Many Japanese people who see me on the street may think I’m overtly polite, especially when it comes to bowing. Why? I’m doing it on purpose, so it comes more naturally to me.
My first instinct in admitting some kind of public apology (i.e. running in front of a car or bicycle) is to wave. I’m not sure if that’s recognized in Japan, but I know a bow would be more openly accepted.
After a purchase at Fuji Grand… I bow.
After thanking the pizza delivery man… I bow.
Nearly running into someone coming out of the elevator or train… I bow.
Finishing a dinner, whether it be at Jolly Pasta or a quality izakaya… I bow.
It’s not easy to train a reflex like this, to turn my American gestures Japanese. But practice makes perfect.