ETIQUETTE KNOW HOW
you must know before arrive Japan
Although adhering to rules of etiquette and behavior that can
appear overly rigid to outsiders, Japanese are nonetheless delightfully
easy to get along with.
According to conventional wisdom, this is for two main reasons:
Japanese place great emphasis on tranquility and the appearance
of cordiality in interpersonal relationships; and they do not
expect non-Japanese to act, or even be able to act, according
to their rules.
Japanese are proud of their nation and its accomplishment, and
will go to great lengths to ensure that your stay is pleasant
and that you leave with a good impression. Moreover, the cultural
pride of the Japanese does not, as in some countries, manifest
itself in intolerance toward outsiders who attempt to speak
On the contrary, secure in the conviction that non-Japanese
can never master it, Japanese welcome the attempts of outsiders
to use Japanese, and delighted to act as tutors. Thus, if you
are simply courteous and considerate you will get along fine,
and if you manage to interject an occasional comment or polite
expression in Japanese, your reception will be even warmer.
Even thought you are for all practical purposes a functional
illiterate, the Japanese will make sure you get what you want
or to where you are going.
Although a few do's and don'ts are presented throughout the
stay. Simply do relax and have a good time, and don't worry.
There are lots of regional habits in Japan, so you better learn
about Japanese custom before your departure to Japan. However,
Titan Planet will help you to get ready and furnish you with
some basic knowledge. We provide Japanese custom class for you
on the orientation day.
Every culture has its own rules regarding etiquette. In the
case of Japan, some of these rules are straightforward while
others are subtler. One of the basic concepts of Japanese society
is tatemae and honne. Honne means your true feelings while tatemae
is the face you present to the world. While they do not ignore
their feelings, Japanese consider tatemae to be more important
in maintaining a harmonious society. A clear example is the
different types of language used depending on whom you are talking
to. Keigo is respectful Japanese used to elders or superiors.
Other things like seating arrangements at dinner or in a taxi
are difficult to fathom.
Japanese people tend not to point out mistakes made by foreigners
for fear of embarrassing them. At the same time, they don't
really expect foreigners to adhere strictly to these rules anyway.
But making an effort to be polite and to show at least some
understanding of local customs can make life a bit easier.
for the first time
When Japanese people meet for
the first time, they say 'Hajime-mashite' which comes
from the word hajimeru, to begin. They'll also give
their name using the word 'desu' - 'Tanaka desu' -
or 'to moshimasu' in a formal situation - 'Tanaka
to moshimasu'. Usually they'll bow if the situation
is formal or just give a nod of the head otherwise.
Bowing is a bit complex - the degree of bowing depends
on the formality of the situation and the relationship
between the people. But foreigners are not expected
to worry about this unless greeting the Emperor or
on some such rare occasion. Business people exchange
meishi (business cards) and it is polite to use both
hands when giving or receiving a meishi. You should
read (or look as though your reading!) the meishi
and make some vague comment about the company or the
address or whatever. It is not polite to immediately
stuff the meishi in your trouser pocket or wallet.
If you have been invited to
someone's home, it is polite to bring a gift, usually
an inexpensive food item, which should be wrapped.
In Japanese, the visitor says 'Tsumaranai mono desu
ga', meaning 'This is nothing much but...', similar
to the English 'This is just a little something for
you.' Every Japanese home has a genkan (hallway),
where you take off your shoes and put on slippers
provided by the host. Often, if you use the toilet,
you'll have to change slippers again. It is quite
common for Japanese people to say 'Kondo asobi ni
kite kudasai', or 'Please come around to my place
sometime' to someone they barely know, but you should
be careful. This is often said just out of politeness
and there would be a lot of embarrassment if you actually
turned up unannounced. It depends on the relationship,
but generally this 'invitation' should be taken with
a pinch of salt.
Most restaurants provide a hot
towel for cleaning your hands before eating - very
civilized! Before eating, it is customary to say 'Itadaki-masu'.
There isn't really an equivalent in English (except
maybe 'Bon appetite'?!). It depends on the food, of
course, but hashi (chopsticks) are the most widely
used implements for eating. It's not impolite to ask
for a knife and fork or spoon if you have trouble
with chopsticks. Some restaurants may not have them
but those serving Western food always do. Chopsticks
should not be used for anything other than putting
food in your mouth. They certainly shouldn't be used
for pointing to someone or moving dishes around the
table. And they should not be stuck into a bowl of
rice - this is only done at a funeral! There will
sometimes be a hashi-oki, or small object to rest
the chopsticks on. When eating noodles, such as soba
or ramen, it is okay to slurp loudly. In fact, they
say it improves the flavor! After a meal, it is polite
to say 'Gochiso-sama deshita'.
The Japanese are a quiet and
reserved people, except when they're drunk - and most
of them get drunk pretty easily. Going drinking with
fellow students or coworkers is almost a ritual in
Japan. It is considered the best way to break down
barriers and cement relationships and behavior can
get pretty rowdy. But all is forgiven and forgotten
the next day. It is polite to pour other people's
drinks and then hold your own glass while your host
or friend fills it. Having other people constantly
filling your glass can lead to a lot of alcohol disappearing
very quickly! The Japanese toast is 'Kampai' (literally
'dry glass'). If you are invited out, it is common
for your host to pay the bill, but of course this
should be played by ear.
Japan has a long history of
communal bathing and a visit to one of its thousands
of onsen (hot springs) can be a highlight of any trip.
As in the bathroom in a private home, you wash yourself
outside the bath before getting into the hot water
to soak. It is not uncommon for people to scrub each
other's backs. Sento (public bath houses) are quite
common as there are still some cheap apartments without
their own bathrooms. They cost around 300 yen per
visit. You should bring your own toiletries and put
your shoes and clothes in the lockers provided. Sento
and onsen are almost always separated by sex these
days but mixed bathing can still be found in a few
Japanese people don't usually
use handkerchiefs for blowing their nose. It's very
common to see packs of tissues being given out on
the street. They're free because they contain advertisements.
Eating on the street is considered impolite but has
become more common. Spitting and urinating in public
(mainly by middle-aged or drunk men) don't seem to
raise too many eyebrows.
HOMESTAY LIFE IN JAPAN
A very brief introduction
of your homestay life in Japan
Japan is a country where modernization
can be found to coexist with traditional culture. This is especially
evident in a Japanese home. Your homestay family may own a refrigerator
that tells you when you are low on milk or a phone/fax machine
that prints out daily recipes using ingredients leftover in
your fridge, but you’ll also remove your shoes before
entering a room and likely relax on a tatami (straw mat) floor
versus sitting on a couch.
Your living accommodations will depend on the host family, however,
below are some generalizations on what you might expect to encounter
during your stay in Japan.
Most likely, your host family will live in a single-family home,
but it is possible that they might live in an apartment building.
In either case, space is a luxury and you will be amazed at
how efficiently each room is used.
Your bedroom may be small in size with barely enough room for
a desk and a bed/futon. Your room may have a tatami floor upon
which you would roll out your futon mattress to sleep on each
night, and put away during the day, allowing you more space.
Most homes do not have clothes dryers and utilize backyards
or balconies in order to dry laundry. Also central air conditioning
is not installed in most homes or apartments. Air conditioning
units are found in individual rooms, usually in communal areas.
The summers are extremely hot, and rainy season in June/July
adds to the humidity.
Spending one hour to get from your home stay location to school
or work is very common, with commuting fees ranging from 500-1000
yen (between RM16 to RM36). Public transportation in Japan is
excellent, allowing you to go anywhere you need to go via trains
and/or buses. You’ll find the trains easy to use as most
have English explanations. Many people also utilize bicycles
to get around.
most cases, the father of the family is the breadwinner, working
Monday-Saturday, from early in the morning often until late
at night. It is not unusual for a father to return home long
after the rest of the family has enjoyed dinner together. While
the father is at work, the mother often stays home to clean,
run errands, make meals and take care of the kids. The mother
may also have a variety of hobbies, such as volunteer activities,
crafts, or learning a foreign language, depending on her schedule.
The children in most families, whether younger or older, may
be very shy around you at first. Their interactions with foreigners
may be very limited and they may hesitate to use English. Many
grandparents also live with the family.
Weekends and holidays with your host family may find you enjoying
a day at the beach with the whole family, or just with the mother
and children if the father is working or wants to relax on his
own. The host family is inviting you to live with them, and
they may have activities planned for the weekends, or you may
be on your own. Communicating your expectations is key to enjoying
your time in Japan.
Greeting is the utmost important thing in their life. Always
greet your host family when you reach home, say thank you when
someone offering you a meal. Ask for permission if you would
like to use the computer or TV etc.
Of course each situation will be different and your past experiences
and openness to the Japanese culture will determine what you
get out of living in Japan. The key to maximizing this experience
though is to use and improve your Japanese language skills and
to be open to Japan’s cultural traditions. This could
be a once in a lifetime experience and you should try to make
the most of it.
YOKOSA Japan and have a nice