Are You Alright?

When people greet each other here they often say, “Are you alright?” I know they say this in the States too. But, in the States it usually sounds like, “You alright?”

The “are” in the beginning of the question really changes the meaning for me. “You alright?” is a causal greeting like, “What’s up?” or “How you doing?” but “Are you alright?” seems like a sincere query about my well-being to me. I still feel confused whenever anyone asks me, “Are you alright?” I start wondering if I look like there’s something wrong. I take a moment to assess my situation. Am I hungry, tired, sick, poor? They don’t want to hear about any of that so I usually just say “Yeah,” in after a pause that took a little longer than it should’ve. I’m usually so confused that I forget to ask the question back to the person in turn. They’re probably thinking, What’s with the crazy American who can’t seem to answer a simple question?