Teinei – What We Can Learn from the Japanese Concept of Politeness

A Glimpse of the Beauty of Japanese Etiquette

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Teinei - the concept of politeness is something people can learn from. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Perhaps one of the most interesting cultures in the world is the culture of Japan. They are well known for their colorful shrines, exciting music and TV shows, and good food. There are many other things that foreigners will remember in their travels in Japan. However, tourists all over the world will never be able to forget the polite nature of the Japanese people.

The True Meaning of Teinei

The remarkably hospitable nature of the Japanese is associated with the term “teinei”, from the terms “tei” which means elaborate, and “nei” which stands for peaceful. The Japanese people do not tolerate any kind of disrespect. Thus, they show their respect for others as much as they could.

The ultimate sense of teinei is about being correct in one’s manners and being warm-hearted always. Originally, it meant finding inner peace through offering beautiful flowers to appease the gods. In the modern world, this inner peace is achieved through good manners and correct conduct.

The Japanese culture has many facets that foreigners can learn from. Their politeness, when studied and adapted, can be life-changing for people all over the world.

Respect in the Japanese Language

The most obvious manifestation of the politeness of the Japanese people is in their language. Basically, the principle in their culture is to avoid any kind of conflict or disagreement at all costs. This is practiced strictly by everyone in Japan as they do not want to offend anyone.

They have a complicated system in choosing the right honorific. There are two main types of honorific expressions. One is to elevate the other party by using respect, and the other one is to humble yourself to show humility. However, it is still confusing to choose the correct type of honorifics. To do this, you must consider the age, position, gender, social status et cetera, of the person you are talking to. They tend to be more relaxed when speaking to people of the same age, level or gender. On the other hand, they try to be more formal in conversing with their superiors.

The Pros and Cons of Japanese euphemisms

Another sign of Japanese politeness is euphemism. The Japanese people try their best not to directly say no. They opt to use non-verbal cues to show that they do not agree to something. To people who are not familiar with this trait, this may cause confusion, especially when negotiating.

You must also learn that the Japanese use their last names before their first names. In the business scene, they call each other by their last names. Only when they get closer to each other do they start to call each other by nicknames.

Throughout the world, if such politeness is practiced, disagreements will be avoided. The respect for one another should always be practiced, most especially in the workplace. However, when transacting, it may be better to express yourself directly so that the other party will understand you fully well.

Japanese Customs in Daily Life

Respect in the Japanese culture likewise includes their actions in everyday life. They are very particular with how they are supposed to act when with others. For example, when visiting another person’s house, you must remove your outside slippers. It is also considered polite to bring a small gift for the homeowner. The most important guest is seated in the seat farthest from the room’s entrance, and the least important one is given the seat nearest to the door. In restaurants, they do not give tips as this is considered somehow demeaning. However, in Japanese inns, it is acceptable to give tips when service is much appreciated. In cases like this, the tip should be in an envelope.

The Japanese dining etiquette is fascinating. There are a lot of things that foreigners should learn when eating in a Japanese restaurant.

Chopsticks are mainly used in Japanese restaurants. For newcomers, learning how to use chopsticks may be difficult, but it is only the start of mastering the art of eating Japanese food. It is considered taboo to stick one’s chopsticks into a bowl of rice, as this is only used for ceremonies in honoring the dead. Passing food from chopsticks to chopsticks is frowned upon. Instead, it is more proper to move the food from one’s plate to another person’s plate. Aside from this, you should refrain from spearing food. If a foreigner doesn’t know how to use chopsticks, they are encouraged to use forks instead.

Respect in Every Culture

Good manners and correct conduct are basic in every culture across the globe. However, we must always bear in mind that propriety differs in every country. It is important to be your best self in presenting to others to avoid conflict.

The Japanese culture is only one of many practices in this world. The key to avoiding conflict, even if you are still not aware of how a nation’s values work, is to observe and communicate in the best way possible. Always bear in mind that if you show your honest intentions, people will gradually open their heart to you.

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