By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenna
Since living in Asia, do you do “the bow”?
Bowing, a traditional greeting in East Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Chine and Vietnam, is a sign of respect. It is also used for apologies and gratitude.
That said, Bowing is not particularly prevalent in Singapore. (Upon research, my Google search of “bowing in Singapore” brought up mostly bowling sites!)
Nonetheless, there is a place for the bow here. Business etiquette says a small bow with a handshake is appropriate, especially if you are taller than the other person. And it may just pop up with a thank you.
I had a recent experience at Giant in Parkway Parade where I felt compelled to do the bow in gratitude.
It was last week, which was the week leading up to Chinese New Year. Giant was absolutely packed with families even at noon buying everything from Ferrer Rocher chocolates to fresh greens for the Lunar New Year.
I was there in a last-minute rush – I had about 90 minutes to spare – before heading out of the town. Surely that was enough time to look for gold chocolate coins to put in hongbao (red envelopes) for the kids in my daughter’s preschool class!
How wrong I was! The store was jam packed.
The lines at the PP Giant are pretty long usually but they tend to move fast. Wrong again. While it took me only three minutes to grab what I was there for, I stood in line for over 35 minutes! I was seriously freaking out as every customer – six ahead of me – was taking about 8-10 minutes each at checkout.
I was talking to my daughter, who is four, explaining that everyone was buying lots of food for Chinese New Year reunion dinners and that, while our chocolates were important to us, their food was special to them as well. So we must be patient.
While in line, my husband called, and I couldn’t help but tell him about my angst in the checkout line.
At this point a Singaporean man with his family must have heard my plight. After all, I only had six small bags of chocolate.
He was an absolute star because he offered to allow me to go ahead of me in line. This was the nicest thing anyone could have done for me at that moment, as I pondered the thought of abandoning my items and skipping hongbao for the kids this year.
I thanked the man profusely as I scanned and swiped my payment in a matter of 1 minute. As I turned around, I gave him a bow and a thank you.
Honestly, I don’t know where the bow came from but it really felt like the right thing to do to express my gratitude. At that point I added “Merry Christmas” and the family and checkout girl laughed as I correctly myself with “Gong Xi Fa Cai”.
So even though “the bow” may not be natural to you culturally, you never know when it will make an appearance. Either way, I am sure it is appreciated.
About Andrea McKenna
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.
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