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When I try to get on an elevator, sometimes a woman is already waiting for the elevator. There is no other person around there.

Then, after the woman recognizes I'm also going to get on, she suddenly walks away and starts to wait for the next one. It is clear that she misses it not because she recalls something to do but because she is definitely avoiding me.

I understand that women feel frightened to get on the same elevator with a male stranger alone. I also understand that it is not uncommon that these women have encountered one or more bad experiences in the past.

That being said, I'm not sure what, as a male, to do if a woman is already waiting for the elevator before I reach it. Specifically,

  • How should I reach the elevator?

  • Should I speak to or greet the woman or just keeps silent? I feel in both cases women get fearful...

  • If the woman starts to walk away, is there anything I should do or just let her stay away?

  • If the woman gets on the same elevator, how can I relieve her of the fear? (at least I know I should push the button first to let her know at which floor I'm going to get off...)

  • And is there anything I should specifically take care of in these cases?

Although an extremely courteous man might see the woman off alone and then wait for another elevator, all unnoticed by the woman, I feel that is too much to do as a stranger.

If the location of the case where a woman walks away is relevant, this only happened in Japan. The situation was everywhere; in one case, it was an apartment (the entrance is locked and only residents can enter); in another case, it was inside a normal building; in another case, it was an elevator in a metro and in this case there was one more person (elderly man) but nonetheless the schoolgirl walked away when she recognized me, although she was going to get on the same elevator with the elderly...

And for those who don't know, Japan, especially Tokyo, has no such small talk culture as you see in North America, and if a stranger talks to someone, it is usually deemed a pervert.

  • Regarding Japan: I experienced a woman staying away only in Japan, but that the woman feel fearful of getting on with a man likely holds true of other countries as well. So I wonder if it is correct to restrict it to Japan. (Also it might be simply because I lived in Japan longer than any countries...) – Blaszard Nov 16 '17 at 5:25
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    You wrote "And for those who don't know, Japan, especially Tokyo, has no such small talk culture as you see in North America, and if a stranger talks to someone, it is usually deemed a pervert." at the end, so I feel you were already restricting it to Japan as you discounted any solution that may include small talk (which I completely agree wouldn't be the best thing to do in Tokyo). – user4788 Nov 16 '17 at 5:30
  • Actually experienced this in Russia. There's no small talk problems, but it doesn't really help because "in both cases women get fearful...". – user2851843 Nov 16 '17 at 9:45
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Speaking in the context of Japan as it is the only place it has happened.

I would say just get on the elevator and go where you were headed without worrying about it. It is something she is used to, and has likely been doing most of her life, so she likely thinks nothing of it.

If you really feel bad and want her to get on first since she was there first, there is nothing wrong with saying お先にどうぞ osaki ni douzo (feel free to go first) and walking away from the elevator to let her know you won't get on with her.

Feigning disinterest in the elevator is also an option, but it may cause additional trouble for her, so I would avoid it unless you really have something to do, like go to your post box if it is your mansion/apartment.

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    +1 for note on feigning disinterest possibly causing more trouble than assistance. If she is used to behaving this way, allow her to. You acting abnormally (approaching and changing directions once seeing her) is more likely to make her paranoid than you behaving as she expects. – Jess K. Nov 16 '17 at 14:46
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雰囲気読めない人 Already gave an excellent answer, but I would just like to say in general if someone is frightened of you and is walking away, the best you can do is go about your business and not engage that person in any way, no matter how well intentioned any attempt to "defuse" the situation is probably going to make the other person a lot more uneasy.

Look at it from their side: say you walk down the street and see bear (happens where I live sometimes), so you start to back away or such, what would you rather that bear do? Continue doing its thing OR run up to you playfully to show how unthreatening it really is?

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