Why ‘ おげんきですか ‘ to strangers made him upset?

One day I had a question from one of my beginner’s student like ‘ Can I use おげんきですか’ to strangers in Japanese? He looked so upset, and needed my explanation.

According to him, he run into a Japanese business guy at a party, who was apparently a higher level of position.

He was lucky to have a chance to talk with native Japanese! He said ‘こんにちは。おげんきですか’ to him for a brief conversation. He expected the guy would say also ‘ こんにちは’ or something in return.

However the guy seemed upset and said ‘ You must be careful for using おげんきですか to strangers, it sometimes turns very offensive words for some people.

My student couldn’t see any reason why he got that angry, and why he was said by the guy ‘ be careful’. Because the word ‘ be careful’ in English is actually a strong suggestion word.

He tried to convince himself that maybe the guy had a health problem. Because the word おげんきですか literally means ‘are you healthy?’.

Firstly, おげんきですか( ogenki desuka ) is ‘how are you’ commonly used with people you have met before.  From that standpoint, using ‘こんにちは’ ( hello ) or ‘はじめまして’ ( nice to meet you) to strangers is a better idea because you don’t know that people yet.

Secondly for the ‘ be careful’ word which the guy used caused some miscommunication for a certain reason. Why using the word ‘ be careful’ needs to be more careful???

For more details, please check another page which explains how be careful word causes miscommunication.

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