One thing many Germans like to criticize about America is the ever-present pretentiousness. The one example always given is the habit of Americans asking how you are doing when, in reality, they don’t care. I always dismissed it as just a cultural difference. “Hey, we’re just polite. Deal with it!”
While in Tucson I realized it was, in fact, extremely annoying, especially when one has been living in Germany for the last 4 years. The hotel staff would keep asking how I was doing? “Good afternoon, sir. How are you?” or “How are you doing?” I know they are just being polite but it was just weird. I have never been asked by a clerk or salesperson in Germany “Wie geht’s Ihnen?” unless I was on familiar terms with them and maybe know each other from outside of work. If you ask a German how they are doing and you don’t really know them, you might get a funny look or something akin to a “Umm….., I’m okay” and they are probably thinking you are a pretentious asshole. Or they might actually tell you and you don’t want that. Trust me on this. Ahem.
So when I was in Tucson and was walking down the hall towards a member of the hotel staff, he was all, “Hello Sir, how are you?”. I started my own mental assessment. How am I doing? Am I okay? Without waiting for my answer, the guy had already moved on down the hall. Just being friendly and polite I know but I was tempted to tell the truth; “I’m fucking hot. It’s 115 degrees outside and it’s 60 inside and every time I go in or out I get a goddamn cold or a heat stroke. How can you people live like this?!?!” Next time I saw a member of the staff approaching I knew he was going to ask how I was doing and I remembered that I wanted to tell the truth to let the guy know how pretentious and bullshit their question was. Yeah that’s right. Take that. So a split second later came the question.
“How are we doing today, sir?”
“Um, Fine. Thank you.”
Anything else would have been rude.