Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Culture note #1: What is Aizuchi and why does everyone look like a bogglehead?

Aizuchi (相槌 or あいづち)

It is the act of nodding your head an uttering something to reassure the speaker that you are listening. This is VITAL to communicating in Japan.

The noise that is often used is:

  • "un"
  • "ee"(pronounced "eh")
  • "hai"
  • "soune"
  • "sou desuka"
  • "sou desune"
  • more variations of "sou"(haha)
  • variations of "hontou"
To be safe, just stick with the top 3.

When: when any Japanese person is talking, regardless of status.

How: constantly nod your head(like a boggle head), and say "un" every 4-6 nods.

Why: To be polite, and further integrated in the culture that is Japan.

I actually participated in a study on how Gaijin learn or pick up Aizuchi. They recorded me speaking Japanese and English. If you live their long enough and you converse enough in Japanese you WILL pick it up. It's only when you go back to your country that people ask you why you keep constantly nodding and interrupting them, that you realize that you subconsciously picked it up.


  1. Reannon said...

    Haha! I totally did not know what this was called but I had noticed it and now realize that I do it all the time.

    I actually really like it...it makes me feel like people are interested and care about what I have to say. Although, at first I took it to mean they were trying to get me to rush through what I was saying. Like they had already got the gist of the point I was trying to get across and were trying to hurry me along. It was unnerving and I used to get a little offended!

    Guess I can chalk that up to yet another cultural misunderstanding.