One of many cultural differences I've been warned about is that, when you ask a Czech person "How are you?", they think you actually want to know how they are, and vice versa. From what I've been told, the same holds in Russian. Hearing this, I've always wondered why the questions "How are you?" or "How's it going?" are little more than formalities in the United States. Not always, of course, but we usually don't ask these questions expecting a sincere dialogue about a person's physical or mental health.
Maybe we use the question to establish a pseudo-closeness with our acquaintances? To have something to say other than just "Hey" or "Hello"? Perhaps, after we ask someone "How are you?" enough times, we actually start to mean it? After all, I often say "How's it going?" automatically when I see someone I know only casually, but I also genuinely mean it when I ask my friends or family.
I wonder what would happen if everyone just started answering honestly when asked "How are you?" Would it make things "too real?" Cause social pandemonium? Bring people closer? Sounds like a good experiment...Let me know what you think!