Everyone is fine, but you'd better ask anyway
“How are you?” “Fine, and you?” “Fine, and you?” Circular, yes. Optional, no. No matter how rushed you feel, do not omit the simple salutation. The greeting is perfunctory to most Malawians, who may repeat it multiple times during a single conversation or answer the question even if it is not posed (“Hi,” you say. “Fine, and you?” the Malawian responds). Whether passing on the street, chatting on the phone, entering an office, or bartering at the market, ask (and answer) away: how are you, how are you, how are you?