By Joshua Dent
“Hi ______! (insert English name here) How are you today?”
NOTHING will KILL a conversation in an ESL classroom in Taiwan like the words “How are you?
I can almost guarantee that you will always get the same robotic response “I’m fine, and you?”
This is quite the difference from let’s say asking a 13 year old American ‘”valley girl” the same question.
I would imagine some 7th grade teachers probably avoid this question like the plague in fear of hearing about some girl’s shopping trip for an entire period of Chemistry class.
Trade “How are you?” for “Did you eat today?”
For my approximately 211 days of residency here in “The Taiwan,” I was desperately trying to find out why nobdoy would give you an honest response to this question.
I can’t tell you how many poor innocent children I wanted to shake the shit out of just to get another response besides “I’m fine.”
I just wanted to see some sign of life. I would have even taken a “Fuck You!”
I hope that I finally struck conversation gold this past weekend. A friend of mine explained to me that around dinner or lunch time it is much better to say “Did you eat today?”
Coming from a middle-class family in America who never once had to worry about food this was quite the suprise to hear. There also seems to be no shortage of food here either.
Apparently, this dates back to thousands of years ago when food wasn’t always an assumed reward or gift for a day’s work. I was also told that this is the ultimate way of showing that you care about the person.
One more reason for a very dry and monotone answer to this question exists.Reason #2 stems from the idea of always being humble. This works for if they are having a bad day or a good day. They don’t want to ruin your moment if they are having a bad day, and they certainly don’t want to rub it in your face if times are tough for you.
So, ESL teachers and Taiwan expats, give it a try if you don’t already know this information. I know for me I found this very helpful