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Learning to Bow

The traditional Japanese greeting is bowing. Shaking hands is uncommon among the Japanese, but western ways are making their way into the culture. I observed from my first trip to Japan that the conductors on the train bow when leaving and exiting the cars. 

There are even rules to bowing:

* Bowing can range from a nod of the head to a long, 90 degree bow.

* If the greeting takes place on a tatami floor people get on their knees to bow.

* If the person you are greeting is of higher social status, you are supposed to bow deeper and longer than they.

* It is also common to bow to express thanks, apologize, making a request or asking for a favor

But since most Japanese do not expect foreigners to know about proper bowing, a nod of the head is sufficient.

At first bowing seemed very foreign to me and at first I felt awkward doing it but having lived in our house for 3 weeks now I’m getting good at it.  You see most of the doors in our house are only 178 cm high and I’m 187 cm tall.  That’s 9 cm or approximately 3 and a half inches difference.  Plus not all the doors are the same height, some are actually tall enough.  These differences in door height were, well, a real headache for me.  But I’m learning to bow and just like the conductors on the train I bow when entering and exiting the room. And I find it is very comfortable to do so.  - Chas


Correct way.


Incorrect way.