“Japanese people tend to be rather reserved.”

You're talking with someone who's interested in Japan but doesn't know much about it. You start discussing the differences between Japanese people and people from other countries. You make this observation.

Japanese people tend to be rather reserved.

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Japanese people

There are different ways to name people from different countries. For some countries, there's a convenient one-word name for the people who live there. But for other countries, the one-word version sounds strange or even offensive. Here's a guide to a what I think is the best-sounding way to talk about people from several large countries:

  • U.S.A. - Americans
  • Great Britain - British people
  • Germany - Germans
  • France - French people
  • Korea - Koreans
  • Russia - Russians
  • Japan - Japanese people
  • Brazil - Brazilians
  • Mexico - Mexican people
  • India - Indian people
  • Australia - Australians

(something) tends to be (adjective)

You can talk about the way that something usually or often is with the phrase "(something) tends to be ___":

Homes in the southern U.S. tend to be a bit larger than those in the North.

The air tends to be very humid close to the coastline.

You can also use "tend to" in the phrase "tend to (do something)":

It tends to rain a lot at this time of year.

rather (adjective)

"Rather" is an adverb which is similar in meaning to "pretty ___". You use "rather" before an adjective to show how much of that quality something has:

It's rather hot in here, don't you think?

"Rather" is stronger than "a little" but not as strong as "very". It's a more formal-sounding word than "pretty" or "kind of". It also has a little bit of a negative sound. People often use it when complaining (in a polite way) about something:

Her cooking was always rather salty.

If you use "rather" to say something nice, it carries a feeling of surprise:

The performances were rather good.

There's another meaning of the word "rather", which is used when choosing one thing instead of another:

I'd rather eat out tonight.

It's probably best to think of these two uses of "rather" as totally different words.

(someone is) reserved

A "reserved" person is someone who is quiet, doesn't usually state their opinions publicly, and controls their emotions:

My father was always reserved at home, but I used to hear from guys that worked with him that he was the life of the party,

The meaning of "reserved" is similar to "shy", but "reserved" has more of a positive meaning. If you say that someone is "shy", it sounds like they want to be more outgoing, but they're too afraid to. If you say that someone is "reserved", it sounds like they've made a decision to be that way.

"Reserved" is an academic-sounding word, so you might not hear people use it much in casual conversation. Instead, someone might describe a person as being "quiet", "shy", or "even-tempered".