Off Topic: Howarya?


How are you?

To be honest, I don’t care. I only ask because everyone else asks, and I don’t want to be ruder than I am naturally. But I wish they wouldn’t. It’s so insincere. I mean, seriously, who cares?

The first time someone ever greeted me with “Howaryou” instead of “Hello” I gave an honest answer. The first few times, actually. It was the first person I’d met from the Midwest, and after a while I realized I was getting funny looks when I answered “tired” or “bored” or “awesome!” So I keyed it down and answered with a generic “fine” and the universe righted itself again.

At this point in my life, I’m thinking it’s some dumb Midwestern politeness, because if come from west of Delaware you can’t seem to just acknowledge people. You also need to pretend to care how they are.

And it’s not like they even listen for your response. I’ve had the following conversation multiple times:


Me: Hey, whatsup?

Midwesterner: Fine, thanks, you?

Wait, what were we talking about again?


And then, just the other day, I had this one:

Me: Hello, howarya?

Midwesterner: Hello howarya?

Me: I asked first.

Midwesterner: Wha—?

Hello! Do you even listen to yourself?


This led me to believe that the person doesn’t need any response at all. They’re asking merely for their own gratification. So now I let the conversation go like this:


Midwesterner: Hellohowarya?

Me: Hi.


And guess what. Nobody has ever chased me down the block going, “But you didn’t answer! How are you doing?”


This dynamic is highlighted when you’re approaching/passing someone in the hall.

Me: Approaching greeting zone  Hello

Midwesterner: Hello, howarya? As we pass

Me: Dying slowly, you? Ten feet distance and receding fast


Take a guess on whether the person turned around and asked, “Oh, is there anything I can do?” That would begin a conversation, which nobody really wants to have, because nobody really cares, which is why we ask the question while moving apart at the speed of feet while not actually listening for a response.


Therein lies the dishonesty. I mean, think about the people about whose wellbeing you really care. Do you say hello while brushing past? No, of course not. When you see them you stop and block the hallway and have a proper conversation. There’s no need to ask “howarya” because you’re either about to get a full update, or you got one earlier.


Am I the only one bugged by this insincerity?


The influx of Midwesterners into the tri-state area is damaging the integrity of our greeting process. Instead of being able to just nod, or smile, or say “hello,” we now have to also ask how people howtheyare. Keep this up, and we’ll soon be going through elaborate, Japanese-style ceremonies every time we bump into someone at the water cooler. Soon, people will be afraid to walk out of their own homes, for fear of meeting someone they have to greet.


We have to stop this now. Please, for the sake of our open and friendly society, don’t ask anyone how they are unless you actually care about the answer.


14 thoughts on “Off Topic: Howarya?

  1. This is a longtime pet peeve of mine.

    I only when i care, which, admittedly isnt very often.

    I always answer a “how are you” with “hi”. Always.

  2. If you hate it so much you can move back to NY where everyone ignores you. If you’re lucky you’ll get someone to stare at the ground as they approach you, look up at the last second, then give you the head bob, as if to say, I didn’t even care to say howarya, so I just stared at my feet till we were right by each other.

    Maybe I should try next time to respond to the head bob with, “I’m fine, howarya?” That’ll shake ’em good.

  3. It must be pandemic, I was just thinking this earlier today when I bumped into someone I knew while I was flying to work. It’s awkward because sometimes you do care enough that you’d ask, just not now while you’re passing in the crosswalk…

  4. “Me: Approaching greeting zone Hello
    Midwesterner: Hello, howarya? As we pass
    Me: Dying slowly, you? Ten feet distance and receding fast”


  5. I answer honestly sometimes, and if that answer is “not so great, to be honest” or “one of those weeks” or “really tired”, I usually get a real response/sometimes a conversation ensues.

  6. as a native midwesterner, i hang my head in shame, because i literally do this all the time. big warm smile, ‘hi, how are you?!’ turn around and something else.

    one time i did this to my boyfriend’s mother and boy, did she read me the riot act. ‘how can you ask me how i am and not even stay facing my direction while i answer? do you know how that makes me feel? and you’re usually so sensitive!’


  7. “What the definition of a bore? Someone who, when you ask him how he is, tells you.”

    Don’t remember the source of that one.

  8. That’s the problem when one has 200 drafts saved; eventually someone posts your grievances right from under you.

    The insincerity and lack of necessity of that phrase drives me up the wall. I feel required to answer, and when I do I get looked at oddly and when I don’t I get yelled at for not.

    The mid-westerners are responsible for this, you say? Get your torch and pitchforks.

  9. standard NYC vs OOT. the latter are so invasive. it’s unsettling every single time i encounter it. like why do you care how i am? you don’t know me!

  10. I’ve lived in the NY area my whole life, and this is still a pet peeve of mine, so obviously it happens here, too. I particularly hate answering ‘fine’ when I’m not.

    Personally, I never ask how you are unless I am actually interested in the answer.

  11. It’s worse when you answer and ask them in return and they ask again.
    Hello how are you?
    Fine, and you?
    Good, and you?
    (umm, I already answered you…)

  12. Lol, so funny and true. I noticed this when I was a kid, as one of the many social sillinesses I observed. But this was in NY. I do like the South where people are friendly, and everyone in our community wants to hear the answers. But not all the answers, just some kinds of answers. But I have tried being honest and people here are much more accepting than they were in NY, so…

  13. When I was in Israel for the year, the British girls in my program would greet everyone with, “Youallright?” I used to always think I looked like something was wrong.

  14. ive lived in michigan my whole life and still cant figure out the proper “howarya” response. always awkward.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s