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Tutor Marie S. 's Column

Don't say "cute"! ~ Cultural Shock | Reading | Upper-Intermediate

Jun 17, 2020

I often like to talk about cultural shock and how some things are ok in some countries and not so ok in others. 

While "cute" is a nice compliment in Japan, in the United States calling someone "cute" is not always the best idea, especially when it comes to adults. 

For example: you are going out to a fancy restaurant with your American friends. One of your friends is wearing something really nice and you want to compliment her. First thing you may think of: Ah, 可愛い! You're cute! Best compliment ever! 

Right? WRONG! Please don't say that unless your friend is 5 years old :)

✿ And here is WHY ✿

"Cute" in English-speaking cultures is not the same as "cute" in Japanese. It's a great word to describe animals and small children, or certain accessories but not adults (usually). If you call a grown-up person "cute" it may mean they are sillychildish or just did/said something that is not to be taken seriously

Here is another example. You are at the office and you think your colleague looks great today. If you say "cute" it may be a little bit confusing. She may think her outfit is not serious or appropriate for work. 

Of course, there are exceptions and it depends on the person. If someone is familiar with Japanese culture, or if their personality is bubbly/carefree and you are sure they will not get offended, feel free to say "cute".

In other cases however, try these instead:

  • You look great!
  • I like your outfit!
  • You look wonderful!
  • You look amazing!

Or simply use "beautiful", "gorgeous" or "stunning" instead! Ok? :)

So cute! Right? :)


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