It’s come to my attention over the last eighteen years that we Americans over here are viewed with careful bemusement. My hypothesis is that it stems from the multitudes of impressione that people from other countries get about us without having asked or really caring – from two rubbery all-beef patties to ridiculously large (they really are humongous) refrigerators to our compelling, obsessive, completely awkward need to know how everyone is.
Or at least our apparently awkward need to ask how everyone is. Because genuinely listening to how someone answers the question is not on the top of the European paradigm about how Americans really are. Americans, it seems, are friendly. Genuine? Not so much.
When I first moved to Germany and started to learn the language, I’d greet everyone I met with, “Hallo, wie geht’s?” Hi, how are you? This is expat lingo, this tossing out of a typically American question without wanting or expecting any kind of real response – and doing it in a foreign language. Germans really only greet people they know, and know pretty well, with the how are you question. Everyone else? They get a polite Guten Tag. Because, honestly, Germans are down with the fact that no one really wants to know how everyone else is. It’s too much information. And they’re ok with that.
My asking my American question in German would lead to all kinds of crazy conversations. Because guess what? Given the chance, Germans really will tell you how they really feel. Everything from their foot bunions to problems with their boss to when their next Urlaub to the sea in summer was taking place would come pouring out on the corner by Aldi in the pouring rain. Just because I asked.
Yes I did. But did I want to know? No. Not really. For me, transplant that I was, the only acceptable answer to the wie geht’s question was fine or eh (or so-so, or well…). As an American, if you get the eh answer, you have to make a choice – dig further or ignore by sighing, making a sad smile and looking away. Either is fine. But to ask the question and get the laundry list of an answer and then sometimes not even getting a wie geht’s back (because they are really and truly ok with not wanting to know your s–t) was at times disconcerting, at other times enough to make me want to jump into the North Sea and swim to England.
They’d ask how I was there, I was sure. They understand us, those Brits. And I’d answer FINE. And not a word more. Ever.
Story number two. After I had lived in Germany for maybe half a decade, I flew back to the states. Day two on the other side of the pond brings my bad readjustment day, where I’m all zingy and crunchy and can’t really speak after three in the afternoon because for me it’s after dinner time and I just want to go to bed. That’s when its the most important to stay awake, of course, and so on this particular trip I made myself walk to the Rite Aid in my home town of Milford to pick up one of those monstrous American bottles of hair conditioner that I can barely get my hand around and I know I’ll drop in the shower. On the way uptown (that’s what we call the main corner in Milford, it’s uptown, baby) , I walked by a half a dozen people or so, every one of them asking how I was.
I almost couldn’t breathe. I had lost, over five years, the ability to respond to what is really and truly the most basic non-question question in my own native culture! My mouth went slack, my eyes crazed, with something like “eehehehahagood” coming out with every person that walked by.
How am I? How am I? Well, one way I am is that I apparently now *suck* at saying hi in American, that’s for sure. I’m as cool with not wanting to know how anyone is as the entire Bundesrepubilik Deutschland. I look the same, but deep inside, I’m thinking, why is everyone asking me this damn question, and then not even taking a second’s pace off their stride to see if I’m going to answer?
Now that that’s clear and out of the way, let me ask you…
How are you, really?
I ask that with all of the intent of a good German friend who really wants to hear the answer, and all of the sparkly dazzle of an American for whom the words bubble out as naturally as gas ( you know what I mean).
Because I want to know. And because I want to know, I’m going to start by telling you how I am, so you understand how much I want to know how you really are.
I’m ready to start working the B&B at full capacity again starting on Friday. It’s fine, it’s what I do, but I won’t be able to write as much, and that makes me sad. Because I am loving writing this blog right now.
We’ve had 60 days straight with temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and we are on drought watch. It feels eerie, it’s so dry. I hope we get rain soon, and that you do too, if you have not had any lately. I have never looked so forward to fall in my entire life, and fall is my favorite season – so this year I will be really ready to put on that first sweater.
I’m happy that my book Your Truth is out there in the world and that you who have read it have found it worthwhile. Thank you so much to everyone who has ordered it. I’ve learned so much about the process of self publishing by putting this one out there, and I’ll be working on a new ebook soon.
I am nervous, jittery, and adrenaline filled about the release of my new novel, True Vines, in October. I’ve been working on the final edits; it’s all polished up and gorgeous and now we’re working on finalizing the cover. It’s all very exciting but I need to stay calm and focused, because before that happens, I have lots of guests to take good, loving care of and that is my priority for the next seven weeks. But I really, really, really cannot believe that this book is almost out there. It’s crazy. Just crazy.
I’m mentoring a few select people through some momentous change and loving every minute of it. I’ll be writing more and more about coaching after the book comes out and I free up my energy for the new.
I’m preparing an upcoming interview with Tammy Strobel about her upcoming book You Can Buy Happiness and It’s Cheap: How One Woman Radically Simplified her Life and How You Can Too. I love Tammy. She’s frank, she’s fun, and she lives in just about the cutest teeny tiny house you have EVER seen.
So now, it’s your turn. How are you, really? How is the walk along your path? Tell us about it, let us know. Remember. Your path is what this blog is all about.