the way we greet non-total strangers

Puellam audiam

Senior Member
Taiwanese, Mandarin
Hi, everyone!:)

There is something disturbing to me.

How do we greet someone that is not familiar to us. Say, we we go to an organization, an office, to ask for some information about an exam, a course, some registration procedure.
We say ,"Hello!" or "Good morning!" to start the dialogue.
But if I return to the same place a few days after, and supposedly the man or woman in the organization do recognize me as someone has been there before, do I say "Hello" or "Good morning!" again to greet him or her?
It sounds a stupid question...
I mean, don't we have any other way to greet someone who is not familar to us, distingusihing the first encounter and the rest? It alwyas vexes me because I have never lived in English speaking coutntry(But still, in Europe, in Asia, I bump into English context once in a while). So I am not confident at this greeting part, because I am not sure what native speakers usually do/speak/react. About this kind of things, I know I will never be confident unless I really live in a English speaking country and witness secretly and satisfyingly how people use the language. I have that kind of anxiety.:(
Back to my question. I always find running out of words to use. Any other expression or technique for a change? I mean,the fitst time I use 'Hello,' but how about the second time? Keep using 'Hello'? That makes me feel somewhat stupid. Notice that I am talking about
someone with whom we don't actually expect to become real friends, to have a friedship in the long term.
You might ask, 'What do you expect?' Well, I expect to distinguish the total strangers and non-total strangers.
Of course, we can usually say "Good morning!" But how about in the afternoon? 'Good afternoon!'? Do people really use 'Good afternoon!' in the afternoon? In this part, I find myself as frustrated in the Chinese context. Not like French, Chinese, during the last century has lost a lot of things during those revolutions. I won't discuss the Chinese language in China. At least, 'Good afternoon!' in Taiwan is hardly heard nowadays. At least for me, unfortunately, it's not always a normal or self-confident way to greet someone. If I bump into a poet, like me, I might say that. But there are not so many poets on the streets.
In French context, it's another situation, I can use 'Bonjour!' in any occasion(because it is SO formated) almost the whole day, including the afternoon and even a bit evening.
Or maybe I just need someone to assure me that we do say 'Hello' all the time.

Thanks for your patience.
 
  • Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Hello,

    I think it's perfectly safe to use "Hello", or, better yet (if it's a formal discussion - you mentioned an office), "How do you do". The secret is to smile at that person like you know them. If you do and they recognize you, they'll be pleased.
     

    sarcie

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    Hello, Good morning and Good afternoon are all fine, no matter what the situation.

    I often say "Hello again!" if I have seen the person just a few minutes ago (like, if you go in the first time, leave and then remember something else you wanted to ask).

    I have NEVER said "How do you do" to anyone, nor had it said to me.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Really?

    Yes, I know it's excessively ceremonious, rather old-fashioned and obsolete, but I like it anyway :D

    By the way, Mrs. Sarcie, "How do you do!" (See, now you can't say that anymore :p)
     

    mally pense

    Senior Member
    England, UK English
    It's always very difficult answering questions like this because it's easy to assume we say one thing when in practice we actually say another. In this example though, I think that many people will happily repeat "Hello" or "Good Morning" regardless of how many times the encounter has taken place.

    However, I suspect the way the "Hello" (or whatever) is said varies according to the degree of familiarity. Possibly for someone we've previously met and have become a little familiar with, the last syllable of the greeting is a little more drawn out? Probably not the sort of subtlety you are wanting to hear, but in practice, I think it would be the tone and inflection that would distinguish a greeting to a friend from that to a stranger.

    The other thing that would distinguish it would be the ensuing 'small talk', normally about the weather! E.g. greeting someone you saw the previous day: "Good morning, nice day again" to which the reply might be "Yes, isn't it, how are you today?" rather than "Good morning". In this entirely fictitious exchange, both parties allude to the fact that they've already met.

    I think the overall advice though would be not to worry too much. Just using "Hello" every time (for example) would not be a problem.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Puellam audiam said:
    We say ,"Hello!" or "Good morning!" to start the dialogue. But if I return to the same place a few days after, and supposedly the man or woman in the organization do recognize me as someone has been there before, do I say "Hello" or "Good morning!" again to greet him or her?
    If you are seeing someone in the same place a few days after and you spoke with them briefly the last time you saw them, you could say, "Nice to see you again!" This can be said even if you don't remember their name. It's an acknowledgement that you do recognize their face and remember that you have spoken with them before.

    You can also say, "How have you been?" (often shortened to "How've you been?") It's a different version of "How are you doing?" that indicates you've spoken with them before. (Both questions, by the way, are usually just greetings and are not intended to start a long conversation about their emotional, financial, or existential state. :) )

    I can tell you, as a contractor who pops in and out of multiple firms (least from the point of view of the regular employees), that I may be greeted with some light-hearted joking. I often hear "Couldn't stay away, eh?" or "You're back?" or "They recognized you and still let you in?" They're all friendly greetings that simply mean the person recognizes me and knows that I'm not a regular employee. It places me in a category somewhere between total stranger and fellow worker. I'm not a guest because that would be a rude thing to say to a guest, so it's a nice way to acknowledge acceptance of my return and my status as one of the gang, even if I'm an intermittent member.
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    --Er, excuse me......
    --Yes?
    --Oh hi, I was here the other day asking about.....
    --Yes, I remember you.
    --Ohhhh....that's nice.....so, how are you today?
    --Pretty good, and you?
    --I am okay, thanks. I just want to make sure.......
     
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