I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked “What’s your type?” (タイプは？Taipu wa?) by Japanese men and women looking to set me up on dates — or by someone who’s testing the grounds to see if I’m interested. The question is odd, especially when out of context and can easily make you feel awkward — but even more so, leave you with tons of questions: “Should I talk about looks or personality? And why is he/she asking? Am I reading in too much? And what the heck is the correct Japanese word to say all I want?” The worst is that as you rarely have a ready answer for that, most of the times you feel like whatever you say will make you sound dull. No worries, we’ve all been there.
I was not prepared for that question when I first got asked, so I just said, “well, someone nice” only to become the target of seriously unimpressed looks. I quickly realized that I had set the bar too low, and I came across as being uninterested in finding a partner. If I had gone too much into details, though, I was risking to set the bar too high: i.e. becoming too picky. It’s a constant balancing act that requires a lot of careful thought, but can be incredibly effective if used right. Here’s how to approach it if you want to sound interesting and have the ball in your hands the next time someone throws the question at you!
One phrase that has worked for me so far, especially when I’m interested in the person who’s asking is “suki ni natta hito ga taipu” (好きになった人がタイプ, My type are people I get crushes on). This one is effective because it implies you don’t have an official list of criteria for a partner, so much as fall for individuals. Which is ideally how you’re supposed to fall for someone, isn’t it!
If you are into the person asking you this question and are fairly certain he feels the same about you, reply with “(his/her name) mitai na hito ga suki” (~みたいな人が好き). You are very literally saying “I like people like you,” which should be a big enough sign that you’re interested. You can always follow this up by adding an impromptu confession of love if you’re feeling brave.
The next best option is to present 2-3 adjectives about the personality, appearance, or style (or a combination