When Do I Bow?

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When Do I Bow?

Postby bdorrance » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:11 pm

I appreciate the Japanese sense of decorum and good manners, but I'm a bit confused about bowing. When is it expected, and is one person supposed to bow lower than the other as a sign of deference? Can you give a brief summary of this custom and its proper usage?

Thanks,
Brad
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Re: When Do I Bow?

Postby Mrgantys11 » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:03 pm

Are you asking because you are visiting Japan and want to know when to bow, or are you asking out of curiousity for the right answer?

I usually see people bowing for hello and goodbye. Also for apologies. Of course, if someone bows to you, you should bow back.

Most casual bows are short, quick, often only brief head nods.

Since you are a foreigner are exempt from these rules anyways, unless you go to some really backwoods place, or you meet someone who doesn't like foreigners.

This is only a partial answer, I apologize for that.

http://gojapan.about.com/cs/etiquettein ... bowing.htm
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Re: When Do I Bow?

Postby bdorrance » Sun Feb 21, 2010 12:09 pm

Thanks for the response. My request was more curious than anything else. It may be a while, but I'm hoping to travel to Japan - preferably as far from Tokyo as possible - to teach English. My preference would be working with executives and business people, teaching English.

So two contexts:

1. Preferably living in a smaller city, perhaps in Hokkaido or southern Kyushu.
2. Teaching English to wealthy adults, likely men.

Thanks for satisfying my curiousity.
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Re: When Do I Bow?

Postby kaleb_zero » Sun Feb 21, 2010 12:46 pm

As a foreigner you usually don't have to worry about this but Japanese may be impressed if you follow the custom properly.
One big no-no I'd like to mention that I see a lot of Westerners do is bowing while keeping their face facing forward or even maintaining eye contact.. It's best when bowing to be looking right at the floor beneath you, not at the other person or their shoes or anything.

PS - I've been around different parts of Japan, and unless you've been you shouldn't assume Tokyo is all that bad. It's very very different from a big city in Canada in a lot of ways. Definately need to visit it, even if you don't intend to live there.
Catch up with all things Japan-related at my new blog/website http://www.sakurabranch.com
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Re: When Do I Bow?

Postby Mrgantys11 » Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:49 pm

Fukuouka is pretty nice, been there once. So has Kaleb apparently! Its one of the major cities in Kyushu.
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Re: When Do I Bow?

Postby Gar » Fri Mar 19, 2010 4:14 pm

In my current job I occasionally deal with native Japanese and while most of the younger ones (20-40's) seem well prepared to deal with you and your mistakes the older ones are another story.

This small business group of older Japanese had to wait while their translator ran off for one reason or another so I thought I'd chime in to let them know someone in the area could speak the language (and to get some of the "WOW THE HORSE CAN DO MATH PROBLEMS!!" type of reaction that some Japanese have when you talk to them). The next thing I knew, was that they had problems and I was the only one who could help them. They initially seemed tolerant of me floundering through their language and once everyone was done two of them waited for an awkward second or two then looked horribly shocked about something and quickly walked off. About 10 minutes later I realized I FORGOT TO BOW.

Should I have? I am sure they knew we don't do that here in corndog USA. So this experience was less than positive but at least i learned that I may better understand what did or didn't happen here if I bow repeatedly the next time.
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Re: When Do I Bow?

Postby Quemaqua » Sat Mar 20, 2010 12:02 pm

Gar wrote:"WOW THE HORSE CAN DO MATH PROBLEMS!!"


Haha, thanks, I got a kick out of that.

Good story, though. The younger generations definitely seem more tolerant in general, with virtually everything.
<insert something funny in Japanese here>
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Re: When Do I Bow?

Postby Darraghh » Fri Apr 23, 2010 5:34 pm

just got back from my first trip to Japan. I just bowed back when people bowed and made sure I showed respect to anyone who seemed older than myself or of 'higher' social stature, like a doctor i briefly coversed with. We really have pretty much the same rules here in the west...it's called courtesy and good manners.
I was shouted at by aclerk in a JR ticket office in Kyoto...I think because I started asking my question about train times before he'd finished closing his copy book. He was younger than me and I was the customer...so I don't think I'd offended any Japanese cultural sensitivities....I think he was just an a%@ho&^!!
I don't think you need to worry too much about the bowing thing!

Regards Darraghh
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