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Clinton Knows "No"

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 8

Following President Clinton's recent meeting with Boris Yeltsin in Vancouver, a reporter released some notes from this event. According to the reporter, one of Clinton's comments to Yeltsin was, "Sometimes the Japanese tell us 'yes' when they really mean 'no.' "

The media jumped on this comment, saying it was at worst racist and at best naive. The media didn't understand that the Japanese language has at least sixteen ways to say "no" without actually saying "no." This fact is based on a cultural belief that it is simply rude to say "no." It is one of several problems people outside the Japanese culture face when using close-ended questions to communicate with the Japanese.

The State Department issued an apology to Japan and made a call to the Japanese Prime Minister, assuring him that the President's comment was taken out of context and no offense was meant.

Perhaps our President understands more about cultural differences than does our press.