27 October, 2009

Japanese customs

Doing some research this morning, I stumbled upon a webpage called "10 Japanese Customs You Must Know Before A Trip to Japan". It has some interesting observations on Japanese customs. I love it when you read something that crystallises something you know, but haven't been able to put it into words yet. Here are a couple I found this morning on the above page:
Some false assumptions among many Japanese that’s slowly being dispelled by time is the “uniqueness” of Japan...(and therefore)
  • Japan is the only country that has four seasons;
  • foreigners can’t understand Japan; (nor can they speak Japanese)
  • only Japanese can use chopsticks properly.

It's absolutely true. So many times people have commented on my amazing ability to speak Japanese (or use chopsticks) when I've only uttered a short phrase, no better than a primary schooler might do....

Here's another key insight:

Drawing attention to yourself as an individual is a huge no-no: don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas like trains or buses.

The main problem with this is that foreigners simply can’t avoid standing out; we stick out like sore thumbs no matter how long we’ve been here, or how much we know about Japanese culture and society.

As a result, being in Japan gives foreigners the status of D-level celebrities: you’ll get glances...
...and more. Especially if you have white babies or children. We've had ladies nearly swooning at the "cuteness" of our kids! It is wonderful to be in a land at present where we don't stick out. And in fact, where it doesn't matter too much if you do!


Ken Rolph said...

An interesting take on cross cultural matters is at:


This is mainly for Americans going outside their boarders. It has obvious advice for them, like "don't spend all your time talking very loudly about how much better America is than where you are".

But the advice can travel more widely. I've got the PDF version of their brochure which has a lot of good advice for anyone going anywhere.

Wendy said...

Oh Ken, I never thought I'd catch you at a spelling error!

Tim and Susan said...

These were interesting. Thanks for sharing them.

Ken Rolph said...

The fingers do the typing. Sometimes they operate all on their own. English is full of traps for fingers on auto-type.

Ken Rolph said...

I always like to cross check pieces about cultural insights. While I was at the Matador site I searched for what they had on Australia. One piece talked about the wonderful "opossums" of Australia.

It's very hard to look into a culture from the outside and report on it accurately.