Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bowing in Japan, a serious business

An attendant leaves the rail car after serving coffee
Bowing is taken seriously in Japan. Very seriously. It not only acts as a formal greeting rather than shaking hands or the even more adventurous slight peck on the cheek, it runs throughout the entire culture and is a reflection of the formal respect people hold for each other. It's an apology, a thank you, a hello, a good bye and much more. 

Yesterday I was travelling on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) where an attendant spends the day walking up and down the aisles with their cart of snacks and drinks serving the weary travellers. And as she leaves the car after completing the service she politely turns and bows to the passengers before turning again and continuing to the next. Each bow is perfect, hands folded neatly into the lap, and each waitress performs the ritual to each and every car.

Another example to look out for is can be seen when you're travelling in and out of the Japan by air. Watch the ground crew as the aircraft slowly draws back from the gate. In perfect unison they will all bow together. And naturally each bow is perfect and set to precisely the correct angle. And as a foreigner, we're never going to get it quite right.

Ground crew at Narita Airport wishing the flight bon voyage

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