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What is rude in Japan?

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What is rude in Japan? 2005/9/26 16:34
I should be going to Japan for the first time within a month and ive seen travel shows about Japan and read things. Such as the Japanese have a thing for manners.

Im just wondering do a lot of Japanese get annoyed with foreigners not knowing how to speak Japanese (other than the basics). Or should I not be ashamed to speak English, because I would just feel weird speaking english when in Japan, I would feel like im being selfish or rude. And would I have to worry about store owners or people in general trying to take advantage of me and my money since I don't know the language and culture very well.
Also when buying stuff from stores how should I act. Should I act like buying from a store in America or is there a way of doing things.
Another one is, when asking questions. Ive heard its rude to ask a question right up front and be that open about what you want. Or what if I was lost in Tokyo would it be rude to ask someone on the street how to get somewhere or would I be better off asking one of the police. And before I forget I heard it was also rude to talk on the trains and frowned apon.
And to cover anything I missed or forgot. Whats the way you should act in public. And what other things should you do that would be considered polite.

by Kyle  

Being a foreigner 2005/9/26 19:40
It is very unlikely that somebody would get annoyed that you don't speak Japanese, but it is also likely that you end up speaking with somebody who doesn't speak English (very well). Take some time to learn some of the stock Japanese phrases from your travel guide by heart (sumimasen, gomennasai, etc.) and prepare yourself to communicate very clearly. I find that it helps to write down dates and place names when making hotel or train reservations.
When you're in the shops, you'll be greeted by a ringing "Irasshaimase". No need to reply to that, just kindly acknowledge it with a nod at best. When paying in the shops, I found that I'm almost always addressed in Japanese. Sometimes there is a question asked to you and you need to use your wits to guess what they asked. If you buy food in a convienient store, the question is likely to inquire if you want the food heated. Luckily, in Japan you usually don't need to specify all these parameters when ordering: gShort, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc.h, like you have to in the US; I want a coffee, what's with the questions. :-)

As for questions, when you're lost, you're lost and you need to find help. The best would be to find a police box but if you don't see one, the other thing to do would be to ask a salaryman or some school kids. I usually don't ask women as I feel that they get uncomfortable.

by Kappa rate this post as useful

Another standard question 2005/9/26 19:46
When paying by creditcard, you're often asked in how many installments you want to pay. Can be handy to know :-)
by Kappa rate this post as useful

lots of little things 2005/9/26 22:36
don't point at anyone with your hashi. Don't stand your hashi straight up in your rice bowl. If you have a plain bowl of rice, don't pour any sauce or anything on it. don't blow your nose in public, it's polite to sniff. DO slurp your soup, it's polite and cools it off enough to eat quickly. salary men are really good for giving directions, just look lost and one will approach you. they always seem thrilled to practice their english. sort your garbage. don't litter. if you go to a cool-looking temple, ask first before taking pictures.
by b rate this post as useful

.. 2005/9/26 22:39
Kyle when you have a question BE specific as possible when asking, don't give a run around or undirect question, I found that its better if you ask a specific question with as much detail as possible.
by ... rate this post as useful

... 2005/9/27 02:25
whats rude in japan? well, whats rude in most other countries? as it so happens, a lot of those things are rude in japan too! wow... amazing isnt it.
by ... rate this post as useful

Smile! 2005/9/27 12:21
I found you a very sincere person, worrying about how you should behave in a country you are about to visit.
Other people have already given some sound advice, but let me add some more form a Japanese point of view. (Allow me not to be able to make myself clear as English is not my native language. Please feel free to point it out and ask further questions!)

In Japan, very few people try to take advantage of you because you don't understand them. And when buying stuff from stores, you can see how much it is on the casher, so there is no problem. If you pay in cash, try to get rid of coins first, as you don't need them much. You don't have to tip in Japan, you know. So, if you buy 4,560 yen item, if you have 60 yen, give them to the shop assistant first, and then pay 5,000yen. That's how Japanese people keep their wallet light. Just keep minimum coins of a couple of 10 yens and 100 yens and one 500yen coin is enough.

You seem to be curious about Japanese attitudes towards foreign visitors. In short, when it comes to communicate with foreign visitors, Japanese people are exactly like Parisians but less arrogant as they don't disguise their sense of failure.
If they can utter English, no matter how they speak gibberish, they will try to help you, and if they feel traumatic about their English school education, they will neverthaless try to help you with a very polite Japanese language which even a decent foreign resident who's studied Japanese a little and lived a few years in the country find difficult to understand.

So, the best way you can follow is to smile and try to say 'Excuse me'(Sumimasen), 'Thank you'(Arigato), 'I'm sorry.'(Gomen-nasai, Don't worry, Japan doesn't have a suing culture.), 'Hello'(Kon-nichiwa), and 'Good bye'(Sayonara), and speak English very slowly to them. (But not shout loud, they can hear you all right.)

Incidentally, the reason you heard that rude to talk on the trains and frowned apon is probably because American people tend to be very loud comparered to Japanese or even British people. Both British and Japanese tend to be quieter in public, so as not to invade each other's privacy(when they are sober). You probably haven't thought about it as it is a part of your culture, but go and visit a major book store such as Kinokuni-ya or Maruzen, you can probably hear American people making a conversation a few shelves away!

Anyway, don't worry about speaking in English in Japan.Japanese people are very forgiving about non-japanese people not being able to speak their language, on the contrary, they subconsciously feel it threatning if they should encounter a foreigner who is able to speak it flawlessly as they can't boast how Japanese are unique culturally, historically, and linguistically and other nonsense. Try to use those Japanese words I suggested in your conversation, that'll make you a honourable foreign ambassador and everyone loves you.

by Keiko rate this post as useful

The exact opposite of rude 2005/9/28 00:32
What a nice, patient, informative answer, Keiko!
by watagei rate this post as useful

Thanks for the help 2005/9/28 03:11
Thanks for all this advice. But whats a "Hashi"
by Kyle rate this post as useful

O-hashi 2005/9/28 04:20
Chopsticks (the eating utensils).

Interestingly I just read a piece (in the NY Times) by a young Chinese woman who was drafted in the mid 1990's and mentioned in passing that when her troop marched in the Chinese countryside, local people would smile and call "girl soldiers" and point at them with their chopsticks. I would never have suspected that this would be okay in China.

by watagei rate this post as useful

Almost everything! 2005/9/28 07:44
When i was in Japan almost everything i do it was rude, i'm from Mexico so, we are a rude country, but for my fortune i learn fast, dont eat in train or subway, when tehy are watching t.v be quiet, no one get upset if you ask something in the street, you may have to learn usefull frases, and prepare yourself because you will get lost! i sugest you to get real quickly a Subway-Train map, this will be basic thing in Japan specialy from Narita Airport, if you can print one from the net you will be better, and about the money.... Its the Most expensive city in the all world! so, travel and eat cheap, this will give you a exciting travel, and try all, this is a wonderfull country!
by Angel rate this post as useful

... 2005/9/28 07:47
Tokyo is only as expensive as you make it to be. I found Tokyo quite cheap on transport, food, and excellent CHEAP lodging (normally those two words don't mix in other parts of the world).

I found my homecity of Washington, DC to be more expensive than Tokyo.

by ... rate this post as useful

Inappropriate Behavior 2005/12/29 10:40
Does anyone know this answer? I am researching Japan and I was asked to find out what would be considered rude. Give the gift of a leather-bound day planner or Single an employee out with a compliment? Please let me know or point me in the right direction to get the answer. Thanks
by lisa rate this post as useful

Baka - (-.-") 2005/12/29 20:15
Baka, so you might know means Idiot and or jerk. But this is not considered AS ruse in some parts of Japan. ex: in tokyo its merely a word like cat, but in Miyazaki pref, it could get you head smashed off by an InuYasha glass vase!
by Jordan rate this post as useful

how not to be a total nerd 2006/3/21 18:14
get a phrase book and a pocket dictionary and carry them with you at all times.
by don rate this post as useful

A few tips 2006/3/24 05:21
Generally I thought it was hard to find someone who could communicate with me in English. If I was asked something in Japanese and I didn't understand, most people could say one word in English to make things clear, but that's all.

e.g. At a store the retailer asks, "Do you wanna bag" in Japanese. You don't understand. You either stare blankly, or say "sorry I don't understand." They say "bag?" So now you can understand and reply. For the most part, I didn't sense much annoyance from these occasions

Just a warning, the fact that you don't speak Japanese wont make people speak slower to you. Because of this, asking for directions can be a burden.
Even if you can ask for directions properly, good luck understanding the answer. So do your best not to get lost. To be honest I expected more people to be able to speak English than I actually encountered.

No matter how hard you try to be polite, you'll still end up feeling ignorant,rude and/or stupid to a degree. Just understand you're role there, is as a foreigner and not much is expected from you in terms of understanding customs. Anything you can say or do will be appreciated.

Good luck and have fun

by Dani-yan rate this post as useful

Sayonara 2008/5/29 03:52
I heard from a friend who knows a little Japanese that it's rude to say "Sayonara". Does anyone know if this is true?
by Max rate this post as useful

sayonara 2008/5/29 17:04
I don't know if it's rude, but no one has said sayonara to me once since I've been here. It's been 'bye bye' just about every time.
by Bob rate this post as useful

Japan 2008/5/31 09:34
I go to Japan at least twice a year and for the most part-everything that people mentioned here is correct. As for speaking English--I know very basic Japanese and I am always surprised to see how many people would reply in English after I spoke to them in Japanese; so it really just varies who you speak with in general. I didnt find Japan to be expensive at all compared to my hometown in the US. I always have a great experience when Im there.
by Aggie rate this post as useful

not rude at all 2008/5/31 10:39
No, it's not rude to say sayonara. People say it all the time. It's a bit different to goodbye in English, in that you use different expressions to say goodbye to your family in the morning etc., but there's nothing rude about it.
by flyingkiwi rate this post as useful

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