I found this interesting little article, makes you really think about bowing.
"...We in the West don't bow to anything or anyone. Not to God, not to Buddha, not to our parents, not to each other. It would never occur to us to bow, because this is a democracy and we are all equal. In the East, however, everyone is always bowing to everyone else. It is a sign of respect, a greeting, a religious and simply a chance to pause..."