Saturday, 21 September 2013

Australian Journal #2

So I've been in Melbourne for about 2 months now and am in the state of confusion by this phenomenon I've been encountering daily. No offense to Australians but as someone who is not from your country, this is something I've yet to wrap my head around. 

Conversations, most of the time, go as such:

Person (be it a friend or a stranger): Hey, how's it going/how are you
Me: Good/great, you?

Notice that I did not end the sentence "Hey, how's it going/how are you" with a question mark. Why is that? Because every time someone says that to me, it NEVER sounds like a question!

I'd like to think that the "question" was ask out of sincerity or courtesy in terms of greetings. But often enough, before I could even throw out an answer in the form of one simple word, the person would either be out of sight or would be paying attention to something else. Those acts of ignorance just absolutely annoy me and I would be left there thinking, "dude, if you really want to talk to me, then do it properly because that will make both our lives (especially mine) way easier and more interesting." On a rare occasion, my responses would be left unanswered while socializing with a bunch of people - which in no doubt brings me to a state of embarrassment.

Excuse me while I go all academic for this section. A course mate of mine pointed out one of the readings in Cognitive Psychology and true enough, according to Robinson-Reigler & Robinson-Reigler (2012), those stock questions elicit stock answers most of the time (p. 385); for example, answering with "fine, thank you!" or the plain old "good!". And only if the stock answer isn't given (i.e. well, today wasn't my day), conversations would drive down a better road as opposed to the former. So is negativity a better way to produce an effective conversation? 

I've tried alternative ways to keep conversations going. For instance, I talk about the weather to cashiers while paying for groceries. Cliche, perhaps, but it works for at least for a longer period of time as opposed to the how's-it-going situation. We would talk about how the day has been particularly hot or particularly cold and most recently how the cold wind is annoying everyone. Or perhaps sometimes when I go shopping, the retail assistants would be helping me decide if I should buy a particular clothing or not - and they often make me give into temptation. Oh well, I guess they're doing their job, sort of.

So this would be one of the situations I'm having minor issues adapting to during my stay in Melbourne to this date. Hoping I'll get a hang of it soon. Stay tuned for my next post on cooking in Australia! Cheers (:

Robinson-Reigler, B. & Robinson-Reigler, G. (2012). Chapter 9. Language 1: Basic Issues and Speech Processing. Cognitive Psychology, pp. 348-399


  1. The fact that most of the time the answer is "Good" or something similar is why people don't really pay attention to the answer or expect an answer, it's just kind of a greeting most of the time rather than an actual conversation starter. On the point of going to negative to actually get another response, a positive one my pop always says when asked how he is is Terrific! said quite enthusiastically always works well.

  2. Hey Alex,

    Thanks for your feedback! I really appreciate it. At least this clears up some of my confusion and perhaps misunderstanding.