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Japanese eye contact? 2011/5/27 10:51
So, I've been really curious about how Japanese people, most especially boys, do not often have eye contact to me whenever I speak to them.

I have experienced it several times that whenever I talk to my Japanese guy classmates (and even friends), SOME but not all, would rarely look to me in the eye. One time, I was talking to a classmate (guy) about a project and sometimes he would look to me in the eye but after around 3 seconds, he would look away and look at around my shoulder instead while talking to me. However I observed that while we proceed in the conversation, he would gradually look at me longer though of course he would look away after around 10 seconds. A friend of mine is also like that but not so much. I tried not looking at my friend (guy) while we talk and all the while I can see (peripheral vision) that he was looking at me but when I start to look at him, he would look away. This also happens between me and my tutor (girl) who is older than me. She would not always look at me in the eye but still she does sometimes.

I asked several friends (girls) about this because I don't know how to interpret this behavior and whether there is a difference when girls do it (as in my tutor) and when guys do (as in my friends/classmates)

In my culture, we consider eye contact as a respect and a sign of interest to the person we are talking to. But I have no idea how this behavior is perceived in Japan.

Is this cultural or it depends on the person? And why do they even do it anyway?

Thank you!
by lastmockingbird  

looking at pretty girls are hard 2011/5/27 11:52

So what did those girls say about it?

To me, they're just typical teenage-boy-behavior. Again, they're shy.

Surely, it's better to make eye contact as a respect and a sign of interest to the person we are talking to, but it's not always easy for everybody.

But yeah, I do notice that there are a lot of people who make great effort to make eye contact while Japanese boys are often "excused" when they don't. They'll have to learn how to do that once they become salesmen.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2011/5/27 12:08
In Western cultures, we are taught to look into people in the eyes when they are speaking to us. If we don't, it is considered rude.

The opposite applies in Japan.

Holding the gaze of another person is considered rude in Japan. Japanese people usually focus on a personfs neck or shoulder.

Too much eye contact is used to communicate defiance or disagreement, while averting your gaze is considered a sign of respect.

So the boys aren't being rude to you. They are being respectful. (though it's possible they are also shy).
by Gray (guest) rate this post as useful

camouflage 2011/5/27 14:53
I don't really agree with Gray. "Stares" aren't appreciated both in Japan and Western countries, but it's not the same thing as eye contact.

Eye contact is indeed appreciated and honored in Japan as well. It's just that people are often "advised" to focus on a personfs neck or shoulder especially in job interviews, because that's the best way to avoid yourself from being nervous while showing respect toward the other party.

In other words, if you look at the interviewer's neck, it will "look like" you're looking at that person's eyes, especially when your seat is more than a meter away from the interviewer. But if you're talking to a girl right next to you, it will only look like you're looking at her neck and shoulders :)
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

rude? 2011/5/27 16:57
So that means that since I am looking to their eyes, then I am being rude?

My girl friends say that it's not really cultural but depends on the person's personality and feelings toward the other person... However, they are girls and I would want to get other people's opinions of course...

It's just that, I don't know whether they are uncomfortable being with me or what....

muzukashi!!!! :(
by lastmockingbird rate this post as useful

. 2011/5/27 17:29
I don't think it's the act of looking into their eyes but how long you hold your gaze. If you stared into someones eyes for a long time for a lot of people (i know it's the case for me) would probably feel uncomfortable and it's a bit intense. The only person i want to stare into my eyes for an extended period is my girlfriend! haha! For me at least long periods of eye contact feel intense and make me uncomfortable so i usually look for 3 seconds or so then look away while talking and keep alternating...
by J (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2011/5/27 22:12
Perhaps you could try not to focus on eye contact and try to accept them as a whole. It will be easier for you if you can think "that's the way he is" rather than "why does/doesn't he act like this".
by Ikuyo Kuruyo (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2011/6/7 16:29
Making eye contact then looking away, then making eye contact again for gradually longer periods of time is what people do when they find someone attractive...
rather than for reasons of disrespect or just shyness, is it possible these people find you attractive??
The same way of looking at someone and then looking away is kind of classic human courtship behaviour in various cultures. If you like someone then just staring at them seems predatory and disrespectful but looking away at the right moment can create tension between two people(in a good way)
by gilesdesign (guest) rate this post as useful

attractive 2011/6/7 22:53
Errr...that's a too optimistic interpretation of this behavior. Hahaha! Thank you but...

I am still skeptical because if you find someone "attractive" or likeable, wouldn't you want to take every available opportunity to talk to that person?

I mean, this person I am referring to in OP, the person who looks at me and glances somewhere else after a few seconds, would rarely greet me whenever I pass by or am in the same room UNLESS I do so first! He is unlike his friend whom I can talk for longer time outside classroom!

Muzukashi...Japanese guys and their behavior, I cannot understand!
by lastmockingbird rate this post as useful

... 2011/6/8 11:06
if you find someone "attractive" or likeable, wouldn't you want to take every available opportunity to talk to that person?

My! You're probably a very bold person or have never been in love :)
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

boys will be boys 2011/6/8 11:33
Luckily I am past that awkward stage but when I was a young guy, making eye contact and talking to someone I found attractive was near impossible for me...I guess at that age you just think you will end up making a fool of yourself so it is best to just avoid the person. My guess is them being japanese has very little to do with it...they are just boys!
by gilesdesign (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2011/6/8 13:01
Yeah, I have never been in love...tabun.

But! Really, if you admire a person, you should find a way to let the person know or feel it rather than avoiding the person as if she/he is a weirdo.

I don't know how to deal with this? Do I remain to be friendly with them (and by this I mean initiating conversation and greetings at every opportunity) or do I ignore them the way they (at least he) are ignoring me?

Thank you so much!
by lastmockingbird rate this post as useful

movies 2011/6/8 13:49
But! Really, if you admire a person, you should find a way to let the person know or feel it rather than avoiding the person as if she/he is a weirdo.

But think of all the teen rom coms and high school based tv shows that we would be losing if that happened. They'd have to cancel Glee!!!
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2011/6/8 14:18
Well what you do depends on how you feel about them...
If you dislike them then maybe avoiding the person could be an option, (but you don't want to avoid them in an obvious way or it may seem unkind.)
If you do want to be friends with them then I definitely wouldn't suggest avoiding them (he maybe avoiding you becuase he is shy but if you are not the shy type it does not make sense for you to avoid them)

OR can we ask you... is this guy attractive? ?
If you do like him why not start converstions with him. Even if he is shy, if he does like you then he will still appreciate it, he just may just not show it very easily.
Also watch how he is with other girls, he may just be shy talking to any girl not just with you, in which case you cannot tell if he finds you in particular attractive or not.
by gilesdesign (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2011/6/9 08:38
I realized that this eye contact thing may not be cultural at all. For instance, this guy's friend (who, in case it's relevant to say, has a girlfriend), often says hi to me outside classroom and we would have small chat outside. This is ironic because this guy's English is not as good as his friend's (the one who's ignoring me).

The guy (the one ''ignoring'' me), for me, is attractive but I am not in any way interested in being more than friends with him...I just want us to be friends that's all. As with his treatment of other girls, I think he is okay with them. In fact, in one instance, we were at the computer lab and I was just few feet away from him. He was talking to an American girl but he did not even say hi to me even though it's quite obvious that he can see me. I know there's no romantic stuff going on between (if this is relevant).

And then yesterday, I saw him in class, said hi, and he smiled back...WHICH MAKES ME WONDER MORE AS TO WHY HE NEVER DOES OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM WHEN HE CAN BE THAT FRIENDLY TO ME INSIDE THE CLASSROOM. I mean, a smile wouldn't hurt right?

And to clarify, he is not the only one who is like ''this''...2 or three other Japanese boys act the same way he do in terms of eye contact and the ''avoidance''.

by lastmockingbird rate this post as useful

... 2011/6/9 11:26
maybe you are just over analysing things. when people are chatting they do not always say hi even if they can see you...I'm guessing they are friendly guys if the smile and chat with you occasional. I would say just be yourself and let them do the same.
by gilesdesign (guest) rate this post as useful

y 2011/6/9 11:28
y key not working sorry
by gilesdesign (guest) rate this post as useful

. 2011/6/10 19:20
by lastmockingbird rate this post as useful

It's different for Japanese 2011/6/17 20:34
My Japanese girlfriend holds gazes and looks in people's eyes exactly like any other person I know. Personally I notice nothing different about her than any other westerner.

BUT, she has told me that on occasions when she was living in Japan people would be uncomfortable around her because she would "stare" at them and they would comment negatively on it from time to time. In Japan her "western" way of maintaining eye contact was uncomfortable for them. I've also read that, as the other poster said, it can be seen as disrespectful to maintain eye contact for too long, particularly for those in "inferior" positions to do so (as you hopefully know, Japan has a pretty extensive caste-type system regarding behavior).
by Chris (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese eye contact? 2011/11/16 05:53
Instead of thinking of this as a cultural thing, perhaps it's just unique to these few people.

Some people, like myself, are naturally kind of shy and find eye contact to be really scary.
by Rozemaiden (guest) rate this post as useful

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