There are many communication rules in Japan and sometimes they might seem confusing of what is and isn’t appropriate. However, there are a few rules that would be considered impolite in other countries, but in Japan, those rules are not applicable.
There is no tipping system in Japan and the surprising fact is, sometimes tips are considered to lower a person’s pride. Giving tips may create an inconvenience to customers and the people providing the service. Without tips, a sense of equality is created among everyone within the service industry, making people feel more comfortable, and hence, the work productivity is enhanced. Thanks to this, the Japanese service industry is considered one of the best in the world.
The Japanese do not like conflict and as a result, they usually do not address matters directly. Complaints are also said in a much lighter way and you often need to think of the hidden meaning to actually understand what they mean to tell you.
Also, in many cases, the Japanese often exaggerate their comments. For example, even though your Japanese is only so-so, they will keep saying how good it is in front of you. It does not mean that the Japanese are being sarcastic when they talk to you. Rather, it is their gesture of being extra polite.
This can sometimes be a source of cultural conflict because in other cultures, being indirect is often considered disrespectful.
While talking with a Japanese person, you will often hear them interrupt a conversation with “Eh?”, or “Souka” (I see), or “Hontou ni!” (Really!). Although interrupting while others are talking is considered as being rude in many countries, in Japan, it is seen as showing an interest in your stories. To Japanese people, this is one way to express their attention, care and desire to know more about the matters that you are talking to them about!
In most situations, the Japanese rarely hold the door for other people. In Japan, there is no such thing as ‘men must hold the doors for women’. It does not necessarily mean that Japanese men are impolite because to the Japanese, being a gentleman has nothing to do with holding a door.
While eating noodles (ramen, soba or udon), producing noise as loud as possible is equal to being respectful to the chef who has made the dish for you. Therefore, this action is totally normal to Japanese people. Of course, it takes time to get used to this habit. Moreover, some people believe that the food tastes much better when you eat and produce noise at the same time!
It sometimes gets too crowded in Tokyo trains to apologize each time you have to push someone in order to get on or get off the train.
What to do when you need to call a waiter to your table when eating out? Just shout “Sumimasen!” (excuse me) out loud and they will be at your service as soon as possible. This is a normal thing to do in Japanese restaurants!
These daily habits may be surprising at first, but if you spend enough time in Japan, any traveler can get used to them. Some things like not having to tip or not having to worry about eating noisily can be quite convenient! Which of these habits was the most interesting to you?