‘Tis the season for greetings. A very happy holiday season to all of you!

But . . . talk to me about this greeting that has me VERY confused 🤔.

When I am on my morning walk, a person who is passing me, usually coming towards me, might, in order of energy: (1) nod, (2) wave, (3) say “hello,” (4) say “morning,” (5) say “good morning.” We, in Central Florida, are a friendly group.

However! Some people insist on adding this question: “How are you?”

Now, if the person I have just encountered is a neighbor, AND if I know that this neighbor really wants to know how I am doing, I have no problem with the question. In fact, we both may stop and talk about how I am doing, how (s)he is doing, and other neighborhood-type questions and responses.

IF, however, the question comes from someone I have never met, I am puzzled and amused.

ESPECIALLY in these following situations:

  • One of our Rotary exchange students (from Belgium) brought this rather odd behavior to my attention after a Rotarian asked her to tell us something that she had learned while being in the U.S. She mentioned this example: She was walking down the grocery aisle and encountered a friendly Central Floridian who said, “Good morning. How are you doing?” The student started to respond, and then realized that the questioner had moved on! Our student was very puzzled and worried that she had done something wrong. NO. We all confirmed that this ‘add-on’ was simply an extra part of the common “Good Morning” greeting (for no particular reason).

After hearing about this confusion, I started to pay more attention to the usual morning greetings that I encountered. Most of them are what I mentioned earlier, but one was . . . SO FUNNY!

  • I am walking in a nearby neighborhood where I might recognize a few folks, but not others, and another lady is walking towards me. I did not know her / had never seen her before, but she says, “Good morning. How are you?” Again, nothing unusual. Before I could even reply with a “Good morning” in response, she continued, “I’m fine.” AND she continued to walk past me, so that, even if I had wanted to respond, I would be talking to her back! 🤣
  • . . . WHAT? She just assumed that I would respond to her “How are you?” question with an “I’m fine. How are you?” response that she went ahead and answered my NON-ASKED question! It took all of my will power to not burst out laughing until I was several steps away.

I thought you would enjoy this description of how greetings can become so “trite” that we do not give them the importance that they deserve.

So, please know that when I tell you Happy Holidays, I really mean it 🥰.

11 thoughts on “Greetings!”

  1. I agree that some people seem to ask, “How are you?” without expecting (or wanting) to receive a real answer. I think it would be better in that instance if someone just said, “I hope you are well.” instead of asking how you are and then just walking away. After hearing about the student from Belgium, if I ever get to travel outside the US again, I am definitely going to pay greater attention to greeting customs where I am going.

    This reminded me of a film called “Not Without My Daughter” starring Sally Field where customs of hospitality in Iran was an important part of the movie. The term used for these customs is ta’aruf. It goes well beyond what you are supposed to say to someone you greet while walking down the street or the grocery store aisle. It encompasses things like serving and being a guest, riding in a taxicab, and giving and receiving gifts. An example I found online was that of a person riding in a taxi and paying the fare at the end of the ride. The article said that although the parties agreed on the fare at the beginning of the ride, the driver should initially refuse the payment. The passenger is not supposed to just get out and say, “Thanks for the the free ride!” They are supposed to insist on paying. This offer, refusal, and insistence on paying may go back and forth a couple of times. It is quite a fascinating concept.

    • Great comments, Laura! The implied proper behavior in different cultures is very interesting. Several years ago, Europeans considered Americans to be loud and boorish. I’m wondering if a lot of this stereotype came from a lack of knowledge of the implied proper behavior of other cultures.
      I’m going to use your suggestion of “I hope you are well” in my next greetings! I suppose that’s folks’ equivalent to “Have a nice day”?
      Communication can be confusing! ☺️

  2. When I was studying abroad in Istanbul, my Turkish friends had such a hard time with my greeting “what’s up?”. They would respond with “I’m doing well, how are you?”. Although they were very sweet, and Turks have these long (and genuine) greeting exchanges, I had to make it clear that “wassup” is the same as hello for a millennial American.

    In Turkish, you would ask “ne haber?” or in shortened form “naber?”, which means “what is the news” or directly translated to “what’s up?”, but the response is a full-on “I’m doing well, how are you” etc. etc. so I understood the confusion!

    • I never realized that the basis of “whassup” could be interpreted as “what is the news?” And I loved your explanation that proper behavior in Turkey would include long greeting exchanges.
      Thanks for your input, Eric!

      • Ok, I’ve been trying (in my head) to compose alternates to the rote “How’re you doing?” comment which isn’t really expecting or asking for a response.

        How’s about something more along the lines of:
        Hope you’re well and doing good.
        Hope you’ll have a spectacular day.
        Let’s both do something unexpected for someone else.
        Enjoy this moment.

        Trying not to be ordering someone to do or think a certain way. Just trying to turn their thoughts to something positive.

        Now I just have to remember one of those phrases (or another) when someone passes near me!

        • Great suggestions, Carol.
          I also like your advice to yourself about remembering to avoid saying, “How are you doing?” if you don’t really want to know! 😁

  3. Hi Barbara, season’s greetings! This topic reminds me of an exchange just witnessed in a group gathering where we all knew each other. Man greets a woman, “hope you are well”, and she answered “why not!” This stopped us all and made us think what a great answer encouraging us all to choose to feel and see the good. So, in addition to using clear and positive greetings, planning new responses might be effective too!

  4. The Aussie’s say “gday”
    I think like aloha it’s for coming and going.
    So for the greeting perhaps its “hope you’re having a good day”
    And for the leaving it’s
    “Have a good day”
    I’m going to stick with hello and goodbye!

    • I agree with not qualifying our greetings, yes? Or seeming to demand that the listener act in a certain way? My mother did NOT like it when someone said, “No problem” in response to her “Thank you” comment. She wanted to ask, “Was there a problem before?” Hah.
      The same withe the ever common, “Have a nice day,” response because it sounds like a command.
      Willie – I am with you. “Hello” sounds good. I am also good with nodding or “Morning.” Maybe that person is not having a good morning, so . . .
      Sigh . . . communications can be so difficult, even when well meant.

    • I admit that I am a “You, too” user. In fact, just this morning, when a neighbor said, “Happy New Year,” I feebly responded with “You, too.”
      Not the worst situations, but I appreciate your comment, Adam, that should make me more conscious of my words.
      And yet, I am absolutely sure that I will say “You, too” in the next few days. Perhaps I have another new year’s resolution?


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