In the few days before 2012 ends and 2013 begins, we’ll be looking back at some of our top posts from the past year, starting with number five and counting down to number one. If you missed these articles the first time around, now’s your time to see why we’ve found these particular pieces so compelling.
The ‘Wrong’ Way to Answer ‘How Are You?’
by Zita MF
Do you know how to answer when an American asks, “How are you?” Zita discussed the slightly confusing protocol in another post that garnered quite a bit of attention in 2012.
It’s not a real question, she explained. “I’m expected to respond, ‘Good’ or ‘Fine,’ and ask the other person how they are, to which they will also respond, ‘Good.’”
Read it: “The Wrong Way to Answer ‘How Are You?’“
“To this day, this style of greeting strikes me as an abuse of a question with which people show care and concern to one another in my culture,” Zita wrote, but it says something important about American culture:
In general, people from the U.S. do not like to express their emotions to strangers or acquaintances. They prefer to put on a permanent smile and mask their other feelings. The U.S. culture is based on individualism – the idea that one should only rely on one’s self and family – and this often leads them to avoid getting too close to others, including by using meaningful expressions in ways that might seem superficial to foreigners.
Zita decided, “[O]ne of the challenges and the beauties of living abroad is embracing the peculiarities of the host country. To me this means learning how to speak not only the language but also the culture.”
Learning to speak both the language and the culture takes practice, and a willingness to make mistakes, a fact Anil was kind enough to share in one of our most brutally honest and funny posts of the year.