Japan is a country full of traditions, culture and rules. You might think that you already know everything about Japanese etiquette, but are you really sure?
Today we want to introduce you to some of the most important cultural faux pas you should avoid while traveling to the land of the rising sun. Some of these rules might seem obvious while others sound a little bit strange. Either way, knowing the basics of Japanese etiquette can save you from awkward situations and uncomfortable explanations.
Here is our quick overview of things you should never do in Japan. Enjoy!
Don’t use your phone on the train
This one should go without saying, but while staying quiet on public transportation is more like a suggestion in most countries, it is definitely a rule in Japan. No ringtone will wake you up on the train and no loud phone conversation will disturb you on the bus. Japanese are known to be considerate of the people around them and thus respect that most people want to rest on their commutes.
So put your phone on silent and call people back once you are off the train – the people around you will thank you.
Don’t blow your nose in public
You’ve caught a cold and your nose is running with no end in sight? Better wait until you get a little bit more privacy, because in Japan you don’t blow your nose in front of others.
Personal hygiene is a sensitive topic all around the world and each culture has its own perceptions of what’s acceptable and what isn’t. In Japan, blowing your nose is generally avoided in public and rather seen as something you should do in the bathroom. Just picture someone flossing their teeth in public and you will understand what we mean. It is an especially rude thing to do while eating at a table with others, so be careful when traveling around Japan during the colder months.
Don’t enter a house with shoes on
Most of you are already aware of this rule, but it cannot be repeated often enough: Do not wear your outdoor shoes inside.
Once again, this might be something you are already used to from your home country, but it is definitely a strict rule in Japan. No matter how old you are, how close you are with your host or how shortly you plan on entering the house – your shoes must come off right at the entrance. And don’t forget to change from your house slippers to special bathroom shoes every time you use the bathroom. Many foreigners make the mistake to forget to change back into their original slippers – an excusable mistake that might still get a few laughs out of your Japanese hosts.
Don’t stick your chopsticks into food
Table manners are some of the most important rules to consider when traveling to a different country and in Japan, the correct use of chopsticks is definitely something to keep in mind.
Sticking your chopsticks straight into a bowl of rice – maybe while reaching for a side dish or sipping on your drink – is a major faux pas, not only in Japan, but other Asian countries as well. This image is reminiscent of incense sticks that are used to honor the death, something that no one wants to think about while enjoying a nice meal together.
Also, do not point with your chopsticks at others during a conversation and don’t use the “dirty” end to grab food from a shared plate. Either turn your chopsticks upside down or use a different pair of chopsticks; after all, no one wants to get your saliva on their food.
Don’t cause troubles for others
Last but not least, there is a golden rule that sums up almost all aspects of Japanese etiquette. If there was one thing to keep in mind while visiting Japan, it would be this: Don’t cause troubles for others.
This guideline includes a lot of different actions, like trying to talk as quietly as possible in public, not bumping into others and respecting their personal space, being on time when meeting others or not putting people into situations that would make them feel uncomfortable. As mentioned above, Japanese people respect each other and are always considerate of the person next to them. No matter whether you are Japanese or a foreigner, locals will try to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Try and return this favor.
Cultures and etiquette differ, no matter where you go in the world. Some things might be more relatable, while others seem strange or foreign. Nevertheless, being aware of cultural differences is one of the best ways to respect someone’s culture. If you pay respect to traditions and etiquette, locals will be ready to introduce you to their culture and welcome you in their country. So keep some of the tips we have given you today in mind next time you visit Japan.
Any comments or personal experiences from you are as always more than welcome in the comment section down below.