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8 cultural differences in Japan

by Murat

8 Cultural in Japan

The world is a diverse place. One accepted thing in country X may not be acceptable in country Y and vice versa. Japanese people are generally kind so you usually don’t have a problem communicating. But if you aren’t careful with your behavior, even small details can offend them. In this post, I explain the 8 cultural differences I observed in Japan to help you blend in.

1- Don’t be too blunt and direct when you speak

In western culture, most of the time it is OK to be blunt and straightforward. One of the major difference is Japanse people are not like that. For instance, when a guy asks you out, if you don’t want or like him you can simply say you are not interested in it. But in Japan, they don’t directly reject you. That is in their culture and it is called Tatamae. So they don’t tell you things directly instead they would say ‘maybe next time’ or ‘later’ if you get these responses, don’t insist just walk away.  

2- Tipping is not a common thing in Japan.

Although with time this is changing, tipping is not expected in Japan. Let’s say you had a nice coffee and you wanted to leave some tips to waiter/ess if you give them directly or left money on the table they would think that you forgot that money and bring it back to you. I am not joking around they really can do. As I said in the beginning, it is changing nowadays so you can see tip boxes around the cashier especially in the cafes. But for local family places, it is still not common. You can tip them and explicitly say you enjoyed the service and you are leaving tips.

3- Chewing loudly is a good indicator that you liked the meal.

This one is totally opposite. Not all meals are suitable for making noise. But if you are having a soup with noodles (like Udon, Soba) you can try and show your appreciation. They would like that. Just don’t exaggerate.

4- No towel if you get in Onsen (Japanese hot spring)

One of the best things in Japan is its hot springs. There are many onsens in Japan. Some are open air. They especially nice during nights with a clear sky. Another cultural difference between Japanese people and the western world (although there are exceptions)  is being naked in Onsen. They think it is purer when one is naked. So if you are not comfortable with nudity, remember this. If you use a towel they will give you a strange look and pressure. By the way, Onsens are separate for men and women.

5- We handshake they bow.

It is very interesting that the angle depends on respect. Let’s say if you are elder and head of something like CEO, they go almost 90 degrees. If they want to apologize to that person from deep of their heart, they might even crawl. What you see in the movies is real.  It is OK for younger generations to handshake but middle-aged and elder people are not used to do that. Even younger generations seldom handshake but when they see you are a foreigner they don’t expect you to bow of course.

8 differences in japan and usa

6- It is kind to fill others drink

If you see an empty glass feel free to fill it. Usually, they will fill your empty glass as well.

7- Do not stick your chopsticks in the rice

This is not specific for Japan, but it is considered rude and usually happens in funerals. Unless you want to leave bad impression, don’t do it.

8- Do not hand in money direclty, instead use the money tray

Again when they see you are a foreinger, they don’t make this an issue. But Japanense people dont hand in Money. When you are in a store, there are trays where you can place your money. They will also place the change in the same tray.

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