Bowing and the Japanese

Bowing and the Japanese

So today I went to a little Japanese restaurant to fulfill a sushi craving I've had during my lunch hour. Damn good lunch, by the way--they had bluefin tuna in today. Outstanding stuff.

At any rate, after having my lunch and paying, I grabbed my book and started to head out, and what appeared to be the manager (or perhaps the owner), an older japanese man, said goodbye and thank you and then bowed very deeply to me--more than just the subtle head nod I sometimes see at my local Japanese place by my house.

Now as it is, I'm conscious of the fact that its supposedly a respectful thing to bow your head in the Japanese culture when thanking someone, and have to restrain myself not to do it automatically when thanking someone who is clearly Japanese. So when this guy bowed really far down, I kinda nodded back and thanked him again and made for the door.

Can anyone out there fill me in on this? What's the deal? Am I supposed to bow? Will it seem like a mockery if I do? Is there a particular way to do it or set of circumstances around it I should be aware of? There's nothing that makes me feel more awkward and ignorant than not understanding someone else's culture. I figure at worst case Durf and PLF should be able to fill me in here.
 

toader

Banned
You should start a bow-off.

Like they do in the movies....just keep bowing back and forth at each other.

Nothings funner than a bow-off. Its like a Asian version of a stare-down I assume.
 

~Kazama Fury~

Diabloii.Net Member
The way I look at is this...

If you bow back and was really sincere about it (and looked sincere), then there is no problem. It would actually look better because the owner or manager would take it in a great form of respect.

Now if you just bow down and have no idea what you're doing, it might be clear to him, so that might not look so well. Fact is, you knew what the bow was about, so I say, should have gone for it.

The way you acted was fine as well, I am sure he would understand.
 
I am of no assistance to your query, DC, but I will say that I think bowing is cool. I find that when I meet people, usually in a business capacity, I subconsciously bow very slightly and respectfully while I greet them, then reach out to shake hands and mumble some platitudes.
I find it to be a very respectful and honorable gesture.
 
i think you did the right thing by doing a small, nodding type of bow.

i would say just bend your neck over mainly, and a slight bend in the waist.
 

LunarSolaris

Diabloii.Net Member
When I read you post DC, I said to myself "this has nothing to do with Japanese and bowling"... then I went back and re-read your thread title.

:eek:
 

TurbulentTurtle

Diabloii.Net Member
I can see why you wouldn't want to just bow, because it might be a pretty rude thing to do, since you don't understand the culture and it's customs, and you wouldn't want to upset the owner.

The way you acted was probably what I would do. A smile and a good head nod is pretty good.
 

Garbad_the_Weak

Diabloii.Net Member
MixedVariety said:
I find that when I meet people, usually in a business capacity, I subconsciously bow very slightly and respectfully while I greet them
I also do this.

Beats the hell out of shaking hands. Anyone who has watched men in a public restroom knows why.

Garbad
 

Spawn of God

Diabloii.Net Member
u probably did the right thing by nodding ur head...
in a way off topic: i heard from a very reliable source that the reason japanese people bow is because in japan there are so many people around that they take personal space seriously, so instead of violating each others person space by shaking hands, they will bow instead. i dunno if this info is right, but it makes sense.
 

~Kazama Fury~

Diabloii.Net Member
LunarSolaris said:
When I read you post DC, I said to myself "this has nothing to do with Japanese and bowling"... then I went back and re-read your thread title.

:eek:
lmao, I was too embarassed to say it, but since someone did, I'll say it too.
I was thinking, is this one of those raffster's threads with random ideas? This time we're talking about bowling and the Japanese?

(yes for some reason, I 'misread' the thread creator's name)
 

DurfBarian

Diabloii.Net Member
If the bow seemed deeper than usual to you, maybe it's because the guy recognized you as a repeat customer and wanted to show his thanks for that. Or maybe you accidentally tipped a hundred-dollar bill instead of a five.

In any case, the service-customer relationship in Japan places the customer on top, so you don't need to bow nearly as deeply as he did. If the guy was thanking you in a more formal sense than usual--not "thanks for coming in today" but "thanks for your patronage lo these many years"--then it's appropriate to bow a bit deeper from the waist and tell him you always enjoy the food or something. "Itsumo arigatô" is a nice short way to say that (thank you always). Of course, from what I've seen of sushi joints in North America the dude could very well be Korean. :teeth:

Normal customer bow: dip head slightly, smile
"Special occasion" customer bow: turn slightly to face guy if you aren't already and bow a bit from the waist
 

raffster

Diabloii.Net Member
DurfBarian said:
In any case, the service-customer relationship in Japan places the customer on top, so you don't need to bow nearly as deeply as he did. If the guy was thanking you in a more formal sense than usual--not "thanks for coming in today" but "thanks for your patronage lo these many years"--then it's appropriate to bow a bit deeper from the waist and tell him you always enjoy the food or something. "Itsumo arigatô" is a nice short way to say that (thank you always). Of course, from what I've seen of sushi joints in North America the dude could very well be Korean. :teeth:
Whatever you do never say "baka" or "baka neh" pronounced as (ba as in "bar", ka as in "ca" of car, neh as in "net" with a longer "e") because when you see him again he will either be in a samurai or ninja outfit ready to slice you up.
 
Thanks Durf, that's what I was looking for. I'm positive he was Japanese--I can almost always tell the difference, and I heard him speaking Japanese.

I gather I also shouldn't say anything like "kare-wa okama desu" or "shi-neh!" "Watashi-wa gai-jin desu" is helpful if I'm ever in Japan and need to let someone in on the secret that I'm not Japanese, though. A fun one for when you drop something on your foot is "kso-tareh!"

See, I know the basics. I call that "I knew a Japanese kid in 6th grade and learned the fun stuff" Japanese.
 

raffster

Diabloii.Net Member
DrunkCajun said:
I gather I also shouldn't say anything like "kare-wa okama desu" or "shi-neh!" "Watashi-wa gai-jin desu" is helpful if I'm ever in Japan and need to let someone in on the secret that I'm not Japanese, though. A fun one for when you drop something on your foot is "kso-tareh!"
Haha that's funny. My Japanese buddy in Jiu-Jitsu class always shakes his head in disbelief when I think some of the guys in our dojo is okama when they are in the shower somehow staring at each other.

Five years here in the US I still feel like a gai-jin. New York culture is very hard to adjust to when 90% of the people are blatantly rude.
 

Pierrot le Fou

Diabloii.Net Member
A slight head nod means that he will commit seppuku in the back for not being a good enough waiter for you.

Or what Durf said.

More likely what he said the more I think about it. Sushi chefs like putting knives in the guts of fish -- not their own guts.
 

garublador

Diabloii.Net Member
If you're in America most people who follow Japanese customs who live here will recognize that bowing is not an American custom and won't be offended if you do it "wrong." Most people will subcousiously give a little head nod of a bow in a situation like that and I doubt it would offend anyone.
 

Necrolestes

Diabloii.Net Member
Bobbleheads

I always prefer to nod my head when greeting someone rather than shake hands (I feel a hand shake is actually more appropriate when you meet someone for the second time...you can't go wrong with a head nod). If the situation called for it, I could go into a deep bow but so far, no situation has required that.
 

maccool

Diabloii.Net Member
To honor arena rock and the glory that is Styx, I would have said, "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto."

Then I would have busted out the extreme vocal stylings of Dennis DeYoung. NB: the song, "Babe" never happened.
 
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