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To think that greeting people with 'how are you?' is stupid when only 'fine' or 'very well thank you? is an acceptable response?

(79 Posts)
LizzieMint73 Thu 04-Aug-11 06:51:59

Am I the only person that hates 'how are you? or similar as a greeting? It seems that fine or good or well is the only acceptable response which clearly is not always going to be the case, but if you say anything else you just get an odd look - this is obviously a social nicety that's gone completely over my head confused What is wrong with 'hello'?

Eg, Yesterday the supermarket checkout kid greeted me with 'how are you today?' to which I said Um, I've got toothache, which was the truth as I had the most horrendous toothache, backed up by the purchase of the strongest painkillers available in the supermarket, accompanied by a small pile of comfort food. He wouldn't have looked at me more shocked if I'd said 'I've just murdered my entire family and I'm here because I've bloody run out of bin bags and bleach'

So AIBU in responding such an enquiry with something resembling the truth (well as much as I want to reveal to a nosy stranger*) or should I just lie and give a bland fine/good/well?

*When did it become acceptable for checkout/bank staff to feel the need to interrogate customers on how they are/what they are doing today/what they are spending the money they are taking out of the bank on? I'm sure this is actually some stupid customer service 'policy' from their employers rather than the staff themselves to spontaneously make the enquiry but I don't want to have to discuss details of my life with a stranger - why would they be interested anyway - I don't want to know about what they're doing later or what they spend the money they earn in said shop or bank or details of their health and wellbeing!

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 04-Aug-11 07:03:08

YABU.... 'How are you?' is a standard greeting. You're being pedantic.

Mitmoo Thu 04-Aug-11 07:03:14

That toothache is really bad isnt it? smile

Anyway, how are you today?

BeerTricksPotter Thu 04-Aug-11 07:04:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AlpinePony Thu 04-Aug-11 07:16:27

YABU nad yes it sounds rather as though you did miss this lesson from the school of general niceties.

If however you wish to really shake your head in disbelief you could try the old "how do you do?" which should only be met with "how do you do?" and not even a "uh yeh great thanks". wink

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 04-Aug-11 07:19:49

LOL Alpinepony... and it definitely isn't 'I'm good'. (Unless you're in line for a sainthood)

TheMagnificentBathykolpian Thu 04-Aug-11 07:22:29


It is -
how are you?
fine thanks, and you?
I'm fine, thanks. Lovely weather we're having...

How you are is not the point. Noooooooobody cares. grin It's just a standard polite exchange.

ModreB Thu 04-Aug-11 07:23:05


roisin Thu 04-Aug-11 07:24:26

I agree completely Lizziemint. I hate it and never use it.

Dh is a minister of religion, maybe for this reason people tend to unburden themselves to me on a fairly regular basis. I don't mind that, comes with the territory I guess, but at times it's inconvenient and I don't encourage it.

So if I take a phone call for him when he's out the caller often says "Hi, how are you?". I always respond with the polite "I'm fine thanks". But I only respond with repeating the question back to them if I know I have got 30 mins free to sit and listen to this person tell me how they really are! Maybe from time to time people think I'm rude for not asking, but I have a full-time job, a family and a life outside dh's work! (Does that make me sound really grumpy and selfish?)

Allinabinbag Thu 04-Aug-11 08:25:17

People on tills and at the end of helplines being nice and cheery never offends me, whatever they say. It makes them look at you, smile and it's nice to pass a couple of friendly words. I found that when working as a waitress, it makes the day go faster if you are nice and pleasant to the customers. Of course, there's always a few grumpy ones...

Thistledew Thu 04-Aug-11 08:39:31

YANBU to some extent.

Most of the time I am happy to play along with the social convention and will answer 'fine thanks' regardless of how I am really feeling.

However, last year I received some really bad news that at the time I thought was going to be absolutely life changing in a very negative way. It was all I could do to manage a supermarket shop without bursting into tears.

The man serving me asked "how are you?". I ignored him. He asked again, so I ignored him again. He them stopped processing my shopping, turned to me and said "I asked you how you are". My response was along the lines of telling him that my life was pretty shit just then and I didn't actually want to share that with him so could he please just get on with ringing up my shopping. In the state I was in, there was no way I could have lied and told him I was 'fine'.

I can understand him asking once, but three times? confused

fluffles Thu 04-Aug-11 08:44:16

you don't have to always say 'fine' if you do it in the right tone.

with terrible terrible toothache - i would have said 'oh i've got horrible toothache, how are you?' (with a smile) and i've never had a negative response - most people would then chit chat about dentists for a moment then wish me well with the tooth.

but it does depend on the situation - i wouldn't say that to the queen at the garden party for example, i'd just smile and say 'fine thanks'. grin

catgirl1976 Thu 04-Aug-11 08:54:34

YABU. "How are you?" is a greeting. It is NOT a question and should not actually elicit an answer other than something like "Very well thank you - how are you?".

You could use "How do you do?" but that sounds a bit too old fashioned for most people.

Personally one of my pets hates is people who think it is a question and then proceed to tell you about their terrible day. There is a difference between "How are you?" as a greeting and genuinely asking a friend if they are ok. People should know the difference smile

AlpinePony Thu 04-Aug-11 09:01:21

Agreed catgirl - I have no fucking interest in how your life really is, it is a greeting and nothing more. If people don't know the difference then they're probably the type who don't hold doors open. <hoists pants>

MsWeatherwax Thu 04-Aug-11 09:03:11

Sometimes, if I'm really not fine, I say "Ah well, mustn't grumble, how are you?". Depends who's asking. I think in your example and with anyone giving customer service they should be prepared for an honest answer if they are going to ask.

Shannaratiger Thu 04-Aug-11 09:04:05

catgirl, people like me who suffer from ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) don't know the difference and it's very confusing.

nothingoldcanstay Thu 04-Aug-11 09:05:31

YANBU. It's Good morning/Good afternoon. (Waitrose and Morrisons manage it here, M&S and Tesco don't).

They are not your friends. Shop staff should be helpful not your buddy.It's a pointless greeting too. The amount of people that answer " I'm good" Arrrahhh. What does THAT even mean?

lashingsofbingeinghere Thu 04-Aug-11 09:08:02

The correct response to How are you is, Now't but middlin'.

catgirl1976 Thu 04-Aug-11 09:09:03

Shannaratiger - your circumstances are different to people who just take it as an opportunity to launch into a rant about what a terrible day / week / life they are having.

Alpine agree. I bet the don't wave when when you stop for them at a zebra either. <catsbumface>

AlpinePony Thu 04-Aug-11 09:10:09

shanna My uncle is autistic, he has learned by rote what to say in response to such a question. He wouldn't have a clue if the question were genuine of course, but he knows what is expected. He has learned also how to do small talk/weather stuff. He doesn't understand it, but it's part of integration in to society.

Catsu Thu 04-Aug-11 09:11:19

You can answer lots of things to it, it's s conversation opener that's all!
How are you?
Busy! We are off on hols this week
oh that's nice, where are you going? Etc

how are you?
Hot! Isn't it sunny?
Yes, looking forward to the rain forecast tomorrow etc

bellavita Thu 04-Aug-11 09:15:22

Gawd, I think when there are threads like this that make me go biscuit I know I have been on here too long.

Between the security light war and the walking a 100 mile in 1 hour when pregnant threads.... Sheesh give us a break!

RustyBear Thu 04-Aug-11 09:27:13

When I was a librarian, I never used to ask people how they were, because there was always someone who would tell me, in great detail... I would usually make some equally pointless remark about the weather.

I would often be asked how I was, though, especially towards the end, just before I went off on maternity leave. I would always say ' I'm fine, thanks' even though a more accurate response would have been 'It's 30 degrees in here, I feel like a beached whale and I have piles' Though there were days when I was tempted....

Merrin Thu 04-Aug-11 09:43:54

YANBU! I hate it when people say it when passing, on the school run for example, and are half way up the road before you have had a chance to answer!

YouDoTheMath Thu 04-Aug-11 09:44:02

YANBU to find it strange that only a positive answer is generally acceptable to a question which is also open to a negative answer.

However, it IS just a common nicety. And strangers don't want to know about your problems.

I used to work with a girl who, when you asked her how she was, never had anything positive to say. It always "poor me this" and "poor me that". She wasn't depressed, just a misery. Needless to say her reputation was common knowledge around the office and people avoided making small talk with her.

Everyone has their own problems at any one time - I was just brought up not to assume everybody wanted to hear about mine!

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