An Indian responding to the American ‘What’s up?’
Picture this. The freshest freshman you’ve ever seen walking to the dining centre. Except this is an Indian freshman. Shouldn’t be too different right? She’s watched Sherlock just like all the other kids. She loves pizza just like all the kids. This shouldn’t be too difficult right? But just as she’s about to open the door to the food she is hit with that question.
Random person smiles and says, “What’s up?”
Girl replies, with an expression of utter confusion plastered on her face, “Uggghhhhhhh…”
Think trying to answer the question of life and multiply that into hundred. That’s how difficult answering this question is for me.
Let me give you some context. In India my neighborhood and I have a mutual agreement. If we know each other very well, we shall give the obligatory smile and nod. If we are acquaintances, then we ignore each other unless one of the parties is feeling especially perky (they might be judged for doing so though). Moving on to the most important situation. If both the parties have never seen each other before, eye contact is avoided at all costs. Look down and continue on your path. Any attempt at smiling or chatting with the opposite party will be met with an unpleasant expression and confusion.
Back to the scene.
The first time this happened I was so dumbstruck. I got a funny look in response to my funny look and the person continued on while I stood, frozen, for a good two minutes.
“What do they want from me?”, “Do they really want to know what’s up?”, “The sky?”, “Have I seen this person before?”, “Oh no, what if I had a really meaningful conversation with this person!”, “Will they be insulted that I forgot them?”
A little bit of research helped me understand that in America, this was a common thing. People greet other people, even if they don’t know those people. Okay, America, I gotcha!
Fast forward to a few weeks later.
The freshman has now understood that parties can be lit and that she listens to some dope shit. Got that? Word.
She walks towards her class when an acquaintance of hers goes, “What’s up?”
“I’m actually headed for class and then later today I have to attend a dinner which is for…” she rants on for a good five minutes.
She is met by an odd look and her sister drags her away.
Another quick google search since the last one was not very thorough.
Respond to the ‘What’s up?” or “How’s it going” with a short, curt “good” or just a smile. If you are up for it, you can even ask them the question back.
I’m glad to say I have almost got the response to this question down. Maybe I’ll start asking people the question myself! But until then *nods and flashes an award-winning, toothy (taken care of by non-American dental care) smile*