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Somila
Professional Teacher
"small talk"
Do you greet people and ask how they are doing or have been doing since the last time you saw them? I have experienced some students being very confused if i ask how they are and how they have been doing.Is that a cultural thing? Are the parts of the world where that is not really the norm and you just get straight to the point? lol please let me know.
May 10, 2020 3:52 PM
Comments · 10
Yes, it is cultural in part.

In my country it's not traditional to say good morning / afternoon / evening / night although many do that now as a borrowed practice from the west. Nor do we really say hello and bye, it's just the same greeting (namaste for most Indians) in either case meaning I acknowledge you. We also don't keep on saying please and thank you the way it's done in the western cultures. It's seen as affected, not as polite.

The "how are you" thing, wherever it's used, tends to be a superficial formality with the equally superficial reply "I'm fine, and you?". Not so in Russia. If you asked someone how they are, you may get the reply "terrible" and they might then set out to describe in detail what is so terrible. It's not something to be asked casually. If at all you do, be prepared for a fairly detailed reply. It's simply not the trivial formality which it is in the west.

For all I know, it might be similar in other cultures. I would, for instance, be very interested to know how it is in certain parts of Africa - the ancestral genetic and cultural homeland for all of us.
May 10, 2020
I'm from the U.S. and although people typically ask, "How are you?", "How's it going?" or similar, it is generally superficial and more of a greeting.

That being said, I don't typically say that to people unless I know them personally. Generally I just say, "Hello" and/or "good day/afternoon/evening/night". A polite greeting is common in our culture.

I also have a mental list of people I know that I don't ask how they are doing, because they will tell me! Let me explain...

These individuals, most of them I've known for many years, will immediately begin describing all the medical issues they are having, including every detail of their daily bodily functions. TOO MUCH INFO!! :)

Everyone has their own style!

Interesting topic! Thanks.
May 10, 2020
@aura thanks for your insight! I’ve been asking students who have had classes with me before. I’m not sure if they are nervous because maybe their vocabulary is limited or they just find it to be a bit strange that I just want to know how they are or have been since we last talked😅
May 10, 2020
In some countries, people don't like small talk, or it could make them feel uncomfortable. In the U.S., asking "How are you?" is often seen as a greeting more than as an actual question, especially with strangers. I think it's normal to ask family, friends, and acquaintances how they are, whether it is meant as a greeting or as an actual question. Some people who respond treating it as an actual question, whether or not this person is a stranger, may start telling you their life story. This could potentially be good, but it could inadvertently lead to knowing more information than you were seeking. :)

I do ask how my students are doing if they've taken a lesson with me before, or I'll ask a similar question like: "Has anything interesting happened recently?" or "What's new?" However, I don't ask questions like that to first-time students. From my end, I always ask it as a real question. Sometimes it's taken as a greeting, sometimes it's taken as a real question. Whichever way it's taken is fine with me. If it's taken as a greeting, they probably want me to get to the point. If it's taken as a real question, it could become the topic of the lesson.
May 10, 2020
@Layla It’s the same where I am from . We ask several times it’s normal !!
May 10, 2020
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Somila
Language Skills
English, Spanish, Xhosa
Learning Language
Spanish, Xhosa