I want you to start reading this by asking you that question so I put that as a title. Almost every single day – from the time that I have arrived here in the U.S close to a year ago – I needed to answer that question. Or maybe not. I remember telling my colleagues in Chicago how I always feel awkward when someone greets me with those three words. Yes! It comes off to me as a style of greeting which is an antithesis of how people in my culture show concern to one another. In my community, when somebody asks the question they are truly interested in your well-being and would want to listen to every single detail of your response – including your punctuations and gesticulations. Whereas in the US, the question and response appear more nuanced.

The question intimidates me because I always need to shift from the cultural norm that I have been used to all my life to a new norm that I have to deal with every day. The uneasiness emanates from the pressure of not being able to provide an immediate response because of my lagged meaning-making exercise and the tendency for people to not stick around long enough to hear the answer.

The challenge is elevated to another level when constructing the response. I usually give short and sweet answers (as advised by some colleagues) but for me, words like “good” or “fine” suggest a sign of emotional repression or worse advising others that they do not need to know. I remember, barely a week of being at my host organization, I confessed to my colleagues how I tried to copy and use the “how are you response” that I heard from one of them. My colleagues are kind and cool enough to feed me with responses that I could use to survive the day-to-day. Of course, outstanding ones have become my all-time favorite, except that I have never used them anyhow. For whatever its worth the “how are you?” shall remain to be the most relevant question in my day-to-day until probably I go back to my old norm. Let me run down some “How are you?” responses that I have collected from friends, colleagues, and a little research which could be helpful in anybody’s everyday meaning-making!


How are you?…
40 I tried to but no one listens.
39 I am better on the inside than I look on the outside.
38 If I were any better, I will be illegal!
37 I was fine until you asked.
36 If I was any better, vitamins could be taking me.
35 What’s with the question? You a cop?
34 Great, but I’m totally biased.
33 I do not know. You tell me how I am right now!
32 I cannot complain. It is against company policy.
31 I’ll leave that up to your imagination.
30 Sunshine all day long!
29 Well, unless the weather has different plans in store
28 You go first so we can compare.
27 I can’t complain, but I still do.
26 Do you want the short or long version?
25 Slowly but surely dying.
24 Imagining myself, having a fabulous vacation.
23 Fair to partly cloudy.
22 Not bad. Could be better. Could be payday.
21 Holy shit! You can see me?
20 Things could be worse… I could be you.
19 As opposed to what?
18 Another day, another dollar!
17 Medium well.
16 Living the dream, but half the time it’s a nightmare.
15 Shhhh… it’s too early to tell
14 You’re looking at it.
13 The doctor said I’d live.
12 All the better now that you asked.
11 I’ll let you know when I figure it all out.
10 Oh, you know… every day is better than the next.
9 Armed and ready.
8 I hear a good thing but you should never listen to rumors.
7 My lawyer says I don’t have to answer that.
6 I’m ready for a nap.
5 Sunshine all day long!
4 Happy and you know it (Clap your hands!)
3 Sunshine all day long!
2 Nice and dandy like cotton candy!
1 Same shit, different day *



The thing about living in a different environment is not just about mastering the language but recognizing the meaning behind the words. I always believe that it is a great privilege and rare opportunity to be able to wear a different set of lenses to dissect cultural norms, practices and understand differences. Now that we have armed ourselves with these “How are you?” responses we are now ready to wrestle every meaning-making day…or are we, really?