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Bowing Practice

I went to a concert last night, put on by a Japanese band playing African drums. Everyone I met was 日本人1. Just before leaving, I went over everything I had learnt about saying goodbyes in Japanese. I rehearsed it in my head: 「でわ、さきにしつれいします」2. Arms by my side, lowered eyes and a bow from the waist. A bow as deep as I could, look at the floor for 3 seconds, then come back up. I quite proud of my bowing technique, I’d practiced it in the トイレ3 earlier. But instead of returning my carefully rehearsed bow, everyone kept shaking my hand, patting me on the back, giving the half-hug. Everyone kept saying “see ya”, “bye”, “Thanks for coming”, “再见”4.
It was a bit strange. After hearing so much about ritualised traditions in Japan, and preparing myself for them, I had received a hi five, a bright smile and a ‘Thanks for coming’. All my practice for nothing!
I am always amazed by Japanese culture. Just when I think I have a grasp on it, it changes!
1に・ほん・じん, Japanese person
2“Well, excuse me for leaving first”. A very polite thing to say before leaving the room.
1Zai Jian, Chinese for ‘goodbye’.