American Directness and the Japanese Essay

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American Directness and the Japanese

American and Japanese ways of speaking are so different that they often cause culture shock to both Americans and Japanese who visit each other's country. Most Japanese who come to the United States are at first shocked and have a problem with the American direct way of speaking.

Culture shock occurs because most Japanese cannot easily escape from the formula "politeness= indirectness." Compared to the American way of speaking, Japanese speak much more indirectly. Directness is considered a form of impoliteness in Japan. Therefore, when we want to be polite, we speak and act very indirectly. For example, we seldom say, "I'll go to a bathroom," except when we are with close friends. Usually, we say,
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Japanese are shocked by American unreserved behavior because the American way of speech is very direct. They do not hesitate to express what they want since directness is honesty for them. They will say, "I'm hungry. Why don't we go and eat something?" Japanese are surprised to see Americans in the presence of guests say, "I'm hungry" or "Can I have another glass of juice?" On the other hand, we can easily understand what they want.

At the same time, Japanese are shocked because their way of being polite no longer holds good in the United States. If we answer, "Uh..., yes. I'm hungry but only a little," our host or hostess may postpone the meal. Later, Americans around me might notice my stomach rumbling and wonder why I did not tell the truth.

Similarly, Japanese may be surprised to hear Americans say "No" often because Japanese tend not to say "No." We usually express our reluctance to accept an offer by subtle facial and verbal expressions because we want to avoid making people feel bad by refusing directly. For instance, a Japanese student studying might say, "Um..., yes," when asked by an American roommate if he may turn on the TV. Whereas the Japanese student thinks his expression, "Um," fairly expresses his intention of…