I’m Good, How Are You?

One of the first things I noticed when flying from Europe to the US, was how people were very interested in me. They kept asking me how I was doing. The first encounter in this realization was at immigration, where I handed the lady my passport. “Hi, how are you”, she asked nicely. Thankful and slightly flattered by her question, I started describing my flight. “I’m good, although after sitting in a plane for eight hours, my legs are a little…” I was waved on, the lady had never listened to me. Rookie mistake, because if people want to know how you are, they’ll ask it twice. If it’s only the one time, it’s merely a prolonged greeting.

"Please, please stop telling me how you are. I was just being polite."

This can lead to unusual conversations. Miss Missouri and I went out for lunch and sat down. The waitress came up to our table and knew Miss Missouri from high school. She only recognised her halfway through, leading to the following dialogue:
Waitress: “Hi, how are you?”
Miss Missouri: “Good, how are you?”
Waitress, recognizing her client: “Good, how are you?”
Miss Missouri: “Good, how are you?”
Waitress: “Let me get you some water first.”
Funnily enough, I have never seen this dialogue scripted in any movie or television show, but heard it several times. It’s how you do it, folks. I adopted the same practice to steer away of confusion and by the time I was heading back, my greeting had taken the same shape. Instead of just saying “Good morning.”, I went to “Hi, how are you”. People never answered me.

So, how are you?


19 thoughts on “I’m Good, How Are You?

  1. I guess I’m the exception to the rule. When I ask someone how they are doing, I genuinely want to know. I’m more of “Hi (nod my head and walk away)” type greeter. So when I say “How are you?” I really am asking a question I expect an answer too! However, i know SEVERAL people that just say it as a formality!

  2. Oh, funny you should ask! I had a pretty rough night, sleeping-wise. . . I think I may be snoring, but you know how hard it is to hear yourself snoring? Anyway, I think I may be snoring and every now and then (last night, that is) I would just sort of jerk awake and think, “Man, have I been snoring this whole time?” Also, my throat was very dry this morning, which implies (to me, at least) that I was breathing through my mouth. Doesn’t that lead to snoring? Anyway. . .

    . . . OH, you didn’t really want to KNOW. . .

    Well, that’s very confusing.

  3. It’s very interesting that in an age where one would think that,
    with an increasingly easy access to technology on global scale,
    that one would know about these small cultural differences.
    Having been in South Korea for 3 months, I have come to realize, in a similar way that you did in your situation, that here, the question “have you eaten?” is another way to say “how are you/are you in good health?” and not your queue to begin to explain what you ate and if you enjoyed it or not….

  4. Oh! Oh! I know exactly what you mean! I’ve had people from US tell the same line to me, right down to “How are you?” And I actually foolishly answered them too. “I’m doing very well, thank you!” And then I went on about my weekend, etc. It took me a while to get the hang of it. Your post just solidified my guess. Lol.

  5. This is interesting and sets me thinking about this everyday phrase
    A lot depends on the emphasis i guess
    If you stress the ‘are’ its normally very sincere
    If ‘you’ is stressed, often the person would rather prefer it if you were not very fine
    On the other hand stressing the ‘how’ might mean serious concern
    A flat monotonous greeting often means nothing
    If all the three words are stressed, often it can mean that the questioner is quite intrusive and you might just want to scram!

    • Lol, I think you’re right. Even I (the untrained ear) can distinguish a real, genuine ‘how are you’ from the prolonged greeting that strangers will give you. That took me some time, though. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. VERY TRUE. It’s a typical conversation starter, and I don’t even think twice about saying it– I think I’m more shocked when someone actually responds with more than “I’m good” because I forget I asked a meaningful question. I’ve noticed I say it a lot here (more so in passing with “hey! How’s it going?) and they always stop to talk for awhile.

  7. Pingback: The Spectacular Bureaucracy of the DMV: Pillow Talk | visitingmissouri

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