cultural difference 31: how are you?

June 3, 2010

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?”



  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. Jae, Im loving these cultural differences. It would be considered rude if you went into a tirade of how you really were.

    • It’s certainly not considered a polite thing in Germany either. 😉

  3. 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 🙂

  4. Hehehe. Yes, or “I hope I won’t see him anytime soon” 🙂

    • Or “sorry, we aren’t on speaking terms” 🙂

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