Declaring your love, or even just your like, for a boy or a girl in Japan can be a pretty big deal. While we don’t think most people’s stories are quite as dramatic as in anime, with characters struggling for seasons just to admit their fond feelings for another, it’s certainly true that many Japanese people are pretty shy about asking each other out.
While it’s kind of cute and kind of frustrating if you’re used to a more forward culture, is it really that different from other countries?
Naver Matome, a site not entirely dissimilar to a bastard lovechild of Wikipedia and Reddit, recently featured an article comparing romantic confession from around the world. We were fascinated to see how Japanese people viewed these foreign expressions of love and decided to share them with you!
First, let’s take a quick moment to see how a teenaged Japanese girl might go about asking a boy out. We found the following cute but awkward story on Yahoo! Japan’s question and answer site.
I’ve only confessed once in my life (and we’ve been going out for the last three years).
I sent him a text message asking if he wanted to walk home together, saying I’d wait for him in a park nearby.
When he arrived, I just told him straight away.
“Suki,” I said.
“Suki,” as you may already know, is the adjectival form of “like” or “love” in Japanese, but those two simple syllables are all you need to convey the concept of “OMG, I’ve been in love with you forever and I want to make beautiful babies with you RIGHT NOW.”
Or, maybe, just “I really like you.”
In general, Japanese confessions seem to be very private and full of stress and tension. So how about in other countries?
Of course, Hollywood movies have drastically colored our perception of romance in the US and around the world. Everyone knows exactly what a boombox held aloft over one’s head means: Time to get a restraining order!
But what about normal guys and girls? Well, according to Naver Matome, Americans do confess their feelings, often by asking something like, “Will you be my girlfriend?”
For some reason, though, they also suggest that people never ask, “Will you go out with me?” Which is strange, since I clearly remember asking that question to a number of girls. Though their looks of disgust and squeals of “NO!” might indicate that I was doing something wrong. Hmm…
Anyway, they do also point out that the US contains many different cultures, so it does vary from person to person. But in general, I don’t think it’s too much different from the typical Japanese confession–maybe not quite so stressful though…
Next, Naver Matome takes us to France–the land of love, if An American Werewolf in Paris is any indication. However, it seems that French folks aren’t very likely to confess their love–instead people just have to read the situation to figure out if they’re dating or not. One French woman even said that it can be difficult to figure out what’s going on. I also found an English-language article suggesting that French men are very forward–but it seems that they’re not necessarily going to just say, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” Anyway, the lack of explicitness would certainly be confusing for anyone not familiar with the culture!
While we may have images of Italians as passionate and direct, it turns out that that’s…well, mostly accurate! However, one Italian man in his 30s suggested that “there are some cases where a couple will know just how the other feels and there’s no need for a confession.” Well, I’d love to meet this telepathic couple–I hardly know what *I* want day-to-day!
Of course, there are plenty of shy guys and gals in Italy as in any country, but it seems that once an Italian feels the spark of love, they feel compelled to confess it. This has the benefit of moving this along at a rapid pace–which is good if you’re the fast-moving type! Maybe not if you’re more into taking thing slow, though.
What we learned about Spanish courtship is that men in Spain tend not to be very verbal about their feelings. Instead, they apparently try to subtly let you know that they want to date. That said, it seems that once you’ve started dating, constant communication is very important. Maybe they’re saving all the good stuff for someone who’s proven worthy? Not a bad idea!
The South American country is renowned for its beautiful scenery–and people! So we imagine that Brazil is one of the most exciting places in the world to be dating. But just how does it all work?
Here’s one Japanese woman’s experience dating a Brazilian man:
When I was dating a Brazilian man, after we had kissed and even slept together, he never confessed that he wanted to date me, and I thought we weren’t really dating. But in conversation, he’d refer to me as his girlfriend, so I was kind of surprised when I realized, “Oh! We’re dating!”
Well, that would certainly be a surprise for anyone, wouldn’t it? However, it seems that in Brazil there are two stages to a relationship–ficar and namorar. Ficar would be like casually seeing each other–more than friends but not quite a couple yet. You might kiss–or do more–and still be in that stage. Once you get past that stage of getting comfortable with each other and start to feel like you’re really in love, then you’ve entered namorar.
Well, that sounds less exciting and more really complicated!
Whatever your image of Thailand may be, we can probably safely assume that it’s nothing like The Hangover. At least not for most of the people living in the country–we can’t comment on what sort of wild stuff Mike Tyson gets up to. So, what then is dating like in Thailand?
Apparently it’s very one-sided, if Naver Matome is correct. It seems that women are never expected to make the first move–instead, they are to wait for a guy’s confession. This seems to result in Thai people being less interested in spontaneous relationships, and it looks like dating involves getting familiar with your significant other’s family.
Better brush up on your conversational skills!
According to Naver Matome, confessions in South Korea almost always come from the guy, as in Thailand. One interesting difference is that apparently, Korean women will almost never agree to date the first time a guy asks them out. It seems that a quick yes would look improper!
Instead, the woman would turn the guy down–and wait for him to ask again.
But, hold on, you’re saying, what if a girl really doesn’t want to date a guy? Well, then it seems that she would say something like, “Sorry, I’ve already got a boyfriend.” If the lady does want a guy to ask again, though, she might just say something like, “Oh, but we’ve only just met.”
I’ve come across a few articles in English that suggest that many South Koreans meet their partners through friends. Apparently blind dates are common–if your friend vouches for the other person, it gives you a greater sense of security. You’re less likely to wake up in a bathtub full of ice and missing a kidney!
Finally, we end our trip around the world with a stop in Taiwan! When it comes to dating, it seems that Taiwanese men aren’t easily discouraged. One Japanese woman who had dated several Taiwanese men said that as far as she knew, the men would ask a girl out or confess their feelings to her on a regular basis. She also wrote that Taiwanese men would enthusiastically email or call, even long after a woman had said no for the hundredth time.
Oddly enough, though, in the Japanese woman’s experience, Taiwanese men weren’t very physical. Before dating, they wouldn’t try to touch her, and even once they’d started dating, she found that the men were very careful about holding hands, cuddling, or kissing. That really doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me, though–pressuring people is pretty crappy.
Of course, all of these stories are filtered through a variety of cultural lenses. It’s hard to get at the “true” experience of dating in any country without actually growing up immersed in the culture and customs. Which is another way of saying, take this all with a few tons of salt!
Still, it’s certainly fascinating to see how different something as simple as asking for a date can be! Be sure to share your experiences with intercultural dating in the comments below. And if you’ve found something you thought was inaccurate, please let us know. But remember: We’re just the messengers, so don’t shoot us!