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Ending meetings with Japanese friends? 2017/1/31 15:39
Hi Everyone,

I've been living in Kanagawa for the past 6 months and I have been lucky enough to make some Japanese friends. I'm finding it awkward to bring catch-ups with friends to a close, however, and I'm worried it's making my friends uncomfortable too.

For example, I've been meeting a new Japanese friend around once a week in his cafe for a language exchange. Last week, we started working on some textbook exercises together, and when I next noticed the time, I realised about four hours had passed. I noticed my friend had also started to look a bit bored, and was periodically looking around the cafe like he wanted to do something else. I felt embarrassed that I hadn't been more aware of the time, and I immediately said that I should start heading home (I supplemented my English with a 'sorosoro kaeranai to', which is what my Japanese teacher told me I should say in these situations), - but then he started asking follow-up questions about what I planned to cook for dinner etc ,which I felt was a bit of a mixed-message. The next time we spoke to arrange our language exchange, he said "I have to prepare for a party that day, so I only have two or three hours". I was much more aware of the time at that meeting, and after 2 hours I said "I have a final question, and then I should go home and let you prepare for the party", but after he answered my question he continued making conversation. I said again "ok, this was fun - thank you! I should go home" and packed up my things - but again he made more conversation. Our conversation went on for another hour, and then he looked uncomfortable and apologetic said "I need to get ready for the party." Can anyone offer any insight into what is happening here? I'm worried I'm getting a bit of a reputation for 'hanging around too long', but my best efforts to close the meetings at a reasonable time haven't worked. How do people do this in Japanese? Are there cultural cues that I'm missing here? How do I know when someone wants to end the meeting?

Similarly, on the weekend I hosted a party and four of my Japanese friends came. They had earlier stated they needed to leave at 8pm, but 8pm arrived and no one said anything, nothing happened. I asked if the time was ok and they said yes, but at 8:30 when my Australian friend said "I'm going to head home", everyone leapt out of their seats, as though that was the cue they'd been waiting for and they all left together. I'm very confused! I've been reading etiquette books and doing internet research to try and figure out what I'm missing / what I should be doing differently but so much of the information seems to relate to business meetings, and not casual parties or meetings with friends.

I really treasure the friends I've made here and I hate to think that I'm causing embarrassment or discomfort. If anyone can offer any insight into what might be happening here, what I might be missing, or even just how I could manage these situations better, I would really appreciate it.

Thank you.

by valerie1234  

Re: Ending meetings with Japanese friends? 2017/1/31 21:50
I remember similar questions being posted on this forum before, but I think you're doing well with the language exchange meeting. At least, that's how most locals would act. But if I were to give you one advice, you may want to stand up right after you say the 'sorosoro kaeranai to'. Let him ask about dinner, but reply to him as you stand up and wear your coat and go to the cashier. And make your replies short so that the conversation won't last.

People are scared of being the one to put an end to a fun conversation, so be brave and be silent and be the one to say "bye" first.

The party seems to be a slightly different situation though. If someone comes to a party (and not a business meeting) saying they need to leave at 8, it's normal to hang around for another nearly 30 minutes or so. Again, no one would want to be the person to break a fun evening, and besides, saying that you're leaving at 8 from a party is practically the same thing as implying that you're not staying until 10. It doesn't mean that you will turn into a pumpkin at ten past eight.

The reason they leapt out of their seats is most likely because they had been aware that they're keeping their host busy too long, and also because, if they stay it will be difficult/awkward to leave, for example, only 5 or 10 minutes after their dear friend had left. So unless they had changed their minds and decided to stay for another hour (which might be a burden for their host), they needed to take advantage of this opportunity and leave with the Australian friend.

Meanwhile, we often say something like "Is the time still okay for you? (jikan daijoubu?) I don't mind, but you said you needed to leave at 8." Or often the cue would be the host asking for another filling of their drinks.

Actually, I just came home from a long meeting with a friend I hadn't seen for a while, and as we were leaving the cafe, which was about 30 minutes after she mumbled about the time, I said, "So what do you want to do? Shall we order food? Or do you want to go some place else?" and then she said, "Actually I should go." so it was I who stood up.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Ending meetings with Japanese friends? 2017/2/1 05:39
The situations you described are not unusual.

It is considered rude for the host (cafe owner) to ask his guest to leave, so he will never (unless there is an emergency etc.) initiate the closure of a meeting. He may even insist that you stay longer (even if he does not really mean it), to make you feel that you are welcomed. You, as the guest, will have to "read the air", as Japanese likes to call it, and initiate the closure and be firm about it.

In the other situation where you are the host of a party, no guest would want to be the party pooper. So they stay until someone else leaves, then they all take that opportunity and all leave.

Happens quite a lot, actually.

by Mei (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Ending meetings with Japanese friends? 2017/2/1 09:18
Hi Uco and Mei, thank you so much for your responses, I appreciate you taking the time! That makes sense to me, I can see why people might be reluctant to 'make the first move' - I will be brave from now on and be firm about wrapping up the meeting! Thank you again.
by valerie1234 rate this post as useful

Re: Ending meetings with Japanese friends? 2017/2/2 20:49
Just want to echo Uco's excellent advice. Specifically:

•Make physical motions to leave when deploying your "soro soro" related expressions. Otherwise I think it can sound like you're asking you're asking for permission to stay longer.

•Generally it's best manners to fill glasses and provide drinks for guests without saying anything, so if your host asks if you want more to drink it's probably a sign it is time for you to go.

My only other piece of advice would be to allow for some variation from person to person. Often you'll meet some characters during language exchange, so sometimes it is actually them and not you. ;)
by Harimogura (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Ending meetings with Japanese friends? 2017/2/3 19:37
Hi Harimogura,

Thank you for your advice! I am especially relieved to hear that it's polite to fill glasses without saying anything - I had been wondering about that!

I implemented Uco and Mei's advice at my language exchange today and successfully left after only 2 hours - but my friend made several comments about how quickly the time had gone, so maybe I should have stayed longer - I literally have no idea where the line is! Haha, it's an adventure.

Thank you for weighing-in with your advice :)
by valerie1234 rate this post as useful

Re: Ending meetings with Japanese friends? 2017/2/3 21:55
Thank you for your feedback, valerie1234! It's always nice to get feedback. I do feel that your language exchange mate, as well as perhaps your party guests, seem to miss you. You must be an attractive person! But we only have 24 hours a day, so I think it's great that you've decided to leave early, unless you truly feel like it's worth spending a whole day for them. Sometimes that can be nice too :)
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Ending meetings with Japanese friends? 2017/2/5 19:29
Thank you for your kind words, Uco! :) It's nice to think that I am really making friends here. Thank you again, I really appreciate your help :)

by valerie1234 rate this post as useful

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