As you may have realized by now, we post a lot of stuff about Japan. It is because we live here, but it’s just as much because we love it and find the entire culture fascinating. What we’re focusing on today is for all you guys who haven’t yet been to this awesome country. We’re going to look at rules for foreigners that you can keep in mind in order for you to better adjust to the Japanese way of life.
When I first got here – like many others – the culture shock was real. Everything is just so different here compared to back home. Knowing and being able to follow these rules will help you adjust to the culture much quicker and better than I did, and they will also limit the culture shock you may otherwise experience.
Whenever you meet a Japanese person, they may bow as a way of showing respect and also to greet you. Foreigners are not expected to know all the specifics about bowing but if you just respond with a small bow or even just a head nod, this will do.
Hand shakes are common as well but just be prepared to be greeted in this way.
It’s always best to air on the side of caution with this one. Even if you just accidentally bump into someone (no matter how gently) just apologize to them.
If you are new to the Japanese language and want to learn the basics, check out this article where we give you all of the essential words and phrases you need to know to survive in Japan.
3. Say Thank You
Again, best to air on the side of caution. Whenever anyone gives you something or does something for you, make sure to thank them.
You will also learn this in our other article.
4. Shoes Off
This one’s a little different.
Whenever you enter someone’s home or a restaurant, it’s customary and respectful to remove your shoes.
We talk a little more about this in our post (15 Useful Travel Tips for Japan) helping first time travelers adjust to Japan.
There are certain rules about chopsticks that you should be aware of whenever you’re eating out.
The first is to never let the chopsticks rest in your bowl. Instead, lay them flat across the top.
The second is to never directly pass food from your chopsticks to somebody else’s.
And third, don’t play with them or pretend they’re spears or something weird like that!
If you’re wondering why these rules are rules, it’s because they symbolize death, and you may offend some people if you break these rules.
6. Slurping is Okay
You can think of this as a kind of anti-rule.
Slurping when you eat is something that could be considered rude where you’re from but in Japan, don’t hold back! Be as noisy as you want. No one will care. They won’t be able to hear you because they’re likely slurping too!
7. NO Tipping!
This doesn’t just go for people working in a restaurant, but in all professions.
Don’t tip waiters.
Don’t tip taxi drivers.
Just keep your money in your wallet! It’s considered as very rude to tip someone in Japan.
8. What You Say Before and After a Meal
Now, these aren’t included in our language essentials post.
Itadakimasu (i-ta-da-ki-mas) is what you say before a meal. It literally means “I will receive” but is said as a sign of respect and to show that you like the look of the food.
After the meal is over, you say gochisousamadeshita (go-chi-so-sama-desh-ta). This is said to thank where the food came from.
Japanese people will be very impressed if you know this!
When In Public
9. Respect Temples/Shrines
As you will find out, Japan is filled with amazing Buddhist temples and shrines.
Anyone is allowed into these places, but under the condition that you are respectful. So don’t dress like a complete idiot and refrain from making too much noise.
10. No Phones
You’re not meant to talk on your phone while on buses or trains. There will even be announcements, encouraging you to switch your phones to silent mode while you’re on board.
It’s also considered rude if you speak at a loud volume on public transport, so try and keep to a conversational level.
11. Respect the Queuing Process
Queuing for trains in Japan is quite a sight to see. Everything is so organised and everyone follows the rules.
Everyone forms an orderly queue while waiting for the train to arrive. When the train does arrive, everyone moves to the side of the doors to allow passengers to get off first. After this, everyone files into the train in a calm, orderly fashion.
12. Don’t Blow Your Nose in Public
Another no no is blowing your nose in public.
In Japan, you will see many people wearing face masks. This is to stay hygienic as well as prevent the spread of illness, so don’t go spraying snot rockets everywhere! Not cool!
13. Learn Basic Japanese
Not many people in Japan can speak good English. Therefore it really helps to know at least the bare essentials when it comes to Japanese. Like I’ve mentioned, if you want to start learning we have a post focusing on the basics.
Japan is so organised that they even have a system in place for escalators.
For all you lazy people wanting to just stand motionless and let the stairs do all the work, you stand on the left hand side. Those who are more fit or are in a rush have a clear lane to walk up the right hand side!
Because there’s nothing worse than being stuck behind someone on one of these things, right?
And our list has come to an end. Thank you for reading guys.
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Thanks again guys! Hope this was helpful!
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