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If you’re starting a new job, you might want to stretch out your back before showing up at the office for your first day.

Cultural guidebooks make a big deal about the psychological aspects of bowing in Japan. What many of them fail to mention, though, is the physical challenge that’s sometimes involved in properly performing the greeting.

For example, one of the finer points of bowing is that whoever bows deeper conveys more respect. So in general, if you’re trying to make a good impression on your workplace superiors or romantic partner’s parents, you’re going to want to make sure you bow nice and deep.

Bowing isn’t a sign of submission in Japan, though. It’s a reciprocal action, so as you’re bowing to, say, your new boss, he’s going to be bowing back to solemnly thank you in advance for all the hard work you’re sure to be putting in. Still, good manners dictate that as the subordinate on the corporate ladder, your forehead should be closer to the floor than his, and as this video shows, that can be a real problem if your boss is particularly short in stature or limber in his lower back.

“Greetings are complicated ceremonies that cause troubles for the Japanese people,” the narrator announces. We then see a salaryman who’s just been transferred to a new team at work, and has walked over to the section chief’s desk to formally announce that he’ll be working for him from now.

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He’s about halfway through his self-introduction when his boss stops him and stands up. The interruption is sort of an odd thing to do in this situation, but the section chief follows it up by bowing and telling his new charge “Yoroshiku wo negai shimasu,” the extremely versatile and convenient Japanese phrase used when entering into a professional or personal venture with someone.

Ordinarily, the junior-ranking person should initiate the bow, so this gets the younger salaryman in a bit of a fluster. But hey, with his boss already bowing to him, at least now he can gauge how deeply he should bow back, right?

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But knowing isn’t doing, and this impromptu forward-leaning limbo contest is tougher than the salaryman had expected.

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With the onscreen text describing it as “a battle between men,” the two squat ever lower in an effort to show the greater respect.

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As the increasingly acute angle between their calves and hamstrings shrinks below 30 degrees, the section chief finally loses his balance and topples to the floor, before picking himself up and telling the salaryman, “You’ve really got this down.”

▼ If you’ve never worked in a Japanese office, don’t worry. The entire ordeal is meant to be laughably over-the-top.

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Oddly enough, the video comes from beverage maker Kirin, and is part of a promotion for its bottled green tea Namacha, which was just re-released with a new, more flavorful recipe. No, the video doesn’t give any clue as to how its content is supposed to tie in to tea, and actually, Kirin didn’t need to do anything to convince us to try it, since we already did (and loved it). Still, every now and then it’s nice to be reminded that even Japanese people can sometimes start to feel like they sometimes take etiquette a little too seriously.

Source: Japaaan
Images: YouTube/キリンビバレッジ