How to Avoid Etiquette Mistakes in Japan

Опубликовал Admin
31-01-2017, 19:30
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Japanese culture is rooted in ancient customs that emphasize honor, humility and respect in ways that may seem unfamiliar or rigid to a westerner. Everything from your body language to how you eat food can send unintentional signals and affect how others see you. While most Japanese people are used to western visitors and may tolerate etiquette mistakes, it is considered a sign of respect for a guest to do their best to conform to local customs. By doing your research and understanding different social situations, you can make a good impression that will reflect positively on your character.

Following Customs in Public

  1. Dress properly. Most Japanese people dress fairly similarly to westerners so you won’t have to worry about buying specific clothes for your trip. However, Japanese culture places a slightly higher premium on professional attire in public places than exists in the west. Err towards packing and wearing your nicer clothing.
    • Adult men generally don’t wear shorts in Japan, even in hotter weather.
    • Expectations for women to dress modestly are slightly higher in Japan than in the west. Japanese women usually cover their shoulders and avoid form-fitting clothes. However, this expectation is less present in major cities like Tokyo.
    • Flip-flops are not commonly worn in public in Japan. It won’t be considered rude but you may get strange looks.
  2. Mind your body language. Body language signals are more intentional and universally understood in Japan than in most western cultures. A subtle nod, smile or placement of your hands can drastically change the meaning of your words. While Japanese people used to dealing with westerners will understand if you haven’t totally mastered these signals, there are some body language signals that could be considered rude.
    • Try to keep your back straight at all times. Slouching while sitting or leaning against a wall while standing is considered rude and dismissive of your companions.
    • Don’t keep your hands in your pockets during a conversation.
    • Point with your hand, not your finger. Pointing with a finger can be considered as an insult or even a threat.
  3. Avoid spreading germs. Japanese people are very conscientious about spreading germs. This is especially true in major cities like Tokyo because a lot of public places are very crowded and contagious illness can spread easily.
    • Don’t blow your nose in public places. Find a bathroom instead.
    • Cough into the crook of your arm rather than your hand so you cover more of your mouth.
    • If you have a cold, wearing a surgical mask so you don’t get others sick is considered polite.
  4. Keep some distance. Japanese people generally like to leave a bit more space between them during conversations. Try to leave enough space so that if both conversants were to bow at the same time, there would be no risk of bumping heads.
    • Touching is generally discouraged and can be perceived as overly familiar or aggressive. This includes common and benign western actions like patting someone’s shoulder.
  5. Learn to bow properly. Bowing is the most common form of nonverbal communication. While bowing conventions are fairly elaborate, using two types of bows should suffice for a visitor.
    • A deep bow is often used when apologizing or meeting someone of a higher station. Keep your legs and back straight and bend at the waist. Bend far enough so that your face is pointing toward the floor and hold the position for at least 2 full seconds before returning to the upright position.
    • You should definitely perform a deep bow for an employer or anyone you deem to be particularly prestigious. Anyone that is substantially older than you is considered to be of higher station as well.
    • A smaller bow is considered, to some extent, the equivalent of a handshake. Keep your legs and back straight and bend at the waist and return to your starting position quickly. It is proper for meeting people of similar age or station.

Showing Respect to Acquaintances

  1. Remove your shoes before entering a residence. Wearing shoes inside someone’s residence is not acceptable. It is customary to provide guests with slippers when they enter a home so it is unlikely you will have to walk barefoot or in socks.
    • Some hotels, restaurants and other public establishments also require the removal of shoes. A good rule of thumb is to remove your shoes if you see tatami, woven bamboo floor mats, on the ground.
  2. Learn gift-giving conventions. In Japanese culture, gift-giving is very common and it is considered a necessary act of humility to politely refuse a gift the first time it is offered to you. Japanese people will expect this and will continue to offer, at which point you can accept it.
    • A good way to respond the first time is “I am humbled by your generosity but I should not accept.”
    • Do not open the gift in the presence of the giver unless they specifically ask you to.
    • When offering a gift, show humility by saying “I would like to offer this small token” to avoid the appearance of bragging about your wealth or generosity.
    • Receive the gift with both hands out, not just one.
  3. Show up on time. Punctuality is extremely important in Japanese culture so showing up late to a meeting or event may indicate that you don’t respect the time of your companions.
    • If you are late, offer a contrite apology.

Eating with Proper Etiquette

  1. Clean your hands. It is customary to provide dinner guests a bowl of fragranced water for washing hands and/or an oshibori, a moist hand towel.
    • Some Japanese restaurants will not have napkins. Most Japanese people carry around a handkerchief and use it as a napkin for meals.
  2. Wait until everyone has their food before eating. Similar to western conventions, it is considered rude to eat or drink before everyone at the table has received their portion. While many westerners will not notice or pay much mind to someone eating early, it will be perceived more negatively in Japan.
    • When receiving food, it is polite to say “itadakimasu,” which means “I gratefully receive.”
    • When drinking from a communal pitcher, it is polite to offer to pour a drink for others before pouring your own.
  3. Respect the layout. With more formal meals, the presentation and layout of food is important. Do not reorganize the food, utensils or plates in an improper fashion.
    • When you aren’t using your chopsticks, place them on a holder, known as a hashioki, if it is available.
    • Always keep the rice bowl to the left of your plate and the soup bowl to the right.
  4. Don’t waste food. It is considered wasteful to put food on your plate and then not finish it. Take small portions at a time so you know won’t have too much to eat..
    • Spilling food on yourself or on the table is considered a severe form of bad table manners. It is customary to hold the plate or bowl underneath your chin as you take each bite.
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