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Cultural No No's? 2008/8/29 02:22
Hello there. I'm 21 years old and my boyfriend (he's 26) and I are planning to move to Japan in about five years. I know Japanese culture is very different from the US and somethings we take for granted being accepted. (Like in an Islam country, showing the bottom of your foot)Any help for us would be great. Thanks!
by Courteney  

. 2008/8/29 11:15
While Japan is very different from the US, you are a foreigner, and people won't really expect you to behave like a Japanese. Japan is very much an 'us and them' culture. However, I'll mention some things that are frowned upon.

As I'm sure you know, take off your shoes inside anyone's home. Slippers are usually worn in the home, and toilet slippers are worn in the toilet (the house slippers wait outside the toilet door). You HAVE to take off shoes in the entrance way, no exceptions to this

The individual is not important in Japan. Your group is what is important. At work, the emphasis is not on you, but on your coworkers as a team. This group mentality permeates all aspects of the culture, and as a result, talking about yourself too much and using the pronoun 'I' often when speaking is frowned on. This can be very frustrating for Westerners (and Japanese also, but Japanese understand that it can't be changed or helped)

Chopsticks are never stuck into a bowl of rice, since this imitates offerings to the dead. Use your chopstick rest

Bathing is a VERY big deal in Japan. Never wash yourself inside the tub. You wash first next to the tub, and then soak your clean body in the tub

Don't talk on your cell phone on trains, or leave the ringer on. It is ok to have the ringer off and text, though. With the exception of drinking and bars, Japanese are pretty quiet and don't really like excess talking, as well as loud voices

Don't eat while walking, or drink while walking

This one may be the hardest, but it is best to not give your real opinions when meeting people. Japanese culture has 'honne' (real feelings) and 'tatemae' (the face you show to your group to keep harmony). Once you get to know people well who are your equals, 'honne' can be expressed, but it is best to be very diplomatic and agreeable in social settings in Japan. This can sometimes seem 2 faced to non Japanese, but this is the way it is.

Anyway, like I said, nobody will expect you to get off the plane and understand Japanese culture. The longer you are are there, the more you observe and the more people you meet, the more things will make sense.
by Kazuyuki78 rate this post as useful

culture 2008/8/29 17:28
Kazuyuki78 is right about Japan culture but "Westerners" shouldn't be used when replying to a person from the USA as the US culture is very different from the culture of many Western countries. In Western Europe for example many people take off their shoes in their homes (some families in the US also do that). Europeans avoid saying I or Me too often as it is rude and will say "we" do.. rather than "I" do. Being boastful is also considered wrong. European people will call co-workers Mr. or Ms rather than by their first name. Eating and drinking while walking is also not often done, that's why there are so many cafes with terraces: to eat/drink a quick snack. Not giving your true opinion is also the polite thing to do in Europe (as well as in the USA and many other places)especially with people that aren't close friends.
by Red frog rate this post as useful

welcome 2008/8/29 18:07
I'll tell these things without considering what you know already. These're general stories.

Be quiet in elevators, and trains. Don't get in maintained turfs. Don't do camping and fishing anywhere without a permission.

Don't go out in braless.

In restaurants, pay a bill at the register, not at your table (but paying at the register isn't so unusual in Western's). Water are free in any restaurants.
When you have a drink with someone, don't drink your first stuff before all's be prepared. Wait your friend's. (is it confusing?)

Public restrooms are also free. When you do your business, use sound-effects set in restrooms (for ladies).

Blow your nose quietly (some ppl are rude, though).

In public bathrooms, don't put your towel in a bathtub and don't washing your face in a bathtub.

If you would live in an apartment, don't let your friends live together in your room. It's violate a contract. Turn down the stereo , TV and your voice (you don't need to whisper, but I think Japanese ppl are quieter than others).

In crowded streets, a shop, a train... Don't get mad with someone who doesn't apologize after shaving your back or shoulder. Japanese ppl doesn't apologize to such a tiny issue. (especially when they're busy)

First of all, the thing you must prohibit doing is ....kissing in public!
by a casual customer rate this post as useful

you won't be shaved... 2008/8/29 19:54
a casual customer, i think you mean "shoving", not "shaving"- you make japan sound very dangerous, like there are people out there with razors and they won't apologise for using them on you!
by koala2 rate this post as useful

Thanks so much 2008/8/29 21:38
Thanks so much for all your responses. I had a question about taking your shoes off at the entrance. Is it appropriate to also take your socks off?
by Courteney rate this post as useful

. 2008/8/30 01:53
Hi again

Like I said, as did Red Frog, Japanese won't expect you to know these things. The longer you are in Japan, the more you will notice and learn.

In answer to your question about socks, you do not have to take off your socks. Every home has a 'genkan', which these days is a tile area by the front door. You leave your shoes on the stile, and step up into the home from there. Slippers are frequently worn, but are not required.

If you were wearing sandals, you would just leave your sandals on the tile and enter bare foot
by Kazuyuki78 rate this post as useful

barefoot? 2008/8/30 06:27
Hi, I'm going to Japan next week. I checked the weather and it seems to be quite hot. Is it ok to wear sandals (without socks)? then, if we visit a shrine, we have to leave our shoes outside. Is it ok to go in barefoot?? or would it be better to wear socks?
by samia rate this post as useful

. 2008/8/30 07:12
It will be unlikely that you will actually go inside the shrine. Most Japanese (or non Japanese) when at a shrine, look at the scenery and pray in front of the shrine. You are outside with your shoes on here.

Only people who wish a special sevice, like some weddings or special occasions for children, talk to a priest and pay money, and go inside.

So, you won't be going inside so don't worry about taking off your shoes in a shrine :-)

Yes, I would say sandals are fine, though with site seeing, aren't sneakers or walking shoes more comfortable?
by Kazuyuki78 rate this post as useful

gloups! 2008/8/30 07:19
Excuse me, I am a bit of an ignorant. is temple and shrine the same thing? can't you go inside to see the interior? like a church or a mosque ? well, anyway, i suppose i'll follow your advice and sneakers - but I saw that today, there were 30 º in Tokyo!!!
Thanks for your reply!
by samia rate this post as useful

sandals fine 2008/8/30 07:49
If your sandals are comfortable for walking, by all means wear them. It has been cooler lately but could get got again so closed in shoes could become uncomfortable.

A shrine is Shinto, a temple is Buddhist. There are many differences between them, and a search on Google should help you find out what they are if you want to know. No, they are nothing like a church or mosque, people pray outside the front of the building, which is open, unless they have some kind of special service to attend, which is usually paid for. Some larger shrines and temples have larger areas which you can go inside, and in this case either socks or bare feet are fine.
by Sira rate this post as useful

thanks! 2008/8/30 14:47
ok, I checked and now I understand. Thank you very much!
by samia rate this post as useful

try not to worry about it 2008/9/1 08:46
There's so many little things, it seems to me, that it's just impossible to keep track. You'll go nuts. Some guy almost had a conniption when I offered to pour sake for the people at my table. Also, I see people walking and eating all the time, or walking and talking on their cell phones, etc. But everyone says you can't do that.

When I got here, I had no idea about what's a no-no or not. As long as you have manners, just keep your eyes open and just observe what everyone else is doing. If you go out with coworkers and everyone takes their shoes off at the restaurant, you take your shoes off. And so on.

It was stated earlier that Japan is a very 'us v them' place. This is very true. You're always going to be an outsider. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have proper manners and be polite. As very non confrontational as the Japanese are, if you ask about culture, they seem pleased with your interest and do take time to explain. For example, the chop sticks in the rice.

However, the Japanese don't really have a concept of personal space. So when you're in line, sometimes they stand on top of you, or on the train, I tend to get pushed around a lot. There's not much you can do about that, so you have to just deal. One big thing I've noticed is that if you are playing for stuff at a store, groceries or whatever, it is ok to fish around for exact change. In the USA if you did that, everyone in line would be all huffy and impatient.

As you get settled in, you'll notice all the different ways people behave. The best advice is to just be really observant.
by Dr Bob rate this post as useful

Sound-effects set? 2009/6/2 06:30
I just stumbled upon this fantastically interesting (and informative) thread! I do have one question though...

(Quoting) "Public restrooms are also free. When you do your business, use sound-effects set in restrooms (for ladies)."

What is meant by sound-effects set? I'm curious and confused!

Thanks! =^.^=
by Pristine rate this post as useful

... 2009/6/2 07:39

For the sound-effects, I think women are kind of self- conscious and so when they do proceed into "doing their business" they can press a little button, or sometimes the sound effects are sensor-activated,and their bodily functions will be covered up with the sound of a flushing toilet, without actually flushing the toilet.
by HalikJagiya rate this post as useful

Sound Princess 2009/6/2 07:55

What is meant by sound-effects set?

Details here...
by Dave in Saitama (guest) rate this post as useful

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