Monday, January 25, 2010
Romantic closeness level - US Vs. Japan.
A friend of mine one day brought up the subject of her Japanese friend in the US, who is casually dating an American man. Today, I'd like to discuss what determines your romantic 'closeness' level to someone in Japan.
To make this understandable, let's call her friend "Ami," and the American man "James."
Ami is convinced that she has shown her interest level to James by spending time with him together (just the two of them), giving him a gift, opening up her personal life to him, and making a lot of time for him. James takes Ami out to dinner, pays for the meal, opens up to her, and spends that time with her as well. One day, however, Ami realizes that James has not been as receptive to her advances, nor has he shown any signs of greater interest in her. Why is this? Could it be that James never realized she was interested in him at all?
Here in Japan, there is a certain level of 'closeness' (or proximity) that can be understood by your language and how you respond to them. The Japanese language itself has several levels that make it clear for you to know whether you are just an acquaintance, a friend, or someone much closer to you.
If someone made the advances such as Ami did in Japan, it would have indicated that 1.) they are interested in you, 2.) they want to spend time with you, or 3.) they want something more. Had Ami not shown any interest, she would have not spent time with him alone, not opened up her personal life to him (especially to another man), and lastly, not made any time for him. In America, however, this could be still read as just being a "good friend." Why is this?
In the U.S., communication is more open and free, but the 'friend' and the 'romantic interest' are much harder to decipher. Everyone treats each other as an equal. Unfortunately, speaking as an American, this is a very common misunderstanding amongst people in the US. Figuring out how close someone is to you, or whether that interest is there or not is very difficult to understand. Even if Ami knew these facts, it would not save her from the "American" stress associated with this circumstance.
Had their relationship become more serious, meeting others may also be an issue. Ami will not be meeting other men (even just male friends), but James may want to meet his other female friends. While doing this in the US is is not considered terrible, it is still problematic. Doing the same is equal to being unfaithful to your partner in Japan.
Posted by optima5 at 11:34 AM