Just like any other country, Japan has features that differentiates them from others across the globe. Apart from its delicious variety of cuisines, panoramic landscapes, and renowned advancement in technology, Japan has a distinct culture that hugely focuses on respect.
When you set foot in Japan, you will definitely be in awe of all the fascinating aspects that they portray, however, keep in mind that Japanese are known to be very polite, and manners is a significant thing to take note of especially when you’re visiting tourist attractions, using public transportations, or simply dining at a restaurant.
The thing is, stuff you may normally do on a daily basis in your country might come out offensive if done in Japan. Even if it is such a tiny aspect, if you’re planning to pay a visit to the land of the cherry blossoms, you need to be aware to not upset the locals! It is a simple form of respect that they would surely appreciate. Moreover, it is always a good thing to be familiar with a country’s culture and norms and get on their good side.
Whether you’re thinking of studying there or simply being a tourist, it is crucial to be aware of these top 7 things that you shouldn’t do as a foreigner during your time in Japan!
1. Making a tip
If you think about tipping, generally, it’s considered a good deed since you add an extra to what you originally paid for. And probably, you normally do it instinctively in restaurants, salons, cabs, and other places with good services. Ironically, in Japan, tipping is perceived as something rude and offensive to the locals! Why, you may ask?
In Japan, their culture represents dignity and hard work. They see good service as a standard and not something that ought to be overly looked upon, and therefore, they consider it unnecessary to “reward” them with additional cost. Additionally, tipping in Japan may give an implication that the workers do not earn enough wage and need extra cash. So, in any circumstances, it is best not to tip and just show your gratitude by trying to say thank you in their language, (ありがとうございます- Arigatou Gozaimasu) and bowing slightly to convey the message that you enjoyed their service!
2. Wearing shoes indoors
Most Asian countries are known to have a “no-shoes-indoor” tradition, and in Japan, it is no different. You must not wear shoes indoors, as they consider that doing so makes the inside of the place dirty and unhygienic. This applies in some Japanese-style restaurants, hotels, workplaces, or even schools, especially if the place has a tatami mat flooring. As an alternative, you will be asked to put your shoes in a specific locker, and they usually will provide an indoor slipper instead. Socks are acceptable as well!
On a side note, in some guesthouses and hotels, bathroom slippers are provided that are solely to be used only in the bathroom! Not even in dining rooms, or other areas in the place. If you accidentally use it outside the bathroom, make sure you return it and apologize to anyone who sees, as it might come off disrespectful.
So, if you’re planning to enter such places, be sure to use an easy-to-remove slip on shoes to save time!
3. Being loud on public transportations
If you have ever used the trains or buses in Japan, you’ll most likely notice that Japanese people are really calm, reserved, and most of them are probably minding their own businesses, such as listening to music with earphones, texting on their phones, and even if they were to make a phone call, they will keep it as quiet and brief as possible. In a case where you have to talk on the phone or with your friend, do it as quietly as you can to avoid disturbing other people on the train/bus. So, in order to respect that habit, be sure to keep your noise down and if possible, sit quietly and just enjoy the beautiful view from the window!
4. Being late – even by a minute!
Japan is one of the most punctual countries in the world, and this value is mostly applicable to foreigners living in Japan. If you are planning to work or study there, we are here to make sure you are informed beforehand that punctuality is a very important aspect in the Japanese culture! It is best to be extremely early than a little bit late.
The reason behind it’s super-punctual tradition? Ever since they were little, Japanese are trained to avoid tardiness and learn the importance of being punctual. They get anxious by the thought of showing up late, so it is common that people there arrive at any appointments 10 minutes before the arranged meeting time!
Fun fact : Even trains in Japan are known to be always on time. The average delay is only by 0.9 minutes, where it is usually caused by uncontrollable things such as a natural disaster! If a train were to be late for more than 5 minutes, passengers have the right to request for an issue of a late certificate to show to their school or workplaces.
5. Ignore the queuing system
Whether you’re on the elevator, waiting for a train, or ordering food in a restaurant, be sure to not cut a line and queue properly! In train stations, there are specific areas designed to be used as a lining-up place before boarding a train, and you should wait and let the people get off the train before you enter. In the case of elevators, you are required to stand on the left side if you’re not in a hurry, as the right side is for people who are rushing! As a foreigner, it is essential to follow this manner etiquette to ensure that everything will continue to be organized and tidy.
6. Not showering before entering a public bath
Are you familiar with the word onsen (温泉)?
It is a Japanese public hot spring where people have a relaxing time and rejuvenate themselves, a must-try experience during your visit to Japan! Although, it is important to note that upon entering an onsen, showering is a must! Since it is a communal place where everyone shares the same water, ensuring your body hygiene is essential in keeping the facility as clean and enjoyable as possible for everyone. It is best to thoroughly wash your body, hair, and face before entering the water, and do so again after the onsen experience!
7. Ignore the chopstick etiquette
Chopsticks are the most used eating utensils in Japan, and it is essential to educate yourself with a few manners on using them during your visit!
In Japan, sticking your chopstick into the rice vertically is a displeasing sight, especially when you’re dining at a restaurant. Since it is an action commonly used in funeral rites, and could represent bad luck, it is best not to do it in a regular setting. Also, when you’re done with a meal, avoid putting your chopsticks in a “X” or crossed position, as it is considered bad manners. Instead, lay it down parallelly.
So, what should you do?
These may be simple things that don’t appear to be offensive in our respective views, but in order to respect the local culture and ensure a pleasant trip one day to Japan, it helps to educate yourself through researching more about their do’s and don’ts!
It will also be beneficial to learn basic expressions to ease you on your travel – and also if you’re planning to work or study in Japan! Not all Japanese fluently speak English, so it is best to get used to some Japanese before you go! Sign up for a one-on-one lesson at an affordable price here at Lingotalk, and watch as you quickly develop your skills and gain fluency!
We’ll see you then!