It’s no secret that Japan is seriously into cuteness. Accordingly, in most situations, deeming something kawaii, or cute, is seen as high praise.
This is especially true when it comes to women. Whereas in English-speaking countries some may take issue with what they perceive as a diminutive or demeaning connotation to the word “cute,” in Japan, calling a girl kawaii is almost universally considered a compliment. Even actresses and models who would ordinarily be described as “beautiful” by English speakers earn kawaii cred if they have a kind smile, or any other sort of soft warmth to the aura they project.
But while just about any Japanese woman is happy to be called kawaii, things aren’t quite so simple for men.
Internet portal My Navi Woman recently asked 114 men between the ages of 22 and 39 how they’d feel when a woman referred to them as kawaii. Only 52.6% said they’d come away feeling happy.
Those who’re in touch with their kawaii-ness, or kawaisa to use the proper term, simply take it as a compliment and don’t see the need to second guess the rationale behind it. “I’m happy when a woman shows any sort of interest in me,” one respondent stated matter-of-factly.
Another man concurred, adding that he’s got no problem being called kawaii if it’s coming from an older woman. “I feel like they’ll treat me nicely,” the 35-year-old explained.
Others took an even more practical stance. “Well, it’s better than having her say I’m not cute,” concluded another member of the kawaii camp.
Most pragmatic of all was one 26-year-old who’s clearly made peace with his limitations. “I know it’s impossible for me to be cool, so being cute is the only chance I have to win a girl over with my looks.”
Actually, his self-deprecating quote touches on one of the major reasons nearly half of the survey participants would rather not have a woman call them kawaii. To many, the word has a decidedly feminine ring to it, and isn’t exactly the look or image they’re going for. “I’m happy if a woman calls me cool, but with kawaii things aren’t so straightforward,” explained a 27-year-old health industry professional.
Many others echoed this sentiment, with statements such as “As a guy, I’m happier being called cool than cute.”
As a matter of fact, some dudes see being called kawaii as an out-and-out affront to their masculinity. “It’s like she doesn’t see me as a man,” grumbled one 27-year-old. “I’d feel like she’s making fun of me,” lamented another.
Unfortunately, with a nearly equal split between guys who view being seen as kawaii as a pat on the back and those who feel it’s a slap in the face, there’s no clear-cut way of handling the issue. Aside from avoiding the judgment altogether until you’ve sounded out a guy’s feelings on the matter, you can always try hedging your linguistic bets.
For example, during a meal I once had someone tell me, “There are some kawaii things about you.” I took it as the compliment it was meant as.
Plus, it still left me feeling secure enough that I didn’t feel like a wuss for ordering dessert.
Sources: My Navi Woman, Livedoor
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