How Are You? The Question Eastern Europeans Dread the Most

“How are you?” follows every conversation or encounter here. In the very beginning after my arrival, it seemed to be such an invasive and tormenting question, as well as unnecessary. I’d shrug my shoulders, but the simple question would provoke a mini existential crisis and a ridiculous inner monologue: “Who cares? Do they really want to know? Why? It’s personal! But now I am feeling even worse, that it makes me question myself! But it’s none of their business how am I feeling today! But they seem to be friendly and I am not! I am so torn!?”

Why would it make me feel that way, really? For instance. I have learned, that people ask “How are you?” back in Lithuania either to break the ice and fill the silence. And the answer is usually very laconic. But when you write a formal email to someone in England, you start the letter with “Hello” and “Hope everything is well”. When I had to send an email to Lithuania recently, I lingered: the phrase “Hope you are well” would sound informal, inappropriate and quite ridiculous. Only if writing to your family and friends, you ought to ask that.

English do use information. They converse with a purpose: what’s happening in this person’s life? What are they up to? Maybe they have a good idea? Maybe it will inspire me? Or maybe I can offer my own service? Maybe it’s a really cool person, that is fun to know? Communication helps create connections and puts an individual into a context of society. And then you realize, how essential this connection is. (English are the biggest individualists I have ever met. But they manage to create intricate and close societal relationships. It is a topic, which will require a separate article actually.)

If you have managed to create a closer personal relationship with an English person, their question “How are you?” will be very genuine. They do care of what is going on in your life, if everything is ok and if it isn’t, they will try to help if they can or at least listen to you. English are not indifferent people. (They are very passionate IMHO.)

I am not insinuating that Lithuanians are. But you have to know someone really really well to ask them such a question, which is being taken quite personally. In a formal environment, you simply don’t ask that.

In other words, Lithuanians would rather think that when asked how they were, you would be asking how they were feeling instead of what was going on in their life. Also I have noticed, that even if the English person is having a harder time, they won’t necessarily moan. I’ve learned from these people, that you can actually talk about the bright side of your everyday life and then – magic happens! – your own story inspires yourself and helps throughout the day. Previously I would whine instead or say something laconic.

So this small change in my attitude has made a positive impact on my confidence TBH. So there you go: live – learn.

And thank you guys for reading this. I do appreciate it a lot X

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