Culture Note: Greetings and Bowing in Japanese

Aisatsu to Ojigi (Greetings and Bowing)

Japanese people greet each other by bowing, which has many other functions, such as expressing respect, gratitude, or apologies. There are different ways of bowing, ranging from a small and nod of the head to a 45-degree bend at the waist. Generally, the longer and the deeper you bow, the more formal and respectful it appears to others. 

Many Japanese tend to feel uncomfortable with physical contact, although handshaking is becoming quite common in business situations, especially those involving foreigners. When meeting someone in a business situation for the first time, it is customary to exchange meeshi (business card) with a small bow. Etiquette guides list a vast number of rules and pointers, but just remember that the important thing is to clearly show your respect when exchanging meeshi.

This is a cultural note from Genki 1 page 37. It is very important to know how to greet properly in Japanese culture. It is part of the business etiquette, and so if you plan to work for a Japanese company. Japanese people tend to feel uncomfortable with physical contact, but it is true to hand shaking is becoming more of the norm especially when they greet business partners from foreign countries but Japanese people may find it uncomfortable and even feel offended if you try to shake hands as a subordinate.


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