What Do You Mean When You Say “Have A Nice Day?”

by MomGrind

This applies to Californians too, not just to the British!

When Cath Lawson posted this Facebook status, I smiled:

“I love working with Americans. They don’t mind paying well for top quality work. They pay on time. They’re always thankful and appreciative. And they give you lots of great follow up work.”

I agree with Cath. Coming from the tough, will-negotiate-every-dollar Israeli business culture, the American business culture wasn’t difficult to get used to. I love living here, I love doing business here, and the more I’m here, the more difficult it becomes to deal with more aggressive cultures.

However, here in the West Coast, it sometimes feels as if people have taken this cool politeness to an extreme. In fact, West Coast folks are extremely difficult to read. It took me years to realize that the following sentences could in fact have a completely different meaning than the words said by the person:

They say: “We HAVE to get together soon!”
They mean: “Goodbye! I hope I never see you again.”

They say: “Have a nice day!”
They mean: “Get lost.”

They say: “Call me!”
They mean: “I’ll totally screen your call, but feel free to call me anytime.”

They say: “Hi! How ARE you today?”
They mean: “I couldn’t care less how you’re doing, but I was taught to ask.”

They say: “I’m doing well, thanks!”
They mean: “I have a huge headache and terrible stress at work, but proper etiquette says I shouldn’t discuss those unless we’re close friends.”

They say: “We should REALLY schedule a play date for the kids!”
They mean: “Keep your brat away from my kids.”

It’s not that all interactions are like this, of course. If we’re friends, we WILL be honest with each other. But with strangers and with acquaintances, communication happens on an extremely shallow level, emotionally. This emotional detachment certainly makes life more pleasant – most will agree that getting a “have a nice day” is better than “get lost,” even if the person means “get lost.” But if you’re new to California, it might take you a while to decode this unwritten code. It took me almost ten years.:)

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