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Bowing

So you have mastered the pronunciation of "Ohayo"? Now you know my handle "Kiyo" is not like "Key! Oh!", but more like "Key! Yo!" OK everyone, repeat after....

As you may know, the common way of greeting in Japan is bowing, or ojigi in Japanese. We bow very often in various situations, consciously or unconsciously. The way you bow means a lot. In fact, quite a few companies give their new employees special training for proper bowing. Some ojigi "specialists" bow even when talking on the phone! Bowing in Japan is an art to be pursued. I'm, uh, well, kinda, serious.

I often see on TV that Japanese travelers often bow to the persons they meet for the first time in other countries. How would you feel or react if a Japanese visitor bowed to you?

Comments

We have a program at the univ. where companies like Toshiba or Samsung can send an engineer to conduct research at the univ for a year. Most of them (all of the ones I've met) are from Japan and when they meet you for the first time, they don't do a full bow. They kind of nod their head which causes me to do the same and then it goes back and forth a couple of times. Or when they thank you or you are thanking them- it becomes a little head-nodding match. I wonder if it's because I'm Taiwanese and bowing is sort of a tradition in Taiwan (although it's sort of fazing out)...

When bowing, Japanese people expect you to bow back to them (Is it the case in Taiwan too?), and if you do, they can't resist bowing back as a courtesy, which will lead to the head-nodding match! :)

This is another area of communication which is very confusing because everyone is trying to be international. I try to bow. The Japanese person tries to shake my hand. Then we each try to respond to the other person. If we actually manage to shake hands while bowing, there's the danger of bonking our heads together.

Oh, I'd forgotten this until just this second. When the new school year began, the ichinensei students had to go through about an hour drill for learning to bow. Our private school was very old-fashioned and run by a very strict family. Not only the teachers, but the older students, watched the new students very carefully to ensure that they knew the proper way to bow to the director. Of course, the older students purposely became sloppy in their bowing, to demonstrate that age has its priveleges.

I admire the tradition of bowing to greet people. The practice of shaking hands is so utterly gross if you think about it too long.

I also learned somewhere that in Japan, if you're going to hand someone your business card, you hold a top corner in each hand, with the card facing the person you're giving it to. Then, you bow while handing the card to them. The other person should then receive the card with both hands while bowing as well.

In my experience, business cards are tossed across conference tables, handed carelessly to each other and dropped on the floor, etc. Quite a contrast.

Bowing is a fine tradition, but I honestly can't see how shaking hands could be considered gross! (I know you were being somewhat tongue-in-cheek...)

But I think shaking hands is quite a nice way to greet as well, especially since you make some physical contact, which is non-threatening, building familiarity...

One point on bowing though -- I hate it when people in Japan get into the habit of what they call 'pekopeko', or bowing their head repeatedly like a chicken... Some people have so little self-confidence, you start to feel really bad for them... ':(