However, the country also has a distinctive culture, with social quirks that may seem a little unusual to visitors. Here are 4 of the main differences you need to be aware of before you arrive!
Having a clean and tidy home is considered a normal part of Japanese culture, and politeness and respect is expected by all visitors. Taking off your shoes and replacing them with house slippers before you enter is commonplace – simply walking indoors with outdoor shoes is viewed as a dirty habit!
Japanese people are also very careful and responsible when it comes to the spreading of germs. Hot towels will typically be used to cleanse hands after meals, while surgical masks are a usual sight – this is generally because the mask wearer has a cold, and they do not wish to spread their germs to others.
It is likely that most visitors will be aware of the Japanese bowing custom before they arrive in the country, and this often makes people nervous in social situations as they are unsure of the appropriate way to act.
A good rule of thumb is to follow the lead of the person you are interacting with – if they bow to you, then simply return the compliment; the lower you bow, the more respect is shown.
Bowing is necessary in these situations:
- Thanking somebody
- When greeting another person
- When apologising
- Before you enter a home or office
For Japanese people, food should be consumed either at home, in a cafe, restaurant, or in a designated food eating area such as a canteen. Western style 'eating on the go' is still frowned upon in Japanese society.
It is viewed as disrespectful to other people and unclean to eat while on buses and trains (unless it is a lengthy or overnight journey). Likewise, eating snacks while walking around a city or town is not a normal sight, and tends to be thought of as slobbish behaviour.
If you must eat outdoors, find a bench or a picnic area to consume your food, and be sure to dispose of any rubbish and packaging in a bin.
Unlike the United States and many other countries, tipping a waiter or waitress is not expected and attempting to do so could result in an awkward situation. Tipping is actually viewed as an insult by some people!
Meals in restaurants always have the service charge included in the price, so there is no reason to give any extra cash. Even if the meal and service has been excellent, it is best practice to refrain from offering a tip – the employee will simply return your money and may become uncomfortable at being put in an embarrassing position.