Greetings And Farewells.

I got a phone call yesterday from a friend who had been out of touch with me for a long time. He asked me “How are you” and I answered “You don’t really want to know.” He however insisted that I tell him and we spent some time fooling each other around as old friends do when they get back in touch with each other after a long time.

How would you answer that question? The most logical one is of course to tell the asker the truth. Something like “Apart from a bit of discomfort in my lower back and flatulence, I am well. Thank you for asking.”

And after that bit of sharing of information, surely manners demands that you too ask after the “Thank you for asking.” “And how are you, if I may ask?”

Later in the evening, I got an email from him giving me a link to an article in the New York Times which has inspired this post.

Like the Russians, if you were to ask an Indian in an Indian language the same question, he too would spend a few minutes expressing his angst about the state of his health and anything else that may be bothering him at that moment. But he will be too clever by half to ever ask the question back to you. So, Indians generally simply greet each other with a Namaste, or Namaskar.

I have a lot of fun with people who ask me the question and the other variant “How do you do?” You already read my response to the first but for the latter, my answer is usually, “I haven’t done for a long time”, or “the missionary position, how do you do?”. I simply cannot bring myself to answer “I am fine thank you and you?” like I was taught by a couple who taught me how to be a gentleman a long time ago. At this late stage of my life, it does not matter if I am perceived to be an ungentleman.

Concluding a conversation is another area of some irritation for me. I would prefer a simple “good bye” or even just a “bye” or better yet, the safest “Namaste”. What I am increasingly getting is the “good bye” or “good night” followed by a “Take Care”. Coming from Indians, I find it strange to say the least. It is said so mechanically and automatically that I usually find it offensive. Am I not capable of taking care of myself otherwise? What is that bit of meaningless phrase for?

How do you react to these greetings and farewells?

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46 Responses to Greetings And Farewells.

  1. Delirious says:

    I often hear “See you later”, even when we both know we won’t. lol
    Delirious recently posted..Feminist Activiism in the Church

  2. Mike says:

    Someone greeted me the other day with, ” How ya doin’?

    My reply was, “Wonderful!

    After a pause, I continued, “and I lie a lot, too.”

    That got a laugh.

    Most greetings and farewells are innocuous and, for the most part, meaningless. Most people really don’t want to know how you are really feeling.
    Mike recently posted..Big Dam…

  3. Wow – I never realized what a crotchety old geezer you are. 🙂

    My usual greeting is one I picked up during my stint in Hawaii in 1986 – a simple Howzit? It’s simply another form of Hi – in the south it’s usually Hey – again another term for Hi. Also acceptable in Hawaii is the ubiquitous Aloha – which works as either hi or bye. All of this cross-cultural interaction certainly can breed confusion.

    Upon reflection I find you are not so much a crotchety old geezer but very much an affable, inquisitive curmudgeon like me with very little time for fools, though they (fools of course) can be very entertaining at times.

    • Now you know. You are the only one who has understood that part. And I am willing to agree to your last paragraph as well.

      • magpie11 says:

        I bet we’d all be peeved if some peoplechose never to greet us? We’d even so far asto consider them rude,, perhaps.

        • That is an interesting way to look at social interactions. Let us go back to our school and college days. Did we greet each other all the time? I don’t recall that happening other than with your very close friends though the entire class and perhaps others from the cricket team of boy scouts or whatever also were milling around.

  4. Grannymar says:

    When asked the question “How are you”? I regularly answer with “Grand!”
    It saves time when the asker has no real interest in what is going on in my life. If they really do care, all they have to do is look into my eyes.
    Grannymar recently posted..Sunday One liner ~ 24

    • I would too, if I wanted to quickly make a getaway. But if I had to talk about some other things, it would give me an opportunity to break the ice with some quip.

  5. Ursula says:

    It’s a cultural thing, Ramana. When I first came to England I was puzzled – on being introduced to someone they’ll say ” How do you do”. Do what? On next meeting progression, verging on ‘familiarity’ (in their eyes): “How are you?” They don’t want to know. “Fine, thank you”. That’s polite. Even if you are dying. However, and this a BIG however if they gush “How ARE you?” you know that they already know that you have just been fired, had a miscarriage, got divorced.

    The English need a lot of reassurance that you are alright. That’s why they always offer you a cup of tea by way of diversion.

    Where I come from you only ask people how they are if you have time, patience and interest because you will get their whole medical history. Which makes speaking to old people who have lived a long time, well, time consuming. It’s one of the reasons I am so glad I stem from a very healthy family.

    Take care, Ramana. I mean it.

    Ursula recently posted..Graveyard

    • Ursula, to respond to your last paragraph first. I seem to have spent a life time taking care of others and things animate and inanimate and am at a stage where taking care of myself comes more or less automatically. I have had so much practice! It would however be nice if some one else would take care of me for a change.

      I would also offer you a cup of tea or coffee or curry lunch if you so desired. It is quite the custom here too to offer that hospitality. I would not however expect you to hold your cup by the handle with the little finger sticking out.

    • magpie11 says:

      “Take care, Ramana, I meanit.” could sound so threatening …. chuckle….I mean it!

  6. I generally say “Fine, thanks, and you?” Or some variant like, “Pretty good” or “can’t complain.” It’s funny because I have tried to coach whiny patients on NOT actually revealing how they are when asked this in a social setting because they drive people away with their litany of complaints. Except when asked by a very dear friend, that question is simply a social nicety, the equivalent of saying hello.
    Secret Agent Woman recently posted..Taking a break from all that work.

  7. KRD Pravin says:

    Yes, Yes I know “Take care” can be a terrible farewell word.

    This terrible word may end up in – someone feeling so afraid that he/she wont call someone elderly… and yes dont ask me how are you? I am terrible, thank you! 😉

  8. I like “Take care”. To me it’s friendly. Just goes to show….
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..Pierre Brassau

  9. Alan G says:

    I normally extend a similar greeting over the top of theirs avoiding a response such as, “Hey, how are you?” Full well knowing that probably neither one of us are seriously interested in how the other one is doing.

    The salutation that I most despise is, “Have a nice day.” Most often you here it from store clerks but at times from friends and acquaintances. Store clerks don’t know me from squat and couldn’t care less what the rest of my day is like. 😕
    Alan G recently posted..Close Encounters of the Fellowman Kind….

  10. magpie11 says:

    “How do you do?” should be reciprocated as a greeting according to my Victorian Grannie. It is considered rude to actually reply to the greeting. If not rude, certainly an indication of lack of ‘breeding’.

    My response to “How are you?” varies from the bald truth, which people do not expect, “Mustn’t complain but I probably will.” , “Oh, I’m alive.” I personally dislike it when people reply with,”I’m fine/well.” when they patently are not. I like Mike’s response below.

    For ordinary people, for whom I have no particular good feelings I simply say “Goodbye” , next up would be “‘Bye”. I would never knowingly say, “See you soon.” It is so often a patent lie.

    Elsewhere on the web I have been taken to task by an individual for insulting a third party by using “Take care.” I was informed that it is not to be used….””Take Care” is not something you should say to someone.” then giving a reference which I find was to the article under discussion. I noticed that the person delivering this reprimand ommitted to mention the lady who used “You take care of yourself!!!” (with three… yes three…exclamation marks…apparently a cardinal sin in this day and age.)
    I use this form of farewell to people who have a special place in my affection.
    I am increasingly coming across British people who use “Namaste”. They are ususally of a New Age or pseudo Buddhist persuasion and I suspect that they think it makes them seem trendy or “with it”. That annoys me a little. After all, as an English person I actually do not know exactly what it means…… I once had the privilege of spending time in discussion with some Sri Lankan Buddhist monks (a few times actually). It was interesting. They simply said “Goobye” when we parted but they did decline to shake hands and as it was their dwelling and temple I went along with them. An interesting compromise it would seem.
    What about Farewell? Or “God go with you?” (that latter I , as an atheist, mught be inclined to object to if it were not for the fact that “God be with ye” has contracted to Goodbye)

    It seems that the French onl y have two partings Au revoir and
    adieu: “To the seeing again” and “to god”..Interesting… and perhaps unimaginative.

    What about the Germans?

    • Basically, it boils down to cultural differences I think David. What is common and acceptable is jarring to someone from a different culture. Here is another flavour: “Members of the northern Natal tribes of South Africa greet one another daily by saying “Sawa bona”, which literally means: “I see you.” The response is “Sikhona” which means: “I am here”. This exchange is important, for it denotes that ‘until you ‘see’ me, I do not exist; and when you ‘see’ me, you bring me into existence. Members of these tribes go about their day with this personal validation from everyone they encounter – seen for who they are.

  11. Mike says:

    The farewell that sort of irritates me the most is, “Have a good’n.”

    It’s one of those meaningless things that lots of people around here use, actually meaning, “Having a good one.”

    My question then, in jest is, “a good one, what?”

    A good day, I’m sure, is the intent, but, it’s so open ended that it could mean, a good tomorrow, a good trip, a good fall…etc. etc.
    Mike recently posted..Unlikely Story

  12. kylie says:

    Interesting post, Ramana!

    I agonise over email greetings to clients and potential clients: caring & nurturing is what I am paid to do for these people so standard business type forms of address are not appropriate except maybe when replying to an initial inquiry and even then, i feel it is important to set a caring tone.
    The greeting line is easy enough, I use “hi” or “hello”. Both options lack imagination but are fairly neutral and inoffensive.
    The goodbye line I find quite hard to get right: “regards” is too business like and cold, “best” is even worse, “cheers” is friendly but maybe a bit flippant. I like “take care” because it is warm, had no idea it could be offensive. Namaste has about the right tone but it would be regarded as wildly new age or pretentious, “blessings” is warm and well wishing but has a slightly religious tone which some may not appreciate. I rather like “go well” but it is also quite alternative……

    i guess i will eventually grow into a persona and not care whether people take it the wrong way but in the meantime it gets a disproportionate amount of my attention!
    kylie recently posted..a poor reception

    • I can see the agony there alright! It is a pity that so many of us resist using words like adieu, adios etc. You have to be a theist to do so is the expectation.

  13. Mike says:

    When I was a kid, growing up in the North, one of the popular shows was The Andy Griffith Show set in a small town in the South. I thought then that their greeting of “Hey” instead of “Hi” or “Hello” was weird.

    Now that I’ve lived well over half my life outside a small town in the South, it’s normal and, in fact, a greeting that I use myself.
    Mike recently posted..Unlikely Story

  14. magpie11 says:

    How’re y’ doin’ cobber?

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