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Introductions, Thank-yous, and Excuse Mes. . .

 When you meet someone new for the first time, establish eye contact, shake hands firmly, and exchange correct verbal salutations.

A somewhat shorter post today.  I'm simply worn out after yesterday's marathon writing, proofreading, and editing sessions.  Almost 11am here, and so time for the first scotch and water of the day I think. . .  Joking, joking!  Only joking.  We wait until at least Noon on Sundays here at Stollen Central before the process of knocking 'em back starts in earnest.  In the meantime, let's briefly talk about introductions, thank-yous, and excuse mes, three areas of social interaction and exchange that too many average guys (and people in general) get wrong in the 21st century.

Where introductions are concerned, the correct thing to say when you meet someone for the first time, and hopefully shake his or her hand firmly is, "How do you do?"  Please, please, please do not use the ubiquitous "Nice to meet you" or the even more dreadfully common "S'up?"  To say that informal forms of address like these, and other similar ones, are overused in an understatement of the highest degree.  And don't you dare lapse thoughtlessly into the completely informal and totally inappropriate "Hey!", which now seems to be cropping up everywhere, even in more formal situations.  

If you are in Sweden, then sure, "Hej!" (pronounced almost the same way as our English word) might work although Swedish retains a more formal introductory form of address too, and if you're going to find yourself in Sweden or those parts of Finland where the language is still spoken, then it's a good idea to find out about Swedes' preferred forms of introduction and address in formal and informal settings.  But in the English-speaking world, remember that "How do you do?" still holds sway in formal and first-time meetings with people.  When you are meeting someone again, or getting together with an old friend or acquaintance, who you see fairly often, then the less formal "Good to see you!  How are you?"  might suffice.

What about thank-yous?  As far as these go, the correct response when someone thanks you for a courtesy, favor, assistance, or service rendered is "You're welcome."  An average guy who is concerned about kicking up his everyday style a few notches and standing out from the sloppy herd will not, under any circumstances, mumble the overused and incorrect "No problem," which always comes across as though it is an afterthought and seems to suggest that helping the person in question was somehow a huge imposition.  Know what I mean?  

I'm sure you've encountered it so many times already that you probably don't notice it.  The cashier or barista who was too busy talking to his or her co-worker to look at you as you handed over your payment.  That does not excuse "No problem" or mean it's anything approaching polite.  Newsflash!  If you are behind a counter or working the floor in any kind of retail establishment, restaurants and cafes included, customer service is part of your job, so of course it's not a problem to assist someone.  If it really and truly is a hardship of some kind for you, then you ought to be in a different line of work .  Otherwise, the correct response to "Thank you" is "You're welcome."

That brings something else to mind.  When someone says "Excuse me" as you brush past each other in a doorway or elevator, the correct reply is "Excuse me."  What you will hear instead much more often these days is a weak "Sorry," which now has to be one of the most overused words in the English language besides "love."  When certain words become such incredibly common currency, they cease to have any meaning attached to them at all.  Most of the time.  It's just an inconsequential sound we utter.  A stupid-sounding, shallow platitude.  And when there is any smidgeon of genuine sincerity behind a word as overused as "sorry" has become, how in the world is the other person in the exchange suddenly supposed to know that you are, in fact, truly apologetic?  

It's probably best in situations like going through doorways, bumping into people, and using elevators or escalators simply to allow the person in front of you to go ahead instead of schmunching yourself right in there with everyone else as though you are crowding onto the subway in New York City, the London Underground, Paris Metro, or a Tokyo bullet train at peak commuting hours.  When you absolutely cannot avoid those kinds of cheek-by-jowl situations, and you schimply musht schmunch together with your fellow humans, some of whom will most definitely be part of the great unwashed, then the correct and best response to "Excuse me" is simply another "Excuse me" before you continue about your business.  

Now, please excuse my intrusion on your Sunday morning.  Do forgive me.  In the fine tradition established many years ago by my lapsed Episcopalian, Baptist, and Methodist forbears from North Carolina and Georgia, I've got a scotch and water to mix.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

And it's not "No problem" in reply to someone's "Thank you." 


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