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I was just having an email conversation with 3 of my community advisors and they said "We love you". I found that weird?

The community advisors teach me about how to behave in America and what the culture is in America and so on. They're government employees. Two guys and a girl. The context of email is that they check on me each week how I'm doing and I'm required to respond to them. I can relay any issues, problems, concerns, questions to them and they will come and help for free. I've last few weeks left, and they told me that I was doing just great and they ended the email with "We love you!"

What do they mean? And how do I respond? Do I say "I love you too?"

Love is very personal for me as I grew up in Africa, and its reserved just to my mom, dad, sisters, and brothers.

closed as primarily opinion-based by anongoodnurse, Janus Bahs Jacquet, tchrist, RegDwigнt Oct 4 '14 at 18:24

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Full disclosure: It doesn't mean they really love you. Or if they really do, it's pretty creepy. And they will betray you in the end. – Robusto Oct 3 '14 at 18:41
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    I think that the best way to understand "we love you" in the context you provide is as meaning something comparable to "best wishes" or "kindest regards" or even "sincerely." Two crucial points are (1) the "we love you" sentence appeared at the close of a message, which is where pro forma expressions of warmth and sincerity typically appear; and (2) the pronoun used in asserting the love is "we"—a choice that I would take as meaning "our organization loves you." In the United States, though bureaucracies may in some legal respects be "people," their capacity to love remains very rudimentary. – Sven Yargs Oct 4 '14 at 0:32
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    I grew up in America and I find it weird, out of place, and completely disingenuous. Why some people find that acceptable is beyond me. – fredsbend Oct 4 '14 at 1:57
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    The word "love" is starting to be used more to mean "like a lot" rather than "have strong affection for". The word still has both meanings, but the first one is becoming more common. People are more likely to use "love" when talking about their favourite food than when in a relationship. i.e. "I love pizza" is more common than "I love my wife". Maybe it's one of the reasons why divorce is a lot more common that it used to be. In your case though, I think the people probably are either just weird or aren't very good at writing emails. – Pharap Oct 4 '14 at 5:01
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    I strongly disagree with closing this question. It's a perfectly common and unambiguous alternate usage here in America (at least in my experience it is) and just because many people have wrong opinions about it doesn't make it opinion-based. Nor is this an ELL question --it's a culturally specific regionalism that a fluent speaker from outside the relevant subgroup might easily be unfamiliar with. Nominating to reopen. – Chris Sunami Oct 5 '14 at 1:25
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Some Americans (usually younger) use love very frequently and informally, and others don't. For those that do, the word is intended to convey affection and support, similar to the use of the word love between family members, but without the same depth of emotion.

The use of we is important here, because it depersonalizes the word and makes it clear that it's being used in its lesser sense. If it were I love you, it would be likely to be interpreted more strongly.

You shouldn't feel any need to reply in kind. Even among Americans the majority of people do still reserve the word for its original meaning.

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    Well said. A good substitute reply (if you don't feel like saying "I love you too") would be something like: "Thanks, I've had a great time and I really appreciate your help." That conveys pretty much the same emotions they were expressing, but without using a word that you might not be comfortable using with them. – Justin Greer Oct 3 '14 at 18:46
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    Thanks very much for response. I'm going to say "Thanks, I've had a great time and I really appreciate your help." :) I'm not comfortable using the word "love". Maybe I get used to it with time. I've been here just a few years and there is a lot to get used to. – bodacydo Oct 3 '14 at 18:54
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    That is a good and entirely appropriate response, bodacydo. – phenry Oct 3 '14 at 20:51
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    I love you guys and the help you provide here! keep up the good work. – stephenbayer Oct 3 '14 at 22:21
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    @stephenbayer Yes, the We love you! usage is similar to both I love you guys! and I love you, man! – Chris Sunami Oct 4 '14 at 14:50
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Without knowing the full context of these "government workers" or their personalities and history, it's difficult to say what precisely they mean. Chris Sunami's answer about love as a sort of affection is probably the answer. But I want to point out another possibility.

Among some religious groups (in my experience certain kinds of Christians), there is a commandment, or at least custom, to love everyone. Therefore such people will often say that they love some person, when really what they are merely fulfilling their duty. Such "love" can take many forms, from true altruism and service to downright abuse in the name of a greater good. But essentially, when speaking, the use of the word love is a reference to the commandment.

  • For example, love thy neighbour. – skullpatrol Oct 3 '14 at 18:59
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    This is propagating misunderstanding and misconceptions using Christians as an example and then describing love as a duty to such people. You could possibly use a different religious group that isn't a near opposite of the point you are trying to convey. – stephenbayer Oct 3 '14 at 22:29
  • @stephenbayer what misconception am I propagating? That Christians are commanded to love their neighbours? – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 3 '14 at 23:10
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    @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇: I think "such people will often say that they love some person, when really what they are merely fulfilling their duty" is an error. The Christian law isn't to say you love a person when you do a duty, it is to actually care about them. It may be true that there are sometimes conflicted feelings, but that is a different thing. – Mooing Duck Oct 3 '14 at 23:15
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    @stephenbayer Ah, the old "no true Christian" argument. I'm sorry, you're not the arbiter of who is and who isn't a Christian. And I'm so happy for you that your duty to love others is so easy because you are filled with God. I'm sure nobody anywhere ever struggled with loving everyone. Nope. I guess my lifetime growing up among Christians was all imaginary. My decades spent in church and Christian school must have never happened. Oh wait, they weren't TRUE Christians. rolls eyes. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 10 '14 at 17:24
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In this context, consider "we love you" as enthusiastic approval of what you are doing or enjoyment of working with you. Most likely, whatever interaction you are having with them, they are pleased and you make the job easy for them. I would disagree that this has anything to do with actual affection or "love" in the traditional sense. It is just an expression.

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    +1 Right. Its use is similar to "I love this company, they'll let you return anything and they'll even pay for postage!" or "I love this stuff, it works great!" – Jim Oct 3 '14 at 19:50
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    If you love it so much, why don't you marry it? Look, I just really enjoy Cap'n Crunch, okay? – Justin Greer Oct 3 '14 at 20:29
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this may help.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_words_for_love

It probably refers to Agape:


Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē) means love in a "spiritual" sense. In the term s'agapo (Σ'αγαπώ), which means "I love you" in Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of "true unconditional love" rather than the attraction suggested by "eros." This love is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return. Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the "love chapter," 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as brotherly love, affection, good will, love, and benevolence. Whether the love given is returned or not, the person continues to love (even without any self-benefit). Agape is also used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one's children and the feelings for a spouse, and it was also used to refer to a love feast. It can also be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children. This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as "to will the good of another."

  • When you post a comment, it is best to post the relevant content of a link. – Andrew Oct 3 '14 at 20:40
  • Link-only answers become obsolete if the link content changes. Please add some detail to your answer. – Neeku Oct 3 '14 at 20:50
  • Wikipedia excerpted text added per Neeku's suggestion. – O.M.Y. Oct 13 '14 at 15:27
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First, a "community advisor" is not a normal job title for a government employee. Instead, there are many universities that may hire people as community advisors, especially to work with foreign students. Also the term can be used for volunteers, such as volunteers who serve on the Boards of various community organizations, including quasi-governement ones. These are generally unpaid positions but they do have a formal role in their organizations.

I suspect that these people are either:

1) community advisors hired by a university that you attend and may have some responsibilities to check up on you that is required by the government (since you may receive some government educational benefits for your tuition and fees), or

2) community advisors which are volunteers and probably connected to a Christian organization but which may have some responsibilities for you mandated by the governement (if, for instance, their organization helped sponsor your visa or something similar). This category would also include volunteer community advisors that some universities may possibly use instead of hiring professional ones.

In any case, they probably don't work directly for the government (are not governement employees) but may have some government responsibilities that they are required to fulfill.

The use of "we love you" at the end of an e-mail would be very unusual for a group of government employees or even from a group of university employees. Hovever, if these are, in fact, volunteers from a Christian organization then that phrase makes sense.

Christian organizations teach that all people should "love one another", that all people are children of the same God and therefore brothers and sisters. So Christians try to express that idea by saying "we love you" to people that they really don't know that well. Probably these people knew you were far from your own family and close friends and were trying to make you feel not so lonely here. Of course, their approach was not well chosen and in fact made you feel uncomfortable, but I think their intention was to make you feel better, not worse.

It seems like a really nice thing that they are trying to do for you, to give you some people that are available to help you with questions and understanding American culture. But I think the whole idea of teaching someone "how to behave in America and what the culture is in America" is a little presumptuous. The fact is that there are MANY cultures in America because Americans come from every culture. And each person needs to decide for himself how to behave. There is not only one answer. People in America are free to decide how they want to behave. (There are a few behavior choices that might get you thrown into jail but even some of these may not necessarily be wrong, just illegal, and Americans have a long history of people willing to risk being thrown into jail to do what they believe is right.) So, these people deserve some respect for being willing to help you out, but in the end you need to make your own choices. Maybe you'll agree with what they suggest. Maybe you won't. Maybe you will on some things but not others.

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Was this email in english? If not then maybe it is a translation issue. Americans generally feel much the same as you do about saying "I love you." It is usually is only for family & your partner or very close friends.

  • This may be true in general, but there are many Americans who do use love more trivially. – Chris Sunami Oct 4 '14 at 14:47
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I love my family, I love my friends, I love my cats, I love ice cream cones... The word "love" can mean anything from "I'm enthusiastically saying I mildly like it" to "I can't live without it", depending on context.

After I answered a technical question on a forum somewhat similar to Stack Exchange, I got a note saying "I've been fighting with that all week, and you just solved it for me. I don't even know you, but I love you!" This was simply hyperbole (exaggeration for effect); all she was really saying was "thanks", but doing so in an amusing way. I'm sure this would have completely confused someone who didn't understand the context in which it was written.

So without seeing how the letter was written, I really can't tell whether they intended it to be taken literally (unlikely), or if it was just a sloppy way of saying "We love your letters; they're fun to read."

(There's also the problem that "I love you" and "I'm in love with you" can be very different statements, at least as I have always used them. I'm not sure I can adequately describe the difference in a way that will satisfy the local pickers of nits.)

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@bodacydo: The short answer to your question is the American use of the phrase "we love you" in in a context such as you have described would typically be an expression meaning "we support your efforts and wish you well". As others have noted this phrase is also very common in Christian communities. It refers to the "family" kind of love as between "brothers and sisters in Christ". If you are being sponsored in some way by a Christian college (which would be non-government) this letter and the community advisers you have described are very believable. Even so, a Christian source does not significantly change my answer, the phrase still signifies support and goodwill.

... BUT ...

SOURCE FOR THE FOLLOWING IS PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. I used to work for a high-level job placement organization and functioned as its CEO for a number of years. Some of our client members were foreign persons with specialized job skills seeking resident alien employment.

REASONS THIS PHRASE IS NOT LIKELY TO BE USED BY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES:

  1. Phrases like "We love you" or "God bless you" are common in America but would never be used by an American government employee. Such phrases in a government job would be considered unprofessional (or even possibly illegal in some situations) and could lead to the loss of a job. The exception to that rule is for elected politicians who may choose to use such phrases precisely because they are trying to NOT sound like government employees in order to win votes.

  2. "Community Advisor" simply is not an official title used for civil government jobs in America. Just to be sure I double-checked some public government job databases and found nothing with that title & job description.

As far as I know the only time it was a government title was as part of a special government program in former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1960's and 1970's. Then it was kind of like a Peace Corp job where they helped promote and teach skills for self-reliance in local areas.

Furthermore, it is rare indeed to find ANY government job where three people with the same job would be assigned to the same case/person. That would be considered a waste of taxpayer dollars. Far more common is one employee overloaded with more cases than they can possibly handle.

  1. Community Advisor is an American military job title with a function very similar to the academic job "Resident Advisor" but neither of these jobs is even close in function to what you describe (the job deals with base/campus housing issues).

  2. Community Advisor is a common job title for employees or volunteers in university and other academic settings and would include some functions similar to what you have described. That job is about helping students to "fit in" and to "understand" the college community. If this is the case their emails domains very likely end with ".edu"

NOTE: Some universities and colleges are "public" or taxpayer funded so in a technical sense employees of the college have job salaries paid for (in part) by the government but that is not the same as being a government employee.


Having answered the question, I am very VERY VERY concerned about who these so called "community advisors" are. They may be good people (or they may not) but I definitely do NOT believe these community advisors are American government employees for the several reasons listed above.

One EASY way to know for sure is: What is their email address?

  • All U.S. government employees have email domains ending with ".gov" (or ".us" in rare cases) ... if they end with ".com", ".org", ".net", or ".edu" then they are NOT government employees. Any of the new top-level domains (like ".biz") would also be non-government. Any 2-letter top-level domain (aka "country code") that is not ".us" is definitely not American.

Another test (but less reliable) is: Have you been asked to send any money?

  • Government programs related to immigration typically require financial transactions to be in-person at local government offices like embassies. The US government does not use the internet or electronic fund transfers for such things these days. If you have been asked to send money without going through the U.S. embassy I would be a little concerned.

Finally, if the "We love you" came from a Christian group please note that Christian groups often do very good things but be aware that any advise on "How to behave" from their viewpoint will be narrowly tailored to fit their desire to have more people be more like them. Not all Americans are the same. You would be wise to find other viewpoints to get a more accurate perspective on life in America. Maybe StackExchange has a board for that, I don't know. Also do some web searches on "culture-shock" and "reverse-culture-shock".

-- Love, O.M.Y. ("Love" meaning good luck with your efforts to understand American society)

  • No idea why you got downvoted. It seems to me you gave a lot of good, common sense advice. – Mari-Lou A Oct 4 '14 at 11:56
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    @Mari-LouA The advice may be well-meaning, but the portion of the post that answers the question duplicates other answers, and the majority of the post has nothing to do with the specific English language usage question being asked. – Chris Sunami Oct 4 '14 at 14:45
  • @ChrisSunami: Is answer content that's putting the language in cultural context off-topic for this site? I felt this answer went a bit overboard on that, but in general it seems like a very reasonable thing to do. – R.. Oct 4 '14 at 15:00
  • Also, giving the types of answers it's receiving and OP's search for a culturally appropriate way to respond from a presumably non-native-speaker position, is it possible that this question would be more appropriate on ELL than English.SE? – R.. Oct 4 '14 at 15:01
  • I myself was dubious on how to best answer this question but language does not live in a vacuum separate from the society that uses it. It would be (IMHO) grossly negligent to answer the OP's question without clarifying his understanding of the context & source of the phrase. Imagine for example if the OP was to walk away from this thread with the concept that "I love you" was (A) synonymous with "I appreciate you" and (B) was in common usage by government. The OP might decide that it would be good English to end every correspondence with government officials by saying "I love you". – O.M.Y. Oct 5 '14 at 15:21
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In this kind of work context, "we love you" means, 1) "You're doing a great job," and 2) "you're getting along great" It does not mean love in the usual, "social" sense of the word.

In order to "get along great," the appropriate response is "Thank you" (for the compliment).

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