It’s the USA! vs. Russia! I’m Right, You’re Wrong

by Marinka on March 10, 2011

We’re back with I’m Right, You’re Wrong, and with referring to myself as the royal we. Uncomfortable, right?

Let’s get straight to work!

Today’s dilemma is: When someone greets you with a hi, how are you?what is the appropriate response?

Disagreers: People who grew up in the United States and People who grew up in the former Soviet Union.

Position One: The appropriate response is always a variation of “not bad” “pretty good” “hanging in there” or “can’t complain.” On rare occasions it’s ok to indulge in a “thank God it’s almost Friday.” No one gives a shit about how you are, they’re just being polite and making small talk. Anything other than “fine” prolongs the agony.

Position Two: If someone is stupid enough to ask how you are, they deserve to hear it all, in detail. Why should you suffer alone? Why do you have to fake happiness or being “fine”? For whose benefit? What’s the point of asking someone how they are if you don’t care? Such nonsense. It gives me a splitting headache. Probably a brain tumor. Malignant.

What say you? And, by the way, how are you?

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

K-Line March 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm

In truth, I’m with position 2 – until 15 minutes goes by.

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Roxanne March 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm

At work, position #1. Anywhere else, I go with position #2.

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Kelly March 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm

It depends on the relationship I have with the asker of said question. A stranger or casual acquaintance will receive the generic, “Fine, thanks. And how are you (but don’t tell me because I don’t really care)?” Family and close friends, however, are likely to get the real lowdown. And sometimes it takes them of guard, like when my dad asked how things were going was weeks after my husband was fired, and I said, “It sucks, Dad. It fucking sucks.”

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Becky March 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm

It depends if I know the person and what is going on. An aquaintance I pass on the street? “Fine” “Good!” “Glad it’s Friday!” A friend I haven’t seen and am meeting for lunch? I want a more detailed answer. Otherwise I just ask you over and over again throughout the conversation. I’m annoying that way.

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Abbey March 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Position 1 to the extreme. I realize you’re supposed to say, “good, thanks, how are you?” But truth is I don’t care anymore than they do and refuse to indulge the matter further. So I respond, “Good, thanks.” and avert my eyes. It throws them off because they’re usually ready with their ¬£ Good, thanks.” response.

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Karisa July 1, 2011 at 11:33 am

I do this too. I don’t like the question being asked of me and don’t pretend to have the time to listen to others in passing. I am usually on a mission.

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Becky Mochaface March 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm

My response is usually great fantastic wonderful and getting better. Which I think falls somewhere in between.

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Maura
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Unless it’s someone I’m really close to, I stick with Position #1. It’s just habit.

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Nancy
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm

If I’m the one asking…the person had better answer with position 1. I don’t have time for their crap.
If I’m asked? # 2 baby! You reap what you sow!

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Kati
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm

It’s a different response based on where I am. At a store it is always “good, and you?”, at church it’s either “blessed and highly favored” (ironically delivered without a drop of irony) or “well, I’m here” if things are bad or “I’m alive” if things are awful. If the person says “well, good” and moves on, I drop it, but if they care to know more than that, they’ll ask and I’ll tell them.
At the dr I NEVER say I’m fine. And if close friends/family ask, then my answer is usually some variant of “can’t complain. well I could, but who wants to hear it?”

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Alex@LateEnough
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

This talking to people thing is why I stay in my house and teach others to high five themselves. At least when running into those in position #2, I’d only have to nod and hmmm a lot

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Jessica
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Position 1 unless the person asking is family or a very close friend. That is my USA opinion.

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Tonya
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 2:04 pm

This is precisely why I’m disappointed in NY’s gun laws. As a previous Texan I can say that it’s helpful to be able to have a concealed weapon should someone ramble on and on with position #2. It’s like a bell during speeches that tells you times up. If I’m taking off the safety it means I’ve heard enough about your day.

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Kati
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm

All I can think of is “sure sure, you keep talking…I’m reloading.”

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Tonya
Twitter:
March 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Hahahahaha!!! EXACTLY.

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Leigh March 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm

One of my pet peeves is people that answer this as if I really want to know.
I used to ask people how their weekend was until I would hear about when they left on Friday until they came back Monday morning. Or when someone told me all about their mother in laws cancer growth. Way more than I wanted to know.
You don’t have to say fine if your not. You could say “could be better” or “I’ve had better days” And then if the person presses as to what is wrong then you can elaborate.

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Vicki
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I say position number 1, because when in Rome, do as the Romans do, but I always want to do #2. So every time someone asks me how I am, it’s this internal Dostoyevskian monologue,

“Do I tell them I’m just good and not invade on the American sense of personal and psychological space, or do I tell them that I am currently living with my mother-in-law, my car’s seatbelt sign doesn’t work anymore, and I have a severe case of SAD that only a Nutella crepe on a French Riviera beach will cure?” So I usually mumble something like, “FMgood,” and everyone thinks I’m weird anyway.

So I guess it’s more of a Woody Allen approach.

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GrandeMocha
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Now I want a Nutella crepe ! And you are right, it would make everything btter!

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Heather
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Since you asked, I’m getting ready to drive to Texas to see my dying grandmother for the last time. And now you’re uncomfortable, right? A perfect example of why position one is the only way to go.

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Phoenix Rising
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm

If it’s someone I don’t really care for I go the “give it all, including every tiny minute detail” route…. they will never ask again. In fact, they will go out of their way to avoid you. Then annoying person you do not care for is no longer bothering you. Everybody wins!

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Melissa March 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Ha! Totally depends on who’s asking. If it’s a coworker, store clerk, neighbor, acquaintance, then #1. If a friend, close family member, spouse, then #2. Though if I’m doing the asking, I prefer #1.

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annie March 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Oh position #2 absolutely! I like to start off with “doing well, except for the cancer”. The shocked look and speechlessness gives me plenty of time get the hell out of there.

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Zee March 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm

It depends on whether I want the person to know my business. I usually don’t want to tell the general public that my dog crapped on the carpet, the toilet in the master bath is leaking causing the tile to rot, I’ve been out of cereal for three days and I think I forgot to close the garage door and I expect a nasty note from the HOA when I get home.

Hmmmm. Maybe if I told them, they’d stop asking.

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Susan Tiner March 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm

You’re funny. I don’t know I found you, maybe K-Line or Wendy Brandes or Male Pattern Boldness? The Black Swan Review was my first post — I snorted a gummy bear out of my nose. Wendy B taught me how to do that.

I’m a #2, but only with friends, and not so much here in California. When I lived in NY — moved to CA in 1990 — most friends would do #2. Here in CA, people smile at you, so that totally threw me off at first. Now I now no one wants to know anything whatsoever about you, or be friends, or anything. They’re in it for the good times, and if stuff goes wrong, you’re on your own pal. Of course all of MY California aren’t like this. They really care! I swear.

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alexandra
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Oh, annie just makes me laugh.

How I love you, girl.

My vote: I am always secretly relieved when people answer, “great!” even if their eyeballs are hanging out of their head.

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Polish Mama on the Prairie
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm

lol Well, considering I was raised by Polish parents, Position #2! Because if you didn’t mean the question, why would you ask it?

That’s why you think before you say something to someone, including “How are you?” Because if you don’t care, don’t ask.

That’s so funny, I’m sorry!

Not laughing at what others posted. I’m sorry to hear about your situations.

Btw, why do people say that phrase? Does it mean “I’m sorry to hear about your situation, as in I didn’t want to know, please accept my sympathetic expression and tone as a clue to not tell me, I really didn’t want to know”? Or does it mean “I’m sorry to hear about your situation, I really wish it was better for you, I am expressing empathy and caring toward you right now”?

Shouldn’t it be “I hope it goes better for you and I will say a prayer for you tonight”? Or something like that? Which is what I mean toward you all who posted sad situations in your lives above…

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Talkative Taurus
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I’m good and you? WTF does that have to do with US vs. Russia? Did I miss something or am I just having another blonde moment? What’s really funny is after you say, “I’m good and you” and the other person says the same thing back. Then you know for SURE they truly didn’t care and aren’t paying attention.

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Ann's Rants
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I wish I were a one, but alas I’m a two.

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Yuliya
Twitter:
March 10, 2011 at 8:24 pm

For this I consult my American culture handbook. Page 214 and I quote:

When emphasis is placed evenly on each word ‘how’ ‘are’ and ‘you’, appropriate response is always ‘Good! Oh yah, you betcha!’

Whereas, if emphasis is placed disproportionately on the ARE, as in ‘how ARE you?’ accompanied with any of the following- hand squeeze, deep soulful staring into your eyes or intense tilt of the head to one side; questioner requires an honest and in-depth assessment of your aura, bank account status, and cleanliness of colon”

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Polish Mama on the Prairie
Twitter:
March 11, 2011 at 9:20 am

Cleanliness of colon, lol! That’s too funny! I need to get a copy of that manuel, I have some other questions for it, like what does “Look at THAT!” mean when something terrible happens to someone else? Does it mean, “Gawk with me so I am not the only one!” or does it mean “Oh, that’s terrible!” ?

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Donna March 11, 2011 at 1:50 am

This is tough for me. Having spent several years in Russia, I could see how either answer might be right depending upon the circumstances.

Right now I’m in the beginning stages of learning Arabic, which means that any time I’m asked how I am, my answer is usually a 5-second long blank stare while I try to figure out what they’ve asked. By the time I realize they want to know how I am, they’ve usually already wandered off in dismay at my stupidity. Problem solved!

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From Belgium March 11, 2011 at 2:50 am

It depends on how much coffee I have had that morning…

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Angela March 11, 2011 at 9:48 am

I’m right, you’re wrong is my very very favorite feature! True brilliance!

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b a seagull
Twitter:
March 11, 2011 at 10:20 am

What would Awesome Dad do?

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b a seagull
Twitter:
March 11, 2011 at 10:25 am

or Awesome Dude.

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schmutzie March 11, 2011 at 10:47 am

I’m just dropping in to let you know that this weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday – http://www.schmutzie.com/fivestarfriday/2011/3/11/five-star-fridays-141st-edition-is-brought-to-you-by-a-danci.html

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Alexandria
Twitter:
March 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm

A mix of both. I don’t mind if someone says “Ah you know long day. Kids are driving me crazy, but just the norm” or whatever that’s fine. But I’m not a damn shrink. And if you want to unload on me I charge $175 an hour. No checks.

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Jeanne March 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm

With strangers and acquaintances, position one. With good friends, postion two.

Probably explains why I have so few friends.

(Thanks again for the tweet. My daughter was really pleased and, although that’s not as rare as it was when she was a teenager, I still really enjoy it.)

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Noelle March 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm

It depends whether I’m on the giving or receiving end!

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Bitchin' Amy
Twitter:
March 12, 2011 at 5:42 am

I wasn’t born in Russia, but I am a firm believer in ~If You Ask, Then Be Prepared For The Truth~ It’s only awkward on the playground at pick-up/drop-off. Sometimes.

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Erin I'm Gonna Kill Him
Twitter:
March 12, 2011 at 9:49 pm

I’m a completely disingenuous ‘Good! You?’ when I might neither be good nor care how they are doing.

I love ‘what say you?’. So Renaissance. I might start saying – ‘how doth your temperament sit this day – what say you?”

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Lady Jennie March 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I can’t even have an opinion on this, so much am I enjoying the debate. Is that even English? Anyway, both sides crack me up.

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Lady Jennie March 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm

… and considering both sides were written by the royal you, well done.

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ThePeds June 6, 2011 at 9:37 am

Coming from a not-outwardly-friendly New England state and moving to New Orleans…I was kind of stunned when people in NOLA greeted eachother SO boisterously. A common greeting is actually “How’s ya mom annem?!” as in “How is your mom and the rest of your family that I’m not asking very specifically about?” I try really hard to avoid making eye contact so that I don’t get into the “hey, how’s it going?” “oh, you know, good…” cycle when all I wanted to do was walk to the vending machine without incident.

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Anna January 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm

The Thursday before Christmas, bright and early in the morning, I entered the nearby toy store for probably the tenth time in a week. I was absolutely miserable and had to keep my sunglasses on to mask the fact that I had been crying. When the cashier (who I regularly say “thank you” to, by the way) asked how I was doing, I said, “Actually, I’m not doing well at all,” and the tears started streaming down my cheeks. He looked alarmed, told me “it would all be over soon,” and I was worried they were going to call an ambulance while I was standing there waiting for my sons’ Playmobil presents to be wrapped.

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