A little less force, a little more grace.
These are a few things I will take with me when this week I leave Japan for India.
1. A reverence for personal space may transcend the use of personal communication technology. It’s really, really nice to not listen to other people’s cell calls on the subway or in restaurants or in any public place. We can learn from this in the States.
2. Pointing with my entire hand (palm facing the person you are assisting) instead of a single index finger feels to me more of an invitation instead of a direction. A little less force, a little more grace.
3. Facing the person to whom I give thanks, even for a second, and making eye contact before turning to walk out the door is a moment of thanks truly given.
4. A subtle bow conveys a sense of sincerity to an introduction, receipt of a gift or service, and departure from a space.
5. When giving or receiving items, for example a business card or change from a transaction, doing so with two hands (when possible) conveys an act of intent. I have caught myself tossing a ballpoint pen across a table or spilling change onto a point of purchase counter and feeling quite barbaric in comparison to the Japanese tradition. The subtle difference between “This is for you,” and “Here, take it.”
And at the same time, I find myself craving physical human contact. It is far too easy to go for days here without ever touching another person. I want to shake hands for extended periods of time as they do in Kenya, to hug hello and hug goodbye, and be the joyous recipient of a full-body bear hug as is often customary among my friends.