Japanese vs. American Emoticons: A Business Need-to-Know


In texts, emails, Wall posts, Facebook conversations, Twitter feeds and more, emoticons can be found. Online dialoge wouldn’t  be the same without them. Tones are set and online languages are made through smiley faces, frowny faces and uh-oh expressions. One could even argue that emoticons are just as influential and important as basic quotation marks.

When dealing with international clients, an understanding of cultural differences is necessary. Online interactions and communities influence culture, therefore, web practices like the use of emoticons, although not foremost thought about, is something not to miss.

As the common nature of assumption would have it, most believe a simple “:)” is understood by all as a smile and as a positive commutative gesture. However, that is not the case. In Asian cultures a traditional–by American standards–smiley face does not always translate as one would expect.

For instance, in Japan eyes are the primary determinate of a person’s emotional state. Thus, Japanese emoticons, rather than placing facial exaggeration on the mouth as Americans tend to do, character differences are in the eyes. Here’s some examples: 

Japanese Emoticons




American Emoticons

: )

: (


: P








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