Funny Ways to React to Random “HELLO”s

February 7, 2011

On a lighter note, I thought I’d throw out a few ideas to expats living in Asia who have gotten used to little kids and grown men shouting “hello!” from a distance, apparently oblivious that almost any tourist or working foreigner would understand the most basic word in the local language. I’ve blogged on this before; it’s worth noting that I’ve received quite a few more local language greetings in Korea than I EVER did in Japan. But for those foreigners who want to make a statement (or just poke fun at the situation), try these responses on for size:

1. 외국인… 한국인!

Literally “foreigner… Korean!” You can change the language as needed. Often times in my travels when inserting myself into a new environment (e.g. running in the countryside), I have the fortune of hearing Koreans mutter “외국인!” under their breath or shout for others to hear. On one occasion, as I was running past a house, I heard a group of teenage girls squeal “외국인!” with apparent delight; wasting not a moment, I looked straight at them with equal surprise and shouted “한국인!” Their laughing buoyed my spirits for the rest of the day.

2. Where’s the foreigner?

I haven’t had the chance to try out this one, as it requires an expat, a local, and a “foreigner” from another Asian nation (e.g. a Japanese and an American visiting or living in South Korea). If the Japanese, even as a visitor, were to call attention to the fact that there were so many foreigners in Seoul (well… duh), I’d be right there, pointing out that we would both be the 外人.

3. The mirror

Respond with an equal amount of volume and energy. If a kid starts jumping up and down screaming “hello!” at the top of his lungs, you should reciprocate in full. Ideally, this should show them the ridiculousness of their approach… but usually, kids enjoy the attention, and want more.

4. Opposite day

I do this with my students because I want to show them I’m capable of fooling around. When some of them say “hello Turner teacher!” I respond “goodbye ____ student!” Most of them have picked it up as a running gag, and as every last EFL student in the world knows the difference between hello and goodbye, I don’t see the harm to their language skills.

5. Running gag

This is actually a bit cruel, and shouldn’t be attempted unless you’re sure the receivers will understand your intentions, or you already know them as friends or students. Let’s say you’re walking or running past a group of kids playing soccer, only to have them shout “hello” in the customary fashion. Not only that, but their ball goes out of play, and right under your feet. What do you do? Well, if you’re a runner like me, you snatch their ball and start running in circles around them, saying “hello” to each kid as you pass. I haven’t actually tried this, but I think my higher-level students would get a kick out of it.

6. Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty Hi!

This only works for girls, but my students have always had a small chuckle when I try it out. If someone greets you with an absurdly loud “HELLO!” and she happens to be wearing Hello Kitty paraphernalia, by all means, respond with a crystal clear “HELLO KITTY!”

“Goodbye kitty” is also acceptable.

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