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Japanese Etiquette - Bowing Necessary?

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

My husband and I will vacationing in Japan next year, and wondered if we needed to bow, or is that just a stereotype of Japanese culture?


Need Info

Dear Need Info,

Generally, the Japanese do not expect "foreigners" or "Westerners" to bow, but would be very appreciative of your efforts, if you try. At least nod your head to say hello, goodbye, thanks, or sorry.

As a tourist, the expectations are probably not as high as for a person doing business in Japan. The U.S. Department of Commerce points out:

"ll aspects of Japanese life, especially business relations, are governed by strict rules of etiquette. A foreign business person who is either ignorant of, or insensitive to, Japanese customs and etiquette needlessly jeopardizes his company's prospects in this country" (2009).

For more information from the U.S. Department of Commerce, go to

It would be very helpful to buy a book about Japan, and learn more about their customs and etiquette. The U.S. Department of State also provides information about Japan at their website,