From their cars, in shops and restaurants, on the street, in schools, and at their workplaces, Japanese people use bows to communicate status and express appreciation. Bows are a way to say “I'm sorry,” “Thank you,” “Nice to meet you,” and “Excuse me.” People bow as a way to start conversations, acknowledge someone's presence, and as a parting gesture. You may even see people bowing while they are talking on the phone.
When should I bow?
It depends on the situation of course. If someone bows to you, return the gesture, making your own slightly deeper and longer, just in case. Bows vary from a slight nod of the head to the person letting you make a right turn in traffic to little old ladies in full prostration, heads touching the rice mats in front of them.
How to Bow
Anytime you are meeting someone for the first time, it is polite (and also culturally sensitive) to start with a bow. The angles for bowing vary from a shallow fifteen degrees (usually only made by the president of a company, school principal, or the prime minister) to a full forty-five-degree bow. Make your bows low and slightly long, and you will offend no one.
Men bow with their hands at their sides, heels together. Women touch their hands together in front. Your back should be straight and your eyes downcast.
The Do-It-All Verb
“To bow” in Japanese, is
The students at this school cheat often.
Here is where you sign.
The students at this school do not cheat.
My husband and I do not fight.
To make the command form, add -
Please sign here.
She signed here.
Please note that the first word (in most cases, the noun) is not modified; only the second word, the verb