If you have ever wondered why Japanese people are so polite, understanding amae is important to finding the answer.
Amae = 甘え means to depend on anothers kindness, according to Kanako, our cultural expert. While many western socities pride themselves on being independent people, Japanese (silently) pride themselves on being dependent.
This is why many Japanese people come across as energetic and grateful, because they strongly appreciate when something is done for them, and they often feel giri, or obligation to return the kindness.
This obligation is often the beginning of a relationship. When someone wants to become close with another person, or start a friendship with them, they may show an act of kindness to create that obligation, which starts a relationship of kindness.
“Sometimes older people will try to help the younger, or younger people will try to take some of the older person’s cleaning responsibilities as an act of kindness”, as it is simply their nature to help each other, says Kanako.
Amae is instinctive to Japanese, and it is key to keeping a strong communal relationship in Japan, and maintaining the Japanese sense of respect, humility, and spirit.