Years ago some of my college friends decided to further their education in a different country. Sure, I said, that sounds nice. We went on line to check for any information we could get. And then it popped up, the Japanese embassy was offering scholarships for students. The site went on about education in Japan and what it offers. They were very glad for the opportunity. And right after that, and college picking, we went on to know more about Japanese lifestyle and culture. The information we found was very useful and we hope these tips and tricks will help you to better adapt to Japan.
Things to do before arriving to Japan
Although there are a lot of do’s and don’ts when you arrive, let’s start with few tips on what to do before you get there:
- Rent a wireless router. Getting a sim card, even prepaid one, is rather difficult in Japan. So to save time and money, rent a wireless router. This way you can connect several devices to it, and make cheap phone calls. Reserving one on line even saves you more money.
- Get a rail pass before arriving in Japan. Their train transport is very good, and getting a rail pass will pay off for sure. There are two types of passes, Ordinary Pass (cheaper), and The Green Pass.
- Get Hyperdia app! Yes, it is very important part of Japanese lifestyle. The app tells us about train schedules in English, and it can save you a lot of money since cabs are very expensive.
- Get Google Translate app! If you are not that fluent in Japanese or English, this will help you a lot.
Yes, these little tips helped my friends save money, but still, there was this issue of adapting. So after all this is done, let’s share their experience of Japanese lifestyle and culture.
Greetings and bowing is an important part of Japanese lifestyle
Japan is as traditional as it is modern. As a source of almost all modern technology and industrial achevements and progress they really value their tradition. So lets start from the begining, as you arrive.
Bowing is a simple, yet a big gesture of respect in Japan. There are several types of bowing you use depending from situation to situation. In this short video you will learn when and how to bow to people you meet in Japan.
Eating at home and restaurant
From their childhood, Japanese people are taught tradition and manners. Make no mistake, as we westerners have different approach to dining, so when you sit with your newfound friends to eat, wait for “itadakimasu” before eating. That is the Japanese way of appreciating for the food and the people you are eating with.
When it comes to eating out there is a big difference from the west. Most of the restaurants are small family businesses, with not so many seats. So, when you are eating out, it is expected to just go in, eat and then leave, so more people can come in.
Chopsticks are common in Japanese lifestyle
While we are at the subject, eating manners and using chopsticks are important. For example, while eating, don’t forget to slurp your noodles, and burp. That is the sign you are enjoying your meal very much. When it comes to using chopsticks, here are some tips on their proper use:
- Use a chopstick holder when you are not eating. If they are not disposable, you will be provided by one.
- Don’t place chopsticks upright in your rice ball! It is a ceremony used in funerals
- Avoid to eat from the common plate. Simply take what you want and place it in your own plate
- Do not dig in the food nor browse with your chopsticks. It is considered rude and greedy for Japanese lifestyle standards
- Never share your food from chopsticks to chopsticks! It is yet another procedure that resembles funeral customs. Put it in their plate, preferebly asking them to pass it, and ask the waiter for another pair of chopsticks.
- Don’t use your chopsticks as a toy. Do not “sword fight” with them or leave them crossed on the table.
Yet another common mistake westerners make is tipping our waiters and waitresses. In Japan it would be considered rude and insulting. They will come to you and give you back your money.
Talking and using a cell phone according to Japanese manners
When strolling down the street with your friends, try to keep your voice down. Japanese lifestyle evolves a lot around their privacy and respecting others privacy as well. Also, do not use cell phones in public transportation. But if by any chance you have to, try to keep the conversation as short as possible as well as quiet.
Take off your shoes before entering someones home
This is one of the Japanese biggest do not do things. Leaving your shoes outside goes back for centuries. Way back when roads were earth without any pavement. Japanese people are fond of keeping their homes very clean, and with all that humid climate, they don’t want mud in their homes. You will have slippers waiting for you, even the ones you use in bathrooms and public hot baths. Also, don’t be surprised when you find out about Japan’s very small apartements. It is not uncommon for young people to live in small rooms, mostly because they used them only for sleeping. Here are also some tips if you ever decide to live in small room after moving to Japan for education.
Believe it or not, but when it comes to recycle game, Japan is leading the world with almost 80% of its thrash recycled. Simply put, Japanese culture teaches a lot about keeping their environment clean. It is not strange to see people carrying their thrash to designated recycle bins and separate them accordingly. Sometimes, if they are not able to do it immediately, they will carry it with them until they are able to throw them away.
Never be late
How many times happened to you that you are late for a meeting with someone. Be it five, ten or fithteen minutes it will never be ok. Same goes when you are on time, and people are late. You never feel pleasant for waiting. Now imagine that same feeling ten times stronger. Yes, that’s how much Japanese people value their and your time. So, never be late.
It is always hard to get used to living in new places with pretty much different culture. We hope these little advices helped you addapt more to Japanese lifestyle.