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Are weight comments acceptable in Japan? 2019/12/9 08:06
Hello all,

I understand that generally speaking, people in Japan face much stricter guidelines on what is gthinh or ga healthy weighth than say those in the USA (where Ifm from).

My boyfriend of 1 month is from Japan and makes regular jokes about me being gfath, in what definitely seems to be a friendly teasing manner, but itfs frequent enough that I cannot figure out if there is some cultural/social misunderstanding or if hefs just as a$$. Where I come from, weight jokes are not acceptable, and when I ask if hefs serious, he says hefs joking and of course he likes my body. Hefs does weight training as a hobby and has a super healthy lifestyle. He encouraged me to go to the gym because I have a mostly sedentary lifestyle (fair enough, I should be more active). So Ifve been going with him to the gym as a way to spend time together and also to improve my sleep. Ifm not offended by the fat jokes per se because I know for a fact Ifm not fat by any realistic definition (5f1h and 120lbs, petite and hourglass figure, so as mentioned not fit but certainly not fat). Still, if hefs trying to change the way I look, thatfs not ok and I donft want that in a relationship.

I plan on talking to him about it, but before I approach this conversation I hope to understand if this is considered ok/ non-offensive to say to your SO in Japan. Not to generalise two cultures, but for example I know in Korea itfs considered being a good friend if you hold your loved ones accountable for their weight management, which is why itfs not as offensive to make comments on your friendfs or SOfs weight (?) At least thatfs what my friends living there say...

I appreciate your insight!
by Mar (guest)  

Re: Are weight comments acceptable in Japan? 2019/12/9 11:54
Right off the bat, while there are baselines for different cultures, the most important thing to remember here is that your relationship is, first and foremost, a connection between two individual people, and those people both need to be happy, regardless of whatever the mainstream standards of their individual cultures are.

Getting to your specific questions/comments:
uAre weight comments acceptable in Japan?v
I think it'd be oversimplifying things to just say "Yes, weight comments are acceptable in Japan." But compared to the U.S., yes, people in Japan are more likely to openly comment on a person's weight.

I've seen Japanese people comment on my foreign friends' weight, in front of them, several times, but rarely, if ever, in an insulting tone. Instead, they've been very matter-of-fact statements, along the lines of "Oh, Bob, since you're fat you must think the portions at restaurants in Japan are very small, right?"

While this kind of comment definitely isn't a compliment, often it doesn't seem to be intended as an insult either, but just as an observation. So the question becomes why this "observation" is comparatively more accepted in Japan than in the U.S., and I think a huge reason is that Japan and the U.S. have different opinions about what causes obesity.

In the U.S., especially over the past 30 years, obesity is largely seen, or at least treated in polite conversation, as a result of outside influences. "That person is overweight because they eat a lot of high-calorie fast food, but they're in an economic class where fast food is their only option." "That person is overweight because they have a lot of stress from an unhappy family life, and eating is their way of coping with their emotional pain." "That person is overweight because the local government doesn't invest enough in green spaces with public exercise equipment."

In Japan, however, obesity is primarily seen as a result of an individual's chosen lifestyle. "That person is overweight because they eat a lot/a lot of junk food, and/or they don't exercise very much." Add in the fact that the traditional Japanese diet (rice, fish, vegetables) is very low-calorie, plus that a lot of time at least walking every day is built into most public-transportation dependent lifestyles, and the concept of "this person is overweight because of the unbalanced lifestyle choices they make" becomes even stronger.

Put more succinctly, in the U.S., the idea is usually "this person ended up overweight, so I should avoid the delicate topic," whereas in Japan it's more often "this person chose to be overweight, so there's no need to act like they aren't."

Of course, there's an additional wrinkle that being overweight generally isn't considered an attractive/positive trait. But, as an example, let's say someone had a green mohawk, or an unwashed beard that stretched down to your knees. Those are also things that most people would consider unattractive, but they wouldn't feel the need to avoid commenting on them, because they're choices that person made, and often that seems to be how Japan sees weight as well.

Whether or not this makes it OK for your boyfriend to say the things he does about your weight, or whether the average Japanese person would say the same things, isn't something I can say, however,
by . . . . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Are weight comments acceptable in Japan? 2019/12/9 12:07
In Japan that is considered rude, but some people might take it as a show of closeness/familiarity that he can voice things that personal (and the woman isnft supposed to get annoyed). But there are some guys that try to put you into some shape (physical or looks or dresses or whatsoever) that he prefers, which I donft find OK. I believe it is better to talk to him assuming it is HIS thing, rather than Japanese in general. At least that custom in Korea doesnft apply to Japan at all. (From a Japanese woman living in Japan)

by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Are weight comments acceptable in Japan? 2019/12/9 16:22
What a great question!

When studying Japanese as an adult in Australia, I was surprised to see a chapter in the textbook about describing people, giving many examples of things that we would not say in polite conversation. The teacher is Japanese and has lived here a long time, she said yes, just learn it.

When studying Japanese with volunteer groups in Japan, I was mortified to find myself in a conversation which involved our very enthusiastic (older, male) teacher asking a young Nepalese woman in our group-who was carrying some baby weight-what she did to get fat and what she was doing about it. I was asked what I did to remain trim. And if I had any specific suggestions for her. Gaahh.

....'s comment is an interesting insight. My experience is Japanese people are very ready to make personal remarks no one would make in my regular world. Certainly not in front of people they barely know. The result is I spend a good chunk of time in Japan trying to Cǂ so I don't do anything dreadful, and also quite a while not knowing where to look and hoping for a small, survivable calamity to get me out of a conversation I never would have started (see above).

I've experienced older men in social situations making what would here be entirely inappropriate remarks about young women present, and that being treated as unremarkable, with no attempt made to stop or distract the man or assist the young women by moving them out of the situation.

It happens on the train as well, though I wonder if it's because the speakers (mostly male), have a few beers on board so are feeling relaxed, and assume the person they are talking about can't understand them.

Re your boyfriend, if you don't like it, tell him so in words of one syllable or less. If he's not an a$$ he'll stop. If he is, you know what you need to do.

Enjoy your time in Japan!
by Who? (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Are weight comments acceptable in Japan? 2019/12/9 18:22
Okay, I'm old, but I'm a Japanese woman. Actually, I feel that your question is coming more from your need for a push on your back rather than to understand your boyfriend's culture, but here goes.

No, weight jokes toward women are just as not acceptable in Japan as they are not in the U.S. It may be more acceptable toward chubby men, as long as there is a mutual understanding, but weight is a very touchy subject particularly for women, even in Japan.

Sure, you hold your loved ones accountable for their weight management, but that's about "loved ones" such as best friends and family, and that's mainly about health issues. But then, maybe your boyfriend does care about you so much that he hopes to manage your weight/health. But then, to you, doesn't that mean "to change the way you look"?

That said, there is indeed a culture in Japan, especially among younger people, that being able to jokingly insult a friend means that the relationship is that close enough. What I mean is that if you trust each other, you can say terrible jokes without hurting each other. So, in other words, having terrible jokes accepted is like a confirmation of your mutual trust. Personally, I feel that this understanding comes from all the stand-up comedies on Japanese TV along that style, and personally I don't really like it.

In any case, if your boyfriend is that straightforward to you about your weight, there is no reason you shouldn't be straightforward about your relationship. Tell him that jokes are okay, tell him that if it's his culture you can accept that, but that you don't want him changing you. If he has a problem with that, that's how far your mutual trust goes.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Are weight comments acceptable in Japan? 2019/12/10 06:53
I appreciate the various insights here, especially the reminder that gwhile there are baselines for different cultures, the most important thing to remember here is that your relationship is, first and foremost, a connection between two individual people, and those people both need to be happy, regardless of whatever the mainstream standards of their individual cultures areh.

And there are many interesting points here that make sense. On a completely unrelated account, he once said that teasing is a sign of closeness and he tends to tease his friends a lot. Admittedly, I do this as well, but I would never touch on someonefs weight because Ifve always understood it to be a sensitive topic; I even remember as a kid being told by my parents not to stare at someone who was very obese (which you do find, especially in the South where Ifm from) because it was rude to acknowledge it.

But overall, it seems itfs just his type of humor. While I love good banter, Ifll ask him to stop this joke and if he doesnft respect that, then I guess we have a bigger issue.
by Mar (guest) rate this post as useful

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