While I was in Japan last week I found out something interesting.
You know Japanese restaurants tend to have a little curtain hanging over the door? Well, I’d never given it much thought until I asked a colleague and he confirmed that they’re there so that you have to bow as you walk into the restaurant as a sign of respect.
Phhht. DINGLE BOWS FOR NOBODY!!
Dingle get face full of curtain..
Ok, to be honest I DID do a lot of bowing in Japan, I’m not even sure it’s needed from a Western engineer but I soon got stuck into it and before I knew it I was bowing and scraping with the best of them, on average 9 or 10 times per customer (or as many as 14 or so for more important customers). By the end of the trip I was pretty much addicted and found that standing upright for more than 10 to 15 seconds was virtually impossible, I developed a bowing tic which I’ve barely shaken off in the week since I’ve been back.
Leaving a customer in Japan is a complicated affair, you stand up in the meeting room and say your thanks to everyone and shake hands, bowing to them in turn as you do, then you get walked to the elevator, cue more bowing as you shuffle awkwardly backwards through the door. Finally you make it through the main exit, take a few steps outside and being this whole ritual of bowing sharply, as if warming up to break a plank of wood with your forehead, and saying “arigato gaziamas”, then shuffling backwards a couple of steps and bowing again, then another couple of steps and bowing again. And on and on it goes until you’ve got sufficiently far from the front door to make a break for it.
After a few days I thought I’d mix it up a bit and decided to wave enthusiastically throughout the bow to one customer as if seeing off loved relatives at a railway station. I’m sure we’ll get the business now.