Are you planning a trip to Japan, are you dating a Japanese person, do you want to move to Japan to work and live there or are you simply a big fan of Japanese culture and traditions? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, then this is something you want to read for sure.
Do you know that Japan is considered to be one of the most expensive countries – Tokyo being the second most expensive city in the world (according to some worldwide ratings)? The people there are addicted to work, and it is very usual to stay overtime after a hard working day. They don’t like to spend time on useless things. At the same time they enjoy nature, spend a lot of time with their families keeping alive their traditions, etc.
Tip # 1
After working 8 hours a day many people leave their job by saying that they are so tired that they might even die because of this! When you go to Japan never say something similar. In reality every year more than 10.000 Japanese dies because of “karoshi” (“karoshi” literary means“death from overwork”). This might be a simple saying for a person from a country other than Japan, but for Japanese people, this is something real.
Tip # 2
Another thing that is not accepted in Japan is walking in the house with shoes on. Of course, they will not blame a tourist who did not take his / her shoes off when entering someone’s home, but they will actually appreciate if people visiting them would be aware of their traditions. So, when you enter someone’s house in Japan take off your shoes quickly and impress your host with your manners!
Tip # 3
In most countries not leaving tips in a café or restaurant means that the customer was not satisfied with the service or – he/she is greedy. How much would you tip a waiter in Russia or the USA? Let’s say 5-10%, depending on the country and amount of your order, is this correct? Do you think this is the case in all countries? Well, no it is not. If a customer in Japan tips someone, he/she might get offended. In the best scenario, the employee will run after the customer to return their money. For this reason, unless you are in a place where you can see that the Japanese traditions are not so strong, avoid leaving tips.
Tip # 5
Don’t be surprised when standing in a queue for the toilet someone will go in earlier than you. The thing is that they don’t form one line for all toilets; they stand in front of one toilet of their choice, and if they are lucky (they chose the bathroom where people don’t spend too much time in, compared to the line where you stand) they will be able to use it earlier then you. When you need a toilet… well… you don’t feel letting someone first. Also, keep in mind that the toilets here are not from the “Western-type.”
Tip # 6
When traveling you meet many new people with whom you spend some time and when the time comes to say goodbye, you decide to hug them. When in Japan – simply avoid this. If the person whom you have just met does the first step to hug you, then go for it, but if not, only say goodbye (or hello if you met them the next day or so) and keep moving.
Tip # 7
Even if you are extremely hungry or thirsty don’t eat or drink while walking or on the commuter train. Stop for a second, enjoy your food and drink and follow your route. This is what any Japanese would do, as they like to allocate some time to have a snack or drink in peace.
Tip # 8
When you get an invitation to go somewhere for lunch or drink, keep in mind that by invitation they mean that they will pay for you. Do not insist on paying the bill or only your half (this is one of the worst things you could do). In case you feel not very comfortable with this, simply invite them somewhere else the next day or before going somewhere, point out that you’d like to pay on your own. However, for a very traditional person, this might not be a solution either; they only want to invite you somewhere, and for them, it is not clear why you want to reject it. And indeed, why wouldn’t you simply enjoy the fact that someone pays for you?!
Tip # 9
Learn how to use chopsticks before you decide to visit Japan. If you start playing around with chopsticks in a restaurant the first impression will not be positive for sure. It is not very difficult to use them, simply practice a little bit and you will enjoy the praises from the locals. Plus they will feel you have invested a lot of time and effort on learning something about their cuisine.
Tip # 10
If blowing your nose in public is something usual in Germany or Belgium, this is inappropriate in Japan. Try to find a place without people or go to the toilet and blow your nose there, don’t do this in front of many people, especially when they eat. Most of the citizens in Japan would wear a protective surgical mask in case they have flu, or they have caught a cold. Don’t be surprised when you see dozens of people wearing these masks; there is nothing serious to be afraid of; people simply don’t want to spread the virus around and be the reason why you will get ill. Please, show the same respect and wear a mask if you know you have flu.
Tip # 11
The last tip on what not to do when in Japan decides not to enjoy the hospitality of Japanese people. When you go out with the locals or to a home party, don’t pour your drink. If you are a guest, the hosts will continue filling your glass whenever it is empty or half empty. This is one of their leading hospitality gestures, and everyone next to you will try to fill your glass as often as possible to show how hospitable they are (and they truly are). In case if you decide to pour it for others use two hands for doing this, as they consider this to be very polite and honorable.
When you travel to a new country make sure to get some basic information about things the locals don’t like. If you know additional things that travelers should avoid doing in Japan, share them with us, or if you know someone going to Japan sometime soon, then share this article with them to help them feel more comfortable and appreciated in Japan.
P.S. If you’ve read this article carefully, you probably noticed that instead of 10 tips there are 11. The thing is that Tip # 4 is missing. Do you know why? Japanese are extremely superstitious, and they think number four is an unlucky number, so respecting their traditions; Tip # 4 has been replaced with Tip # 11.