Before you travel to Japan, it pays to brush up on some cultural differences, to avoid offending local sensibilities. Part of the enrichment of travel is, learning about other cultures, and being sensitive to their ways. The Japanese are about as hospitable, and welcoming as it gets, so take the time to read up on some basic behavioral dos and don’ts, to ensure a faux-pas free trip. Here are 10 things NOT to do in Japan.
1.Don’t Wear Shoes in the House
Most people are aware that, you take your shoes off before entering a home in Japan. It’s a reasonable, and hygienic request, when you think about it. They simply don’t want the dust, and dirt from the outside streets, being trekked all over their clean floors, and tatami mats.
2. Don’t Forget the Toilet Slippers
The fastidious Japanese have, a dedicated set of slippers for toilet usage. Simply switch out of your house slippers, and into the toilet slippers, do your thing, then switch back before walking away. I guarantee, at some point during your trip, you will forget to change back into the house slippers. Don’t worry, most Japanese people are pretty good-natured, about this cultural difference.
3. Don’t Queue for the Next Stall
In the western world, we usually form a line to wait for the next available stall, in a public restroom. The queuing system is a little different in Japan. Each person stands in front of a random cubicle, and uses it whenever it becomes free, regardless if someone else has been waiting longer. This can seem kind of frustrating, if you’re desperate to go, and you happen to choose a door with a slowpoke in it, but that’s the luck-of-the-draw local convention.
4.Don’t Sip or Snack While Walking
Unlike many western countries, where people chew and slurp, on the go all the time, here people prefer to take the time, to stop and consume while stationary. Perhaps it has something to do with their cultural respect for food, Or maybe it stems from a desire not to spill. Whatever the reason, you don’t see people sipping and snacking while walking on the streets of Japan, and you’ll look out of place if you do.
5.Don’t Misuse Chopsticks
Before you go to Japan, learn how to use chopsticks. Don’t wave them above your food, use them as drumsticks, mock sword-fight, or point to people with them. Consider the pair, a unit, so don’t poke your food with one solitary stick in hand. Never stand them upright in a bowl of rice, or pass food to another person with them – that’s akin to funeral rituals, and will be considered very ill-mannered. Don’t lick or suck on the ends of them. Don’t cross them like an X, or lay them across your bowl like a bridge. When you are finished eating, simply put your chopsticks down in front of you, facing left.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Slurp and Burp
With all the Japanese guidelines for table manners, it can take foreign visitors by surprise to hear, the locals devouring their meals in a way, we might consider a bit gauche. They’ll sip, slurp, smack, suck, chew, chomp, and even burp audibly throughout the meal, as a polite sign that they are enjoying the feast. The louder the better, it seems. So go ahead, forget what your mom taught you, and make a little gusto noise at a Japanese table. The cook will be flattered.
7. Don’t Tip in Japan
Tipping is not a standard practice in Japan, and in fact will be perceived as an insult, if you try to do so. Service workers like waiters, taxi drivers, and hairstylists receive a reasonable wage, and do not expect any bonus payment from their customers. Save yourself the awkwardness, and forget the gratuities in Japan.
8. Avoid the Number Four
Four is a very superstitious number in Japan, sort of akin to unlucky 13. The number four is pronounced shi in Japanese, which has the same sound as their word for death. You’ll often find four is skipped on room, floor or seat numbers in Japan.
9. Don’t Touch in Public
Unlike Europe or Latin America, where hugs and cheek pecks are greetings among casual acquaintances, Japan is more reserved with their public displays of affection. You almost never see people holding hands, walking arm-in-arm or kissing on the streets. Don’t expect any physical contact when saying hello or goodbye, to even close friends in Japan.
10. Don’t Do Drugs
Japan takes, its drug laws very seriously. If you are caught with even a small amount of marijuana, or other illegal drug, you will be met with a hefty penalty, and maybe even jail time. There is a zero-tolerance policy there, and there’s no clemency if you’re a foreigner. Avoid recreational drug usage when visiting Japan, or prepare to face the consequences.