So, How are You?

I always thought I was one of those super-cool, mega-flexible, multi-cultural type of people. The truth is, I’ve been affected by my culture much more than I cared to admit. The truth is, one simple question Western people ask one another daily would stump me.

How are you?

I can’t really speak for the rest of the Hong Kongers, but generally speaking, unless you know the person personally and haven’t seen them for quite a bit, you don’t ask them how they are. Cashiers say hi, they don’t ask how you are. Neighbours don’t necessarily know one another; they say hi if they’re particularly friendly, they don’t ask how you are.

How are you?

I feel like crap. I’m stressed. I’m loaded with Uni assignment. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I’m PMS-ing. I have period cramps. “Good! How are you?






62 responses to “So, How are You?”

  1. dianastarmurray Avatar

    thats sooo true, i work in retail and its just habit to say “hi, how are you?” not just habit, but i guess polite?

    even if i feel like shit, i always seem to say good thanks, and yourself? cause really do they care how i am?

  2. amber Avatar

    Wow i never really thought about that before. I hope you get unstressed very soon. It always seems this time of year is when people get stressed out the most.

  3. emz Avatar

    I know what you mean!

    Like dianastar I work in retail too, and generally it’s used as a way of saying, ‘I’d better say something because we work at the same place and have to respect each other. I don’t know, or really care about you…’

    When people I don’t know [that well] ask me I do just say good because they hardly want to hear everything (which is a lot) that’s going through my mind, plus I don’t want them knowing!

    So, how ARE you?

    *laughs* tongue

  4. Vickie Avatar

    Done! bigsmile (Because I know exactly how you feel!)

  5. nan Avatar

    People around where I reside (Denmark) don’t ask eachother how they are either. We just say Hello. Politely – nothing intruding. Asking something could lead to an answer and it’s not always I am ready for the answer… My Monkeys Sphere is tiny.

  6. emz Avatar

    P.S. Could you please please change the ‘to’ to ‘too’ in my comment? …’I work in retail to…’

    Oh my, I hate making those kind of errors!
    *buries head in hands*

  7. emz Avatar

    Thank you so much! My mistake had me paranoid all day! I was checking everything I was writing. I’m sure I make them all the time… *panics and runs to check – again*

    Yes, I’m weird (and need a life it sounds like!).

  8. erika Avatar

    I’ve never gone through an entire day without hearing that. I mean, I ask it all the time.

    Most of the time, if I cross paths with someone, even if its some random stranger, I’ll feel extremely rude if I don’t say hi, or smile or at least acknowledge them somehow.

    My neighborhood is friendly, everyone says hi to everyone else, just as we get invited to eachother’s houses for dinner parties and special occassions. I like my neighborhood, I couldn’t imagine living in one where the people don’t say a single word to eachother.

  9. cheezyritogrl Avatar

    wow i never thought of it that way before. but in a way your right. smile

  10. poetry Avatar

    people in germany also don’t ask each other how they are (at least not in stores). instead they are extremely unfriendly and always with a mean look on their faces, with makes shopping a very unpleasant thing. even if I never know what to say when someone in the states in shop shop asks me how I am, the friendliness kind of makes life easier…

  11. ohso cute Avatar

    we say “how are you” all the time in Canada. we just ask for respect and stuff. especially in retail. because having a nice service counts a lot.
    i hate PMS-ing. eat chocolate =)

  12. Melody Avatar

    Totally, and especially it isn’t actually a question at all. I have answered with an honest “not well” a few times, and had this English guy said I drag everybody down by always feeling depressed. He said you can just say you are fine. Then I thought, why the heck do you make it a question? uneasy

  13. […] wrote an interesting blog entry on how people from Hong Kong find it hard to answer “how are you?” I can totally relate to that. I can remember how long it had taken me to actually respond to […]

  14. Laura Avatar

    That ‘How are you’ -culture in America has always bugged me. Here in Finland we ask only if we actually want them to answer (and possibly ramble on about things), but in USA….hoo boy. It took me a while to get used to just smiling and saying ‘I’m good, how are you?’

    But I guess it makes them seem sort of friendlier. Here we don’t say hello to strangers and speak very little to shop clerks and whatnot. People looked at me all weird when I tried to be friendly for a day o.O

  15. Sean Avatar

    Even in America the cultural differences from state to state are different. Where I used to live before, maybe 130 miles away from where I am now, if you call someone ma’m it is seen as disrespectful whereas where I am now, it is seen as a sign of respect.

  16. ck teelam Avatar

    “How are you” is a generic way of saying “I don’t realy care but I have to be polite” I don’t bother to ask that anymore ^-^

  17. none Avatar

    I don’t usually ask how people are unless I know them, too. I’m more apt to just smile and maybe say “hi” if I don’t know them. But I will respond to that question with a “fine, how are you?” or something similar…

  18. mascaratears Avatar

    If you feel shitty then tell people you feel shitty! People ask me that all the time that haven’t seen me in awhile, and I just tell them if they cared so much they maybe would CALL once in awhile. But I do like your thinking.

  19. poo Avatar

    In Western civilization, I think the “how are you” is more a courtesy than actually caring how the person is feeling. The only people who care to know the actual details on how you’re feeling are your close friends and family. I can’t see telling a cashier, “yea, I feel like shit actually, and yourself?” *lmfao* I would love to do that, but I don’t think it would go over too well. Hee hee!

  20. Breanne Avatar

    Haha yeah, when somebody asks that, I’m rarely actually “good”, so I say “fine” or “Okay”. Just because it’s more truthful than saying “good”, cause I’m barely ever just “good” there’s always something going on that makes it less “good”.

  21. Samantha Avatar

    Now that I think about it, I don’t usually say “How are you.” I usually just say “Hi,” or “What’s up?” Is that that the same as saying, “How are you?” I don’t know. Hah. wink

  22. Deanna Avatar

    Haha yeah, the famous “How are you?”. I get that all the time at work. Customer comes up, says “How are you?” I say “I’m fine thanks, how are you?” and then they just proceed to order they’re food without answering the question! I hate those people lol.

  23. Anna Avatar

    I know what you mean. In the UK, everyone’s always saying how are you and I keep wondering why they even say that when they can tell how I feel by just looking at my face! But it’s a thing in London, people just have to say it, it’s a conversation starter. It’s kinda annoying.

    Period cramps. Ugh. I’m going through the same thing. Stupid female body functions. Ugh. Double Ugh. Hope you feel better soon.

  24. caitlin Avatar

    That is so true. I never really thought about it, but I guess I always lie when someone who I don’t know well asks me how I am. I usually say that I’m fine even when I’m ready to spit nails. tongue

  25. han Avatar

    I suppose its supposed to show they care (though very often they dont!)

  26. Kaira Avatar

    Wow, the layout is absolutely amazing!

  27. she Avatar

    Geez. I don’t ask that question, but I didn’t know it was that … big of a deal?

  28. Brenda Avatar

    Strangely, ‘how are you?’ isn’t up there at the top of my list of commonly used phrases. Then again, we dn’t really have a ‘how are you?’ culture in Singapore, unless of course, if we hadn’t met an individual for a long time.

    How am I? Sick and tired. sad

  29. audrey Avatar

    I know what you mean. But people would be a little disturbed if you say anything other than two or three words as your response (try rambling on about your paranoia of aliens, that’s always a good laugh).

  30. Patty Avatar

    to make it short and for the other person not to start a conversation i think everyone usually goes the safe way and answers that: “good, how about you?” actually, we don’t really care how they are we’re just returning what they said so they won’t feel retarded. eh, well not really retarded, but…. idk. SOMETHING. i love your answer though; honesty…. pretty much how everyone doesn’t answer.

  31.  Avatar

    same thing with hows it going.. and what not.. if ppl ask me that i tell them the truth but not the entire truth.. if im tired, i’ll tell them .. if im sick, i’ll tell them.. i wont sugarcoat it and lie and say ‘im good’ when im not.

  32. danielarisse Avatar

    Nobody will expect you to say you feel bad, and most people are not really interested in the truth. It´s just about small talk.

  33. taintedkitten Avatar

    I get that at work all the time. Most of the time I don’t know what to say to it. It’s like, I’m working, you expect me to be good? It gets a bit tiredsome hearing it. Some of the time they don’t even let you say anything after they ask that question, so you always end up hesitating when you’re asked either way.

  34. faithbowie Avatar

    Honestly? I live in the U.S. and I don’t get it, either. It’s just something you’re taught to say, to be polite ( yes, politeness standards are insanely different here ), and when you’re asked, you’re not supposed to give them an honest answer. You’re supposed to say, “I’m fine, how are you?”. And that, my friends, is fucking retarded, lol.

  35. very sarcastic Avatar

    Hey Vickie wink I just stumbled upon your site and find you very interesting. I love this layout and cg characters amazes me.

    People who asks how are you probably don’t know what to say lol. I know I don’t ask how are you to strangers. Thank God.

  36. thaovuvn Avatar

    i know it sucks that it looks crappy in FF. Great sitee

  37. jhaye Avatar

    in my line of work i ask that on a daily and get asked that question. i never really gave it much thought like you have though.

  38. Amy Avatar

    I’m Chinese, but I’ve lived in Australia all my life that I’ve become ‘Westernised’. I’m always asking my friends how they are when I see them.

    Sometimes it’s something to say when you don’t have anything else to say too. It’s kinda similar to that other question “Sooo… what do you think of the weather today?”

    Some comedian, I can’t remember who, joked that nobody really expects an answer to the “How are you?” question anyway. It’s more of a greeting than a question.

  39. supergirl Avatar

    Just once I secretly wish that someone would say:

    “I feel like shit! thanks for asking!” when someone asks, “How are you?”


  40. laura Avatar

    Haha, I guess people do that all the time but I’ve never particularly noticed. I even do it myself. Hmm, I like your blog. You make me realise the most obvious of things! =D

  41. execute parachute Avatar

    I never thought so in depth of the question,”HOW ARE YOU?” but I do have to say, I’ve lied many times saying,”Oh, I’m doing good,” when I’m stressing my mind out, sleep-deprived, and HUNGRY.

    Gosh… you made me think =]

  42.  Avatar

    I don’t really ask that a lot, but when I do it’s because I want to be polite… I guess.
    I don’t know, I just get this feeling that of the scandinavian countries Finland is the least social. When I went to Sweden in April, almost everyone seemed so.. talkative. I don’t know.

  43. quende Avatar

    In Sweden we don’t ask strangers how they’re doing either. We just say hi.

  44. girl Avatar

    woah that post really confused me,do you not understand why people say how are you or something

  45. letsgofeet Avatar

    I’ve read about the whole “How are you” thing and how we say it so much. I am not particularly fond of it, I think it’s nice to ask how someone is, but most of the time people reply with “good” or “fine” when they’re anything but “good”. OR, if someone asks how you are they really don’t pay much attention to your response, but I don’t guess that matters much when most people give an answer that doesn’t really reflect how they’re doing anyways.

  46. girl Avatar

    Hey! Yeah I don’t normally say how are you to people either sometimes I do sometimes I don’t. Depends on my mood I guess. I think its just nice when you ask people how they are doing kinda shows you care and you have manners I guess.

  47. holly Avatar

    I love when people ask me how I’m doing when they don’t necessarily know me. I find it pretty hilarious, actually, because I tell them. I go all out and tell them exactly how I am just to see the look on their faces. Good times.

  48. sami s Avatar

    It’s amazing how different languages are. Even if the words are the same the phrases are so different.
    It true now that I think about it. People always ask me how I am. And of course even if i’m in the most horrible condition I always reply with good.
    It is quite annoying. But what else is there to say really? If you don’t know the person that well.

  49. styfling Avatar

    It’s funny how loaded “how are you” has become in our society today.

    My response?


    Works every time. smile

  50. ellie Avatar

    Bahaha, one day I would love to just pour my heart out if I got that question. Just to see their reaction. Hey, they did ask, right? smile

  51. brendabionic Avatar

    Ouch, cramps suck so much

    I’m about a month late on this lol

  52. Brittney Avatar

    Oh, I hate the “How are you?” I always feel like I’m obligated to say, “Good. How are you?” even when I’m not good and I don’t care how they are. That probably sounds horrible, but, like you said, I don’t think it’s something you should ask unless you know the person personally.

  53. ValHos Avatar

    I know how you feel when people ask you how you are. My one assistant (and I hope you saw ass in assistant) always asked me how I was. I would say ok when my day was crap and good when my day was technically only 50% good.

  54. tomoyoc Avatar

    I am a cashier at Hallmark, and I am guilty when it comes to asking that question to about every customer that comes up to me and/or I go up to. Most of the time, I have an answer set in my mind if they should ask me the question. I don’t think “How are you?”s are friendly any more. It’s all just filler conversation, and I am getting tired of it. I sometimes try to spice things up and ask “What’s new with you?” instead.

  55. kaz Avatar

    Usually when people ask me How are you I just automatically reply, oh I am good. Even though inside I am stressing like anything and it’s generally been such a bad day. I do admit it can get annoying though, especially when you want to tell the person how you are really feeling.

  56. omfgsdfu Avatar

    I know how you feel.. I hate it when people ask me that question because they always do it when im having a bad day!

  57. mclaire f Avatar

    Where I live people do no ask each other how they are.. and don’t even say hi.
    I hope that you will feel better soon ;D

  58. xkaraix Avatar

    I think people just see it as polite. Rarely people even answer or think about their answer unless you’re a good friend.

    Also, I love your layout, it looks awesome!

  59.  Avatar


  60. Robmarie Avatar

    This brought a smile to my face because the “How are you?’ question generates the “I’m fine” answer. Sometimes I become so annoyed by this automatic response that I reply with a “terrible” instead. It always surprises the person and makes way for an actual conversation, or at least a break in monotony.

  61. diane Avatar

    hahaha~then i would ask that person,”are u really sure wanna ask me this? cause the answers will be different according to ur yes/no…”

    So, this person just went blank for a while and started appoligizing…eventually i became the one who listen to his life story…….


  62.  Avatar

    In Scotland if anyone asks that you usually get a choice of 3 answers “fine, crap weather tho” “och, dain awa” (getting by) or “no to bad, cud be dain better” (not too bad, but could be doing better).

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