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      Japanese Etiquette - Bowing & Body Language

Much communication with Japanese is non-verbal.   Be sensitive to the messages  you are sending out through your body language.

Sitting & Standing Etiquette in Japan

  • When speaking with someone, do not leave hands in pockets.
  • Do not stand with legs crossed over the other.
  • Do not lean against a wall or door.
  • Do not sit with the ankle over the knee. 
  • May sit with legs Crossed at the ankles or knees.
  • Do not stick legs out in front of you - chair or tatami.
  • Do not sit in a way that shows the soles of your shoes.
  • Sit on the edge of a chair or sofa to show respect. 
  • Leaning back in a chair shows familiarity.
  • When sitting on tatami, first start out sitting on your legs and then shift into a less formal position.  Women may tuck their legs to one side, but not sit cross-legged (acceptable for men).


Distance & Touching Etiquette in Japan

  • The Japanese like more space between themselves than others. Bowing too close to each other could be dangerous!
  • Touching is also taboo in Japan.  The American pat on the back or arm around the shoulder is to be avoided. 
  • Rarely is kissing accepted as a greeting.  Some Japanese with extensive European experience will be familiar with this form of greeting.
  • Bowing is the common greeting in Japan, however, the handshake is becoming more popular, particularly among those who work with international guests and clients and among young people.

Emotions & Communication in Japan

  • When is a smile not a smile?  The Japanese smile to communicate various emotions: anger, embarrassment, sadness, and disappointment.  Interpretation depends on context.
  • Eye contact is thought of as rude in Japan. They will often look down at their shoes or off in the air. Take care to not stare.
  • Silence in Japan is golden and is often used as a negotiating strategy.  Do not be tempted to jump in and fill the silence.

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