Q. Aren’t Americans direct and straightforward?


While to Japanese it seems that Americans are more open with one another, Americans do try to respect the privacy of others and refrain from saying exactly what they feel.

A good friend living in Japan had been teaching English to a very kind, middle–aged Japanese woman for many years, when she invited him to lunch together with one of her friends, a woman who had lived in America for a number of years. The lunch was a Japanese meal and at one point the friend asked our American friend, “How long have you lived in Japan?” He replied that he had lived in Japan for over a dozen years. “In that case,” she responded, “you certainly should be able to use chopsticks better than that.”

Our friend was rightfully astounded. Perhaps from her experience in the States the woman thought it was natural to be open and direct with Americans, but no American with any sense of manners would ever say such a thing to a new acquaintance, or maybe even to a good acquaintance that they wanted to continue a relationship with.

Americans believe in honesty, but they also believe in respecting the other person’s feelings, in not offering unwanted opinions, and in not mentioning unpleasant subjects in social situations.