How Can We Learn From The Japanese Custom of Bowing

How Can We Learn From The Japanese Custom of Bowing

Konichiwa readers! As you may or may not know from my Instagram, I just returned from a life changing trip to Japan. It was such an eye-opening experience, and I learned so, so much. I am excited to share my thoughts with you on everything from Japanese etiquette to my favorite coffee shop in Kyoto. Up first, my thoughts on the tradition of bowing.

For those of you that have been to Japan, and many other places in Asia, you know that people bow all. the. time. Sometimes twice or three times in a row! My father was quite shocked by this, and sometimes he even got tired of it. I can understand that sentiment, but I felt very differently from him. To me, the bowing did exactly what it was supposed to: implicate mutual respect between involved parties. It felt so nice, and not fake or forced in the slightest. I got used to the bows quickly and even grew to enjoy them. I accidentally bowed at a barista in my local coffee shop today- that was awkward

This bowing made me think of how we greet people in America. Often times, we are welcomed with a huge smile. Other days, we can read people's emotions on their sleeves. How many interactions have you had with aggravated individuals that work in customer service? I ran out of fingers trying to count this. While I don't expect everyone to be happy-go-lucky 24/7, I do assume a baseline level of courtesy and respect. There was not a single interaction in Japan I had where someone snapped at me- and this is factoring in a language barrier! I love that.

So let's try to figure out how we can learn from this a little bit, how this can play into our everyday lives. I know we New Yorkers won't be bowing left and right, but can we try to always aim for courteous and respectful interactions, both with strangers and even more so with family and friends? Can we do this for guests even if our mood was soured by something earlier in the day or week? How can we teach ourselves to always see the bright side of human interaction?

It's a hearty task to take on, but it's one I'll be working on this year. 

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments on anything from Japanese culture, to being a busy New Yorker (I am one). I'd love to hear!

photos cannot be shared, downloaded or repurposed for any reason without written credit to Jane Poretsky + Be Like Family

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