One of the first things newcomers to America notice is how people greet them at various places. Russian immigrants (I don't know about other cultures) are especially surprised that complete strangers care to ask, "How are you doing? or "How is it going?"
These immigrants come from a country where the burdens of communism and capitalism free industries did not require a smile or a greeting in order to sell something. Often times, the salespeople and the government workers were the rudest people. They were bad at faking it. If you ever go to Russia, you will notice that strangers do not smile or greet each other. The only people they ask the question "How you are doing?" are the people they know well and are prepared to hear you out and respond.
Now that Russia became a capitalistic country and and people have privatized government-owned businesses, a competition has been created and store clerks started acknowledging their clients if only with a smile and "how may I help you". They do not ask"How do you do?" Why? Because they don't give a care nor do most people in America that use that phrase as their greeting. It bugs me that they still ask because the only thing they expect back is "Fine." They become nervous and change the topic if someone answers otherwise as they did not plan to spend the time listening to someone's woes.
Yesterday, right before my class began, the teacher for some reason felt like asking, "So, how are your children doing?" I forgot that she really does not give a care and instead of answering "Fine", I said that they've been sick. Without making eye contact, she responded with a short, "Oh.." and continued writing something. I murmured a few more sentences and got no response. She was busy. The class was about to begin. So why ask then?
Americans, please explain something to me. If you don't give a care, why use this sentence as your greeting? Why doesn't a simple, "hello" suffice? And be honest, when you do ask a stranger this question, do you really want to know the answer?