How are you? I’m fine, thanks, and you?

When I’m asked, “How are you?'” I almost always reply, “I’m fine, thanks, and you?” I’m not a cold or reserved person as you may think. That’s just how I routinely respond. In fact, that’s how most English people respond. In England ‘how are you?’ is not really a question, but rather an add on to ‘hi’. English people know that, and that’s why they are almost always likely to respond with an ‘I’m fine, thanks, and you?’. Basically, the ‘how are you?’ part is an indicator of the stage of the relationship between one person and another. You’re likely to say to someone who you consider a friend or relative ‘how are you?’. So if you’re in England and an Englishman asks you how you are, it might not always be the best idea to start telling them about all the terrible things going on in your life, because you might notice them slowly taking steps back and trying to change the subject of the conversation. Just thank them for ‘asking’ and tell them you’re fine. Don’t be sad that they apparently don’t care, but rather see that you have a special relationship with that person – be happy they didn’t just say ‘hi’.

What’s Up? Seriously…

I always felt awkward, and still do, when asked by Polish people ‘co słychać? co tam powiesz? no opowiadaj, co tam?’ My usual response to these seemingly intrusive questions are, “wszytko OK, po staremu!” I’ve noticed that in Poland these are real questions that require a satisfactory elaborate response. But what are they actually asking for in such questions? Do they want me to actually tell them everything I’ve been doing lately? How deep should I dig? I heard that not answering these question with sincerity shows that I have something to hide, or I’m not to be trusted, or I’m just simply unfriendly and see the other person as unworthy of an answer. Such trouble over such a simple thing – which I never even considered to be ‘a thing’.

After such enquiries , I’ve been given advice by many Polish people to say that I’m having a terrible day, that I’m broke, that I don’t feel well – that way people will like me more, apparently. The Polish, unlike the English, can be very empathetic, and if another person is going through hard times, you can be sure to have a shoulder to cry on. However, so I’ve heard, if you’re enjoying the high life, you can expect a degree of jealousy, sometimes inspirational, sometimes malicious. English people tend put a smile on their faces no matter what.

Once getting around the tricky task of telling people my lifestory, it’s time for some small talk – something I’m not at all good at. English people usually engage in elaborate discussion about the weather or about the next football manager to be sacked. But here in Poland, what can I say? The weather is here is stable and the football, well, there’s nothing really to talk about…

Awkward Acting

One thing that still haunts me to this day is when Polish people try a bit of small talk with me, say something I either didn’t hear or understand, and then start laughing. These are my choices in such a scenario: I can laugh along with them, keeping my laugh at a length of duration and volume similar to the friendly comedian who is attempting to humour me; I can keep a straight face and politely ask that person to repeat what they had said, although that just kills the humour and the atmosphere afterwards; finally I could just tell them that I didn’t understand, I’m English, sorry! But then I would pretty much have to tell that to every stranger who says something to me and mysteriously starts laughing.

Anyway, I generally try to be optimistic and positive at all times – glass half full, I say. While I’ve noticed that Polish people love to blend boasting and moaning in their ‘how are you’ conversations, when you’re speaking to me, I’m probably most likely to tell you that I’m fine and of course I would thank you for asking, and I certainly wouldn’t forget to ask you how you are. What I actually say might go something like this:

I’m fine, thanks, and you?

But please, tell me about yourself 🙂




fine – w porządku

reply / respond – odpowiadać

reserved – nierozmowny

In fact – rzeczywiście

but rather an add on – ale raczej dodatek

indicator – wskazówka

stage – etap

likely – prawdopodobne

consider – mniemać / uważać

terrible – straszny

notice – zauważyć

change the subject – zmienić temat

apparently – widocznie / podobno / niby

don’t care – nie obchodzić mnie to

I always felt awkward – zawsze czułem się niezręcznie

seemingly intrusive – pozornie nachalny / natrętny

require a satisfactory elaborate response – wymagają zadowalającej,wypracowany odpowiedzi

lately – ostatnio

How deep should I dig? – Jak głęboko powinienem kopać?

sincerity – szczerość

trusted – zaufany

just simply – tylko po prostu

unworthy – niezasługujący / niegodny

After such enquiries – Po takich zapytaniach

advice – rada

I’m broke – jestem spłukany

unlike – niepodobny / nie jak

going through hard times – przechodzić ciężkie chwile

have a shoulder to cry on – wypłakać się w ramię

expect (a degree of) jealousy – spodziewaj się (trochę) zazdrości

sometimes inspirational, sometimes malicious – czasami inspirujące, czasami złośliwe

no matter what – nieważne co

once getting around the tricky task – po przejściu przez kłopotliwym zadaniu

engage – angażować

sacked – zwolniony

haunts me – nawiedza mnie

small talk – pogawędka

either (this) or (that) – Albo (to), albo (to)

laugh along with them – śmiej się razem z nimi

similar – podobny

attempting to humour me – próbując mnie bawić

keep a straight face – zachować powagę

stranger – nieznajomy

mysteriously – tajemniczo

anyway – tak czy owak

blend boasting and moaning – mieszać pochlebstwa i jęku

certainly – na pewno





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