Can't you just say "hello"?

Can't you just say "hello"?

[caption id="attachment_333" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="by Cyklista Dalibor"][/caption] "What's up?" "How's it going?" "How are you?" I realized today, not only how much I use these phrases, but how much everyone in my everyday life does: the barista at the coffee shop, my co-workers, the random person on the street. These phrases, or rather greetings, are very common in American culture. But, here's the catch: most of the time, these questions merely mean "hello" or "hi." Most people in the states don't expect an in depth, or even honest reply, especially to "what's up?" I usually answer "good" when someone asks me "how's it going?" or "how are you?" and sometimes that is the end of the exchange. On my walk home today I was thinking about how this might be very confusing to an international student, and for very logical reasons. Even I'm wondering how these phrases came to be so heavily used and...well, improperly. To begin with, these are questions being used as statements. Weird, right? And second, the fact that someone would ask you personal questions like "how are you?" and then not desire a sincere reply seems a little rude. I get this. But, I would encourage you to think about these phrases differently. Just think of these phrases like "hello" and "hi." Americans use these phrases to be polite, and although they may not sincerely want to know the answer to "how's it going?" they are sincerely trying to be nice. Okay, so I've explained this very odd bit of culture, but here's another twist! Some people do want to know how are you are doing or what is new in your life. But how will you know? Honestly, you just have to use your instincts. Usually a person that is genuinely trying to get to know you will follow up with more questions about who you are.