Is Japanese Polite or Fake? Conformity and 3 Other Reasons to Form Japanese Politeness
Some say Japanese are polite. Others say they are fake.
What do you think? Why are they considered polite?
First impression is very important in Japan → Learn Don’ts Etiquette
What do Itadakimasu and Gochisosama mean? → Japanese Greetings
Is Japanese Polite?
I think Japanese is polite. And so is Canadian.
But what is politeness?
According to a dictionary, polite is the state of being socially correct and considering others’ feelings.
In Japan, there is a saying “A hedge between keeps friendship green” (shitashiki nakanimo reigi ari).
It means that even to your close friends and family, one needs to be polite and respect privacy.
The reason why Japanese is polite is due to cultural value.
It’s very important to build good relationships with colleagues and boss, for instance, so that they have to follow cultural norm.
Below are the 4 possible aspects why Japanese are considered as polite.
Japanese Have Strong Conformity
As I’ve seen people from other countries and culture, I can tell that Japanese have very strong conformity.
Conformity is very important to adapt Japanese society and Japanese learn that as children.
Peer pressure is strong in school, for instance, and children try to follow the rules to fit in.
Some grown-ups don’t insist their opinions because they are either afraid of rejection or being lazy to be “different.”
Japanese are Quiet
Some Japanese are quiet, so people might think they are polite.
Others, however, get loud and rude when they are with other individuals.
When they are alone on train, for instance, they stay quiet and don’t talk to strangers. When they are with their classmates on train, however, some talk loud and make others feel uncomfortable.
Moreover, Japanese language doesn’t require strong accent and it sounds soft.
Compared to Chinese, Korean or English, Japanese language sounds softer and it makes people think Japanese talk in a polite way.
Japanese Don’t Say “NO”
It seems that many Japanese hesitate to say “NO.”
For example, one might say YES to anything in the office because she or he is afraid of what boss would think.
“I want to get promoted so badly, so I better not to say NO…..” or
“I have a plan tonight so don’t want to work overtime. But he is my boss, so I better not argue with him…” etc…
Those who say “Yes” don’t necessarily mean they are polite, but if you compare with those that always say “NO,” impression is definitely different.
Japanese Always Say “Sorry”
After I came to Canada, I realized that Japanese apologize way too often.
Again, this relates to cultural factor.
In Japanese, “excuse me” and “sorry” are essentially the same “sumimasen.” (すみません)
This gives people impression that Japanese always apologize.
What’s Lady First? I Go First!
One thing I don’t like about Japanese is that people want to get seats and don’t give to the elderly, children or pregnant women on public transportation.
This might only happen in cities like Tokyo, but I’ve seen a lot in Tokyo.
It happens every single day.
For me it seems very rude and selfish.
I do understand they might be tired and sleepy, working all day long.
However in Canada and the US (and I believe in other countries also) people do give seats to others.
I’m neither pregnant nor too old to stay standing still, but people do offer me a seat in Canada.
I’m not saying that Japanese have to give seats to others.
I just wish they would respect others in public places.
If you’ve been to Tokyo, you might say people in Tokyo are rude and unfriendly.
But remember that many people in Tokyo are from different places in Japan (and even from outside of Japan).
Not only Tokyo but also all the cities around the world have mixture of culture, ethnicity and norm because people move and live in the cities.
To sum up, Japanese usually seem polite because they are quiet, have strong conformity, say “yes” and “sorry” all the time.
They don’t mean to be fake but Japanese politeness is due to cultural value.
I hope more Japanese go see foreign countries and see the differences and respect others.
If they stay in Japan it doesn’t give them enough opportunities to learn.
First impression is very important in Japan →Remember the Don’ts Etiquette when seeing Japanese
What do Itadakimasu and Gochisosama mean? → Meanings of Japanese Greetings
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What is politeness for you? Any questions or opinions? Feel free to leave comment below.
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