My parents had a japanese couple over for a dinner party, the husband sat on the couch and the woman on the floor next to him. Is this normal?

My dad told me they were an old style traditional couple and... in Japanese society men are considered... I guess higher or more important. I thought it was kind of sad. I mean he's a lawyer and she's suppose to be some Medical... something with a masters degree. He's sitting on the couch with a glass of wine while she sitts on our wooden floor next to him. I... was dumbfounded.


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Most Helpful Guy

  • I think there are two issues at hand here:
    1. It is true that Japanese society still tends to be quite patriarchic in some instances.
    2. However, more importantly, this is a huge cultural misunderstanding I believe. Contrary to the western world, where sitting on the floor is considered "strange" and "lowly" and an act of humiliation, sitting on the floor is considered completely normal and natural in east Asia. My girlfriend is from South Korea and she regularly sits/kneels on the wooden floor in our apartment, although we have more than enough chairs. Whether she watches TV, reads, or even when she eats dinner on her own, she sits on the floor. I found this quite odd in the beginning as well but once you get your head around the fact that it really has nothing to do with being humiliating or shameful, you can understand this much better. My girlfriend even told me that in Korea, people sometimes cook together while sitting on the floor (cutting veggies etc.). That is also why nobody is allowed to wear shoes inside and why hygiene is considered very important. The floors in Japanese or Korean homes often tend to be so clean you could actually eat from them. The sitting on the floor is really just a cultural preference. The same goes for bowing as a means to greet by the way. In the western world, many people feel like bowing to someone is humiliating. In east Asia, it doesn't necessarily have to be like that. It can some occasions (such as apologizing) but it can also be a simple gesture, like the way we shake hands (most east Asians prefer not to have too much body contact).
    So while the situation you've described might have had an aspect of sexism in it, the sexism was certainly not as strong as it may seem to you as a western person. It's also possible that the guy's wife simply felt like sitting on the floor while he felt like sitting on the couch - the two things are considered equal (like sitting on a couch or sitting in an armchair for us westerners). For example when my girlfriend's parents invite their parents (so her grandparents), they usually let the grandparents sleep in their marital bed while the parents sleep on the floor in the living room. They don't do that because they're poor (they have a big couch they could both sleep on) and they also don't do it because they want to act like slaves towards the grandparents but simply cuz it doesn't matter to them. Sleepin western style (bed) and eastern style (floor) is both totally fine to them.

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    • but why... was he will elevated while she was on the floor?

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    • @Alvokite: Very good example. There are actually a lot of these "funny" cultural misunderstandings (I'm really into this stuff, a little nerdy I guess ;-)). For example in Greek culture - my dad is Greek - it's considered pretty much the worst insult ever to point the open palm of your hand towards another person. However, in western European or American culture, this can simply mean something like "no, wait, stop it" or perhaps if somebody tries to give you something "it's enough". Similarly, in Switzerland (and I believe in the US too) we sometimes form a circle with a whole in the middle with our thumb and index finger. This comes from the scuba diving language and means "everything is okay". However, in Italy, this gestures represents the anus and insultingly means "I'm gonna fuck you in the ass". Finally, a particularly curious one comes from my girlfriend's culture Korea. In South Korea, it is considered extremely rude to leave a tip in a bar or restaurant. In the Korean

    • mentality, this means you're basically belittling the waiter/waitress and considering him/her a beggar in need of some change. Since social status is considered important, this comes across as very offensive. My girlfriend taught me this when I - back then a naive foreigner - ate at a restaurant in Korea for the first time and wanted to leave a very generous tip as a sign for the great service. There's just so many things we don't realize that they can be interpreted in very different ways in other cultures and ways of acting that we or people from other cultures take for granted ;-).

What Girls Said 3

  • it also may just be her preference my mum prefers to sit and eat on the floor as its just more comfortable for her

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  • that's just so... fucked up..

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  • Hilarious... I didn't know the women are true subs.

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What Guys Said 2

  • When it comes to equality between men and women Japan is not as advanced with this as most of the rest of the world. My sister went to Japan on business and in Japan they had to get special permission to let a woman enter the board room. It just all seems wrong to me as I am all for equality between men and women.

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  • Depending how old school/traditional they are
    it's very normal indeed.

    Back in olden times, a spouse were
    more like a maid, to the man.

    I do like tradition, but that is one
    I find a bit over the top. ^.~

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    • same like this when I went to mexico. I tried to help my moms family help clean up after dinner when I was a teenager. All the guys looked at me like I was insane and the woman told me to go sitt down have a beer and not clean. But not... that submissive

    • It used to be considered an honor
      to cater for the warrior heading to battle.

      Different from current times, but that's
      how it were back in the traditional era.

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