How are you?

Let‘s talk about Germany. There is a certain predictablity about Germans that seems to be unique to this ethnic group. It is a specific behaviour exposed when a basic, well-spread question is being asked when people meet: how are you?. The same applies for latin-american verbalisations like “¿Qué tal?”.

Did you know that? Germans tend to react quite confused when you ask them these simple, standard and probably mostly meaningless questions. The reason is that in German conversation superflous things are better left away completely so any other question that is actually asked is considered to be of some sincerity.

This is where the trouble starts. German logic demands that if “how are you?” is actually a serious question it demands a serious answer. But what should you say? Well, there is the physical aspect: how do I feel now? What does my stomach say? Is this slight hardening in my shoulder muscle worth considering? Then the psychological aspect: am I happy now? Could I feel better? What is the relevance of all of this in this specific moment? Aaaaargh!

All these questions come together in a split second. Because Germans are so busy evaluating all this in a single moment it takes a while for them to react and even that adds to the overall confusion as the asking person would have expected nothing but a simple “fine” or something like that (we can never be sure). And the answer was never considered to be important anyway. But now he looks into the eyes of the insecured Teuton that tries to react as correct as possible but is simply not capable of deciding on what to say. It is a desaster, everytime. In short: we hate it.

The only comparable construct in German is called “na?” and means basically nothing. It just matters how you say it. It is generally ok to simply answer with another “Na?” (also being put as a question) and you‘re done.

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