anyone has ever said anything other than "Fine" in response to her question. She said, "Not really. Once a lady said she was good and then told me that her husband just died and she doesn't know how she's going to get through it. I didn't know what to say to her."

    And that is my issue with that question we ask in an offhand manner. We don't really know what is going on inside the other people we encounter every day. "How are you?" seems like a casual question, but it could be a really loaded one that you don't really want the answer to.

    I think my go-to answer for this question is now - Well, I'm still vertical, so that's a good sign. :wink2:
     
  17. ken2v

    ken2v This Space For Rent

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    Folks read both too much and too little into this. Unless one's spouse has just died, the kid was diagnosed with something incurable, just smile and move on for heaven's sake.
     
  18. Snidely

    Snidely VIP Whale

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    [video=youtube;-GiJOsQDxwQ]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GiJOsQDxwQ[/video]
     
  19. leo21

    leo21 VIP Whale

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    A general fine, good, okay, etc. is just fine. All cashiers/sales people are trained to exchange minimal pleasantries with customers to be friendly and hopefully make a customer feel more welcome. But no one expects a general conversation to result.On the sales floor, you are trained to actually not simply ask "Can I help you?'" because people tend to just turned you away. But a simple conversation starter followed with "What can I help you find? tends to work better in connecting with the customers. For cashiers, it just feels better when they acknowledge you before grabbing your money from you. From an American perspective, we probably find that the average sales clerk isn't polite enough.
     
  20. Nevyn

    Nevyn VIP Whale

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    Yeah, the question is just social lubricant. Even amongst acquaintances, neighbours or casual friends it is mostly rhetorical and just a way to either get a conversation started, or be friendly without having a real conversation.

    It actually makes people profoundly uncomfortable to give an honest answer unless they are very close.

    The proliferation of this type of question in service, sales and retail is certainly annoying. In the last couple of decades, companies have increasingly pushed staff towards this type of approach. Even though this type of thing (using first names, making small talk) should really be considered rather presumptuous, they have found that customers respond better to it than old school common politeness. I'll happily blow it off with a "fine thanks" or even "good, how are you" for a minimum wage clerk or waitress. But if you are making a sales call or the like, don't be surprised if I start sharing real or imagined problems.
     
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