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Here’s a question of vernacular from Alex:
I’m from Sweden but I’ve lived in the UK for 10 years – which is is about a third of my life.
I have adjusted well and feel like I understand the British sense of humour, culture and got to grips with you poor dental care and MRSA-ridden hospitals, your crazy ass parliament (a bunch of posh old men shouting at each other?!), binge drinking, TOWIE etc.
One thing I still haven’t got to grips with is this:
When someone greets me by saying “alright?”
Do they mean “Hi!” or do they mean “How are you?”
I never know how to respond; do I say, “I’m good thanks, how are you?” do I say “hi” back, or do I say “alright”?
Also, my boss always says “you ok?” to me, rather than saying “hi” or even “alright?”. Does this mean the same thing i.e. a greeting, or is he genuinely concerned about my wellbeing?
So, in conclusion, how do I respond to “alright?” or “you ok?”
You’re right to suspect, Alex, that these people aren’t really too interested in your health. Think of these as greetings which are slightly more elaborate than “Hi”, in that they’re inviting you to respond, even if you’re responding in kind with meaningless small talk. “Fine thanks, how are you?” is always an appropriate response, regardless of whether you’re actually fine and interested in how the other person is.
The next step in the dance is more difficult to predict. Ideally, you’ll either move on to actual conversation rather than filler, or part company, but sometimes you can be trapped in a small talk volley for several minutes or even hours. So always have an exit strategy, because you don’t want to die from a ruptured bladder after being too polite to end a week-long exchange of casual greetings.