The first culture difference that many Japanese find in America is their greeting customs. Although the greeting is one of the simplest human communications, both countries have different methods of greeting each other. Three differences include introduction, self-introduction, and departure. In addition, the main reason for the difference is that Americans use verbal greetings and the Japanese use nonverbal greetings.
First, the order of introduction in the U.S. is the reverse of the Japanese way. In America, generally elderly people are introduced first. For example, one of my friends invited me to his house, and he introduced his father first, then his mother, his older brother, and his young sister. After that he introduced me to his family. In contrast, the traditional rule is the opposite in Japan. In other words, young people have to be introduced first in Japan. This rule is the sort of manner in Japan, and the people who do not follow this regulation are considered rude.
The methodology of self-introduction varies between America and Japan. Americans prefer the inductive method that brings out general idea from concrete; therefore, they are apt to talk about their privacy first. Almost all American students talk about their family or themselves. For instance, a woman who is a student at St. Cloud State University talked about her Iowa State and her family who are farmers. Then she said that "The crops are mainly potatoes, and my family likes potatoes." Finally, she said that her family is a German line. In contrast, Japanese prefer a deductive method. In other words, Japanese people are likely to talk about where they belong to. For example, the typical Japanese person first talks about his university or his major, then what kind of club they belong to. Finally they usually talk about hobbies or an event that happened recently.
Departures in the American and the Japanese cultures depend on whether people are close or not. Americans just say "bye." Nevertheless if the conditions differ, this departure changes completely in America. In fact, one of my American friends gives a hug or kiss to her family when they leave. In contrast, unlike Americans, who just say "goodbye," generally Japanese make a shallow bow and look back two or three times with their waving hand. Due to the different farewell, every Japanese person who is in America is surprised when they get a hug from an American friend, and they feel Americans are emotional or sentimental. On the contrary, they feel empty and passionless when many Americans say "bye" and just walk away.
Many reason for the differences in greetings are the verbal in America and nonverbal in Japan. Generally Americans are apt to use the verbal, so Americans always say "Hi" or "How are you?" Even people who are strangers say "How is it going?" Due to inexperience with this greeting, first, most Japanese people who come to America are confused whether they should respond or not. As a result, they think Americans are friendly, refreshing, or sociable. However, Japanese people tend to use nonverbal language. Many Japanese just make a bow with a smile indicating respect. Usually, young people have to make a deep bow for their superiors. In addition, not only gesture but also voice and countenance are very significant. Consequently, every American who is in Japan feels uncomfortable at first because they are not used to Japanese customs.
In conclusion, even the simplest communication is quite different because of culture. The first impression of the greeting is very important because some people distinguish whether this person is good or not. In other words, people who live in other countries have to obey a method of greeting in each country.
This magazine is produced by the Write Place and is funded through a St. Cloud State University (St. Cloud, Minnesota) Cultural Diversity Committee allocation.
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