Hi

by Marinka on May 15, 2009

Because I was born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States when I was 10, I’ve spent a good part of my childhood answering people’s question about what the biggest difference between the two places was. Because I was a huge suck up as a kid, I’d say things like “religious freedom!” “freedom of speech!” and sort of rattle off the Bill of Rights, when secretly I was thinking, “duh! There’s gum here and Brady Bunch reruns, what are you, retarded?”

But that’s not all.

Russians will greet you once and that’s it. Americans greet each other throughout the day. They’ll say “hi” in the morning and if they see you again in the afternoon, they re-hi you. I don’t understand. Did the original “hi” expire or something? Also, “hi” is taking the place of “excuse me” and “fuck you”, apparently. Someone shows up in your office while you’re on the phone and waves to you, “hello!!!” (translation: excuse me) “Hi,” you mouth, while pointing to the receiving that’s cradled to your ear (translation: fuck you).

Don’t get me started on the hi vs. hello. It almost gave my father a nervous breakdown when we first got here.

“So you say the hello when formal, and hi when time is short?” he asked my having lived in America since age 4 cousin, who was the local linguistic expert.

“Yeah, like when you’re in a rush,” my cousin explained.

“Because the hello is the long they have to have something even shorter,” my father shook his head. It’s zdrastvuyte in Russian. Privet, if you’re all colloquial. It’s hard to be sympathetic.

The “you had me at hello” popular didn’t help, either. Which time, I kept wondering.

Yes, there is a slight chance that I’m overreacting.
Hi.

One year ago ...

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