How are you? You’re fine, thanks

I don’t understand well wishes.

“I wish you good luck.”

“I wish you a speedy recovery.”

“I wish you a happy new year.”

“Happy Birthday!”

“Bon Voyage!”

How does saying things like that make any difference to anyone’s life?

Is it that if I don’t wish you bon voyage, you’re going to have a totally miserable trip?

Is it that if more people wished you good luck, you’d have more good luck?

I feel fearful whenever I wish someone something because I would feel personally responsible if that something didn’t happen. It’s like my wish wasn’t good enough to come true.

I also feel silly because it’s foolish and even arrogant to think that when you say “I wish you all the best” to someone, that person will really get all the best.

Now, I think the general idea is that when you wish someone a good whatever, it’s like saying, “I care enough about you to want you to be well and happy, so if wishes do come true, I’d wish you a good whatever you want, to show that I care.”

But it’d be silly to say that whole chunk every time, so, naturally, people shorten it. But the trouble is that short phrases become cliches, and cliches get said without much thought to the intention behind the phrase.

It’s like “how are you”, which has got to be the most overused redundant phrase in the world.

Most people who use that phrase don’t really care how the person they’re asking after is. Some do, sure, but most don’t, especially when it’s directed at a stranger or acquaintance.

I know that if I started to tell some stranger about how I really felt, they’d stare at me like I was crazy. No matter they started it with the “how are you”.

“I feel like shit, man. My dog ate my passport (true story but not mine) and my washing machine went kaput. I broke two nails trying to wash my clothes manually, so now I’m off to the nail salon to get some nail extensions, which means that this month’s budget is going to hell and I won’t be getting that pair of shoes I’ve been eyeing all month, and also, my shitty back started acting up, so now I can’t go to the gym like I wanted to, bleh, which means I’m going to be fat for this Friday’s company function.”

Honestly. When you ask someone “how are you”, do you really want to hear all that?


Because if you did hear it, you’d have to say, “Aww, poor thing. I wish you good luck and hope that everything will be better soon.”

Well, it won’t, because you’re not a miracle worker.

The truth is, people hardly answer truthfully when they’re asked how they are. Children are given 10-year-series model answers to the question of: “How are you?”

They’re taught to say, “I’m fine, thank you,” and they have it memorised so well, they can’t say anything else.

It doesn’t matter if you’re really fine or not. You have to say “I’m fine, thank you” because it was drilled into you as a kid and it’s rude to say otherwise.

When you learn a foreign language for fun, they always teach you how to say “how are you” and answer “fine, thank you”. So you’re always fine, thank you, because you don’t know how to say anything else.

So we now have a world full of people greeting and wishing nice without really meaning it most of the time.

Perhaps it makes the world a better place when people keep their troubles at home. You go out and everything is peachy keen because people will ask you how are you and you’ll answer fine thank you and maybe you’ll start believing yourself after a while.

But it is totally senseless. I am annoyed at how senseless it is.

Every time you ask someone how he or she is, it’s the same damn answer.

Stop asking. You already know the answer. And stop saying happy new year because it doesn’t do a thing.

Why must we go through this charade every day of our life?

Unfortunately, that’s life, as they always like to say, and I’m kinda stuck here indefinitely, so I have to make like a normal human being, strange as it is.

So, here’s my frivolous wish for today.

I wish I didn’t have to sit through a five-hour drive every time I want to eat this:

19 thoughts on “How are you? You’re fine, thanks

  1. Avatar

    agree w everythg but “how r u”.. the underlying message or objective of this cliche, as you put it, in my view, is more of an opening statement – to start the conversation, and not really the reason of the “proposer” to know how is that person, though there are exceptions..

    … random tots @ work

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    Actually. There’s something wrong with you if you feel crappy everyday or have something happening to you that makes you wanna scream at someone when they ask how are you. As much as How are you is a social opener, it is also a show of care and concern to someone you know, and I think to fault the person for being poilte, for being caring and showing concern is simply rude.

    Imagine how you feel when you walk into an interview session and all the people interviewing you have murderous looks on their faces cos they just went to the toilet and the toilet bowls cant flush, there’s no water to wash their hands, and all the toilet paper got eaten by the ants. And they decide to take it out on you.

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    Hi Sheylara….

    hmmm… i have been lurking at your website for sometime now….

    anyway, somehow i notice a bit of negativity in you recently… i hope nothing is too wrong.

    anyway, i suppose the “how are you?” stuff is more for courtesy then anything… its just like saying, ” what de fuck?” doesn’t mean much…. but from the very least, it shows that at least the 2 person are not in hostile mood, and the other extreme is that they really care for each other. I have asked how people are and i truely want to know… i’m pretty sure i’m not the only one doing so…..

    Anyway, on the lighter side, i saw the carlsberg ad you did with the ang moh guy and adrian pang…. you look cute…

    and happy new year… i truely mean it!

  4. Avatar

    jus: Well, that’s true. But it’s still annoying because it’s the same every time. I hate routine :P

    Chong: I never said “how are you” is inherently bad. I did mention there are people who mean it when they say it and that’s fine. When I was in Australia, the cashier at the supermarket or whatever store greets you with a “how are you” as she prices your things. Many of them say it without meaning it. The tone is monotonous and there’s no smile on the face. That puts me on a spot because I don’t know how to answer them. If I don’t answer, I’m rude. But if I answer, I’m an idiot for answering an insincere question. Anyway, interviewees don’t say “how are you”. They shake your hand and they say “nice to meet you”. :P

    Fat Ass: Nah, nothing’s wrong. I think everyone has a bit of negative in them all the time and I just chose to express them all at once. :P Thanks for the concern, though. I know you mean it and it’s nice! Erm… is the carlsberg ad out already? So fast. Did you see it on TV or the cinema?

    Kheldar: /bonk How can it be in Singapore when I have to drive 5 hours to get it? LOL. Singapore hasn’t gotten that big, hehe.

    Minou: Bah, that means I have to start watching TV too. Bleh. Hahah.

  5. Avatar

    Hehe, somehow i do agree with Qiaoyun.
    I resent the “How r u”.
    I would normally try to comment on something like “You looks very happy/sad/annoyed”. If not, it will just be a “Hi” for me.
    To me, saying something with meaning it, is really very annoying.

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    I must remember not to whip out those cliches next time I see you then… :)

    But well, these are social niceties and there’re lots to observe in each society (believe me when I tell you that the Japanese are probably tops at this). It gives a good impression. I don’t usually observe such niceties with close friends, we’d usually just grunt our greetings, thanks, goodbyes, etc

  7. Avatar

    Supermarket sell curly fries also what, just buy then fry lor. No need 5 hours.

    As for “How are you”, I reply based on health, not feeling.


  8. Avatar

    Sunny: Haha, cool. Glad that someone else thinks the same way. :P

    Alvinaloy: Yeah, I agree the Japanese are tops in social niceties. At first I was really amused every time I walked into a store in Japan and the sales attendant would sprout off a whole long string of Japanese niceties. After a while, it got a bit weird because, firstly, I couldn’t understand what they were saying and, secondly, I didn’t know how to respond except smile back. Well, but at least, they always do it with a very warm smile, so that’s ok. I don’t mind. :P

    Sword: Supermarket curly fries nice or not? I never see before leh, which supermarket?

    Ruok: Liew. :P

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    Hahaha. Ok dear. I am feeling much better, actually. Throat still hurts a bit but it has stopped driving me up the wall, thank you. :P

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    Ahhh.. good good to hear.. must be in good health condition then for CNY can whack all those goodies! Yummy!!!!!

  11. Avatar

    Not sure if supermarket curly fries nice or not, never buy before, normally buy the normal one or sometimes onion rings.

    Those big big supermarket, go to the section that sell fries, there should be curly fries.

  12. Avatar

    This must have been during the “rebelling” period of your life because if this is really how you feel, then I would have to say that you don’t understand people’s feeling very well.

    “How you doing” is much more than just words.

    But I am sure you know that by now :)

  13. Avatar

    sometimes it’s quite difficult to answer “how are you” whereby I know the other party who ask this Q can’t offer me much help in anyway, and if you are not too close with someone, please don’t use this routine Q of “how are you” to start a conversation.


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