Friday, December 11, 2015

Cross-cultural attitudes to self-deprecation


An American and a Japanese on a cross-cultural difference …

American: What does self-deprecatory mean in Japanese? Downplaying...

Japanese: Like expressing humility or modesty? Herikudaru? When you praise someone for cooking and they reply, “Oh no, I’m hopeless at it.”

American: That’s it. And then it seems, in a self-deprecatory culture, what’s expected as a rejoinder is something like. “Oh but I can’t even boil an egg.”

Japanese: Yes, it’s sort of a game, what you might call competitive modesty.

American: There’s certainly competitive boasting. I mean, it’s OK for us Americans to blow our own trumpet, toot our own horn.

Japanese: Hmm. Brass bands are popular in the U.S. I hear.
Self deprecatory (へりくだる) means undervaluing or being modest about oneself. It is used to not appear too boastful, sometimes to counter uncertainty about how to act, also used for humorous effect. British, New Zealanders, and some Asian people such as the Japanese are noted for their tendency to self-deprecate.

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