Here are some Japanese customs you need to know if you don’t want to be in awkward position or be stared at by others.
There are so many customs in Japan that foreigners will find it very strange. In general, Japanese people are very comfortable with foreigners and will rarely criticize them if they do not follow the unique Japanese customs, but if you know the proper conduct before you come to Japan, that’s it. will be to your advantage.

Here are five customs that you may not have noticed.

When seeing off your companion, you have to wait until you can no longer see them to be able to leave.
In Japan, restaurants, inns, and other service businesses often bow to customers and watch until they are no longer visible.
Even in a business environment, people will often bow and wait at the elevator even after the enemy has entered and the elevator door is closed.

Also, for friends or classmates, they may not bow their heads but people often wait until they cannot see their friends anymore.

Although you have to bow until you can’t see your companion, why do Japanese people wait so long?

First, according to the sensitivity of the Japanese, bowing as long as a sign of respect and consideration for the opposite person and also helps them to see the hospitality of the host. On the other hand, if you leave immediately when they’re not leaving, you’ll make them feel like you’re looking down on them.

This is understandable, because according to the Japanese spiritual culture, once-in-a-lifetime meetings are considered as fate and separation is only a reluctance. So seeing them off until you can no longer see them is a way to show hospitality, as well as your sense of regret when you break up. In most cases, it seems like a long goodbye is not a common practice in countries, so this is one of the customs that foreigners find quite strange.

When greeting everyone, you will bow to each other and say “Sumimasen” (sorry).
In Japan, when greeting or thanking everyone will bow their heads. Even if you’ve just passed an acquaintance, it’s normal to nod slightly.

Also, not only when you greet someone, but when you express gratitude or in the event that you call with someone to stop, you must also say “Sumimasen”. The word “Sumimasen” itself means to apologize, and many people wonder “why are they apologizing even though they did nothing wrong?”

However, the Japanese appreciate the humility. Self-deprecating is an act of showing respect to the other person and it has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. That’s why Japanese people have a way of showing respect and modesty that can make it difficult for foreigners to learn about the language.

Bowing and saying “Sumimasen” will show that you are respectful of the other person.

When people are excessively humble and completely eradicate their ego, this is considered negative, low self-esteem, but moderate modesty is considered by the Japanese people to be a virtue. If you have a chance to come to Japan, take note of this.

Sitting cross-legged is considered rude
In Japan, sitting cross-legged in a formal place or in a business environment is considered rude because it will make others think that you are having an attitude or that you are thinking that you are important.

From a young age, the Japanese taught children to sit up straight, legs together and hands on knees. This posture indicates that “I’m humbly listening to your conversation.”

It seems that in most other countries, sitting cross-legged is considered normal behavior. This posture also means you are relaxed, confident and you are enjoying the way things are going.

So why is this action considered rude in Japan?

Japan is known for its tatami mats or straw floors, so the kneeling position with your knees is the official sitting style in this country. The old Japanese said that “if you point your foot at someone, they will not be able to sleep”, so that bringing your feet to others is an act considered rude.

In Japan, if you find yourself in a formal or business environment, pay attention to your sitting position.

Strange wine party etiquette
This is a culture for people when drinking with their boss or superiors, once the boss’s wine glass is empty, you must refill them immediately. New hires will be well trained on this etiquette (which happens quite often in traditional, old-fashioned companies).

This is a culture for people when drinking with their boss or superiors, once the boss’s wine glass is empty, you must refill them immediately. New hires will be well trained on this etiquette (which happens quite often in traditional, old-fashioned companies).

Originating from ancient village customs, they tend to respond “to the crowd”. On the other hand, this practice may also be due to the influence of Confucianism – the regulation of vertical social structure, where the superior is highly respected.

Of course, according to the movement of the society, in recent years this custom is not as popular as before, but if you come to Japan, you should also know this.

Do not talk on the phone when using public transportation
In Japan, it is a rule not to talk on the phone when taking the train or bus. Except for emergencies, almost no one talks on the phone on the train. (However, sometimes people do this, usually they will be looked at with unfriendly people.)

In the elevator, too, the Japanese often do not talk on the phone nor talk to each other in spite of the silent atmosphere all over.

It is said that this is basically a very good habit, because you will not bring your personal matter to public to let people know.

Japan is a country where people always think about the community, the world around them and act and behave thoroughly. So if you take your private life out to the public, the world and the community around you will unintentionally narrow to become your own space and that will make people uncomfortable.

Japanese society is based on this way of thinking, so you will rarely hear screams in public. So it is best not to talk about your mobile phone when you are outside.

Say no to walk and eat
This is an act that is considered impolite, even rude, because the meal in Japan is considered a solemn ritual, to be able to sit and enjoy our meal we had to spend very much lots of time and effort. When McDonald’s first opened in Japan in the 1970s and the concept of fast food was deeply rooted in Japanese society, it was considered an inappropriate trend because McDonald’s products were just enough to be easily held on. Hand and enjoy even when we are off the road

Not only is it considered inappropriate, eating and drinking while walking in Japan is quite inconvenient because there are very few public trash bins. If you are lucky, you will come across a convenience store or park where you find trash, or you will have to keep trash all day.

Always carry a handkerchief
Most public toilets in Japan do not have hand towels or dryers. If you go to a mall or a modern public restroom like you would in a shopping mall, there might be an automatic hand dryer. Hand dryers appear to be more common in busy areas of Tokyo than in other parts of Japan. Most of the time you step into the old station toilets and old public toilets, you won’t see any equipment or items to dry your hands. To remedy this, you should always carry a small handkerchief with you.

Handkerchiefs are also quite handy on hot days, when you have to run around the city with sweat!

Part of the content of this article is based on information from the program “Cool Japan” on NHK BS1.

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