Amae (甘え) is a Japanese concept/word that is used to describe people’s behavior when you desire to be loved, you desire someone to take care of you, when you want unconsciously to be depending on another person (your parents, your wife/husband or even your boss) with a certain meaning of submission. For example, a person with lots of amae would be the one who is capricious so he/she gets the attention from other people, children are the best example of amae behavior, always aiming for pamper from their parents.
There is amae everywhere in the world, but it is interesting that in the Japanese language there is a concrete word to describe it, there is even a verb amaeru that means “depend on the benevolence of others”. It happens that in Japan the amae phenomenon is very exaggerated and you find 40 years old women who act like a 15 years old girl. Japanese men like girls with childish faces, they expect childish behavior from women, they like them submissive; they usually prefer this prototype, known as “kawai”, than an elegant, beautiful woman with a strong character. Here in Japan, men/boyfriends/husbands like to be the protectors of their women, it seems they don’t like to feel that the women is the one with the control over them (Even though reality is that women are over men everywhere in the world, just joking 😉 )
A universal example of Amae is the guy who carries the girl’s books at the university, she could carry the books without problems but she likes someone to care about her and the man likes to feel he is useful. Another example is the capricious way to behave when you want your protector to allow you to do something, for example, when a little boy is acting as he is tired when he doesn’t want to do whatever his mother told him to do. Those are pretty normal examples, we can see them everywhere in the world. But in Japan you can see more exaggerated amae behaviors, a girl who is working with me explains me at lunch time how much she would like our boss to be her big brother, so he could take care of her, someone like our boss would be her ideal brother. I don’t know any western girl with these types of fantasies, but I know many Japanese girls with similar ones. If you think about it, Japanese culture is full of Amae, take any Shojo manga you like and remember how the main characters behave, Japanese pop music seems to be composed by 15 years old adolescents, Japanese girl voices in films/cms/tv are extremely high-pitched and even in Japanese porn movies submission is always there.
An example of amae coming from men would be when the husband arrives home drunk and the woman instead of scolding him, she just helps him to undress and go to bed. This is pretty normal in Japanese dramas.
Amae plays a fundamental rol in a collectivist society where individualism is not well seen and people likes the group to have the power. Amae helps in the process of creating harmonius interconnections inside the family, in the companies and between friends. Japanese do not usually confront each other, it is very difficult to see Japanese people arguing. Amae is one of the tools to keep the harmony, the peace, the wa 和 in the Japanese society.
If you liked his post about amae, the book The Anatomy of Dependence is an excellent book and it’s written by the one who made the term amae popular among the psychologists community during the 70s.