Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Greetings, the Australian way
While I was in Sydney, I noticed that the people who served me at the airport, at the counters of the shops and so forth seem to be asking me "How are you doing?" or "How are you?" when I approached them.
Being curious, I eventually share my observations with one of my friends, XS, to find out more. XS revealed that what had seemed to be a question to me, is actually a form of greeting for the folks in Australia. It's an Australian way of greeting. Such questions are the equivalents of the usual plain "hello" and "hi" that we would use in my hometown, Singapore.
Another common form of greeting the Australian way is "How ya goin'?". XS demonstrated how some may greet "How ya goin'?" with a intentionally heavy Australian accent.
Now, you see, yours truly was still stuck in the framework that any statement that ends with a question-mark would be a question. As such, I asked XS how I should reply if someone in Australia were to ask me "How are you doing?". She gave me the model answer, no matter how one's feeling, simply say "Good. How are you?" or "Good. Thank you.". The essence of her message was, just be positive. Those are greetings, not questions. In addition, the sender does not intend to know a lengthy description of recipient's day.
By then, I realised that I had been given 'wrong' answers for a couple of times. One occasion, when I was at a shop in Sydney buying something while I was having period pain, and a counter staff said to me "How are you doing?". My reply was that I was in pain, and asked where I could buy painkillers! Well, that probably explained why the counter staff looked a little stunned after hearing my reply. Anyway, at least I had gotten the information where I could get painkillers from.
On another occasion, RL shared with me that when she first came to Australia, she had initially thought that the greeting "How ya goin'?" was meant to ask her where she's going. I would have thought so too if I were in her shoes. The point to make is that it does take some time for a non-local to better appreciate the Australian way of greetings.
I learnt from WikiAnswers that another common form of greeting, the Australian way, would be "G'day". Do also check out this online article, Australia: Australian Greetings, by Mark Moxon. I hope you have learnt something about the Australian way of greeting, like I had.