How to say hello

For a long time I’ve struggled to understand how to make conversations work on the telephone with my British colleagues.  At first I was a little taken aback by their seeming abruptness and speed with which they ‘got down to business’ (now there’s an idiom which doesn’t translate well!).  So I tried to ape this and simply stated my name, then asked them the questions.  Most took it well however some seemed taken aback (another idiom).  Finally I’ve noticed that they ask each other very briefly ‘how are you’ (another idiom) then almost in the same breath state the reason for the call.  I’ve now started following suit – when I remember – and conversations are flowing better now.  Then, of course, I spoke to my south African relatives and the whole rigmarole started again…

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