Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Age and Respect in Japan.

Hi everyone,

Today I will be discussing an issue that has interested me a great deal ever since I was educated on this subject.

Now, I am sure that all of you reading this blog have been told at some point 1.) You are still young, so that's why you don't know, 2.) You don't understand, because of your age, 3.) You have to grow another few years to know. Whether it be Japan or America, we've all been taught to "respect our elders." While it might be more loosely viewed in the US, it is especially strict out here in Japan. Today I'll discuss how prevalent this mentality is out here. To start off, I'll explain just how much it impacts society.

Just within everyday society, the Japanese are taught to respect those who are older than them, even if it is just by a few months! The idea that you have lived a few months longer, equates to a greater experience and maturity level. This also means that you, the younger one, must change your language to be more respectful of their status (despite it being earned only by the time you were born).

As a working citizen in Japan, if you are in your 20's, it is common to make an income between 25,000 USD to 45,000 USD. Your salary is assumed to increase about 10k per each year passed. However, when you reach your mid 30's (or work 10 years at the same company), it is assumed that your income will suddenly more than double or triple. This system is enforced to promote company loyalty and pretty much keep your life set in one path. Your age alone has just promoted your job status and income level!

In the US, you can make about 100,000 USD a year just depending on your job experience, abilities, and 'salary haggling' skills. This makes attaining a high-paying job achievable even in your early to mid-20's. This does not, unfortunately, guarantee your job stability at one company for greater than 10 years like Japanese companies do. Your life path is what you make of it, therefore, you are able to freely switch jobs more flexibly.

Just from this example alone, it is pretty easy to see how impactful "age" and "respect" are in Japan.

As traditional as it may be, there are good and bad sides to this mindset. First, it teaches children and adults how to respect people. The Japanese do this very well and with class. Living here, I have learned how to express that respect better to people I am communicating with. I do not feel that this type of 'respect' is as prevalent in America, because individuals treat each other more or less equally.

Perhaps in the US, people feel more inclined to 'respect' people for what they have done or what they have truly learned or experienced in life, as opposed to respecting them for reasons such as age? Or maybe they accept people more for how they choose to live their life, rather than judging them based on their age alone?

One must stop and question .. 'Does the actual "time" that one has lived equate to one's maturity level or experience?' After a certain age, shouldn't it be assumed that everyone has a different path in life? Or that experience and maturity depends on how that person chooses to grow (or not grow)?

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