How to Avoid Culture Shock in Japan
8 Jun 2021
Expat life can be beguiling with many contrasts to encounter as you travel throughout Asia. In regards to Asian culture and etiquette, what works in one nation can seem alien in another. Culture shock in Japan is arguably more common than anywhere else. Much of daily life and business protocols are governed by strict traditional values, yet it also has the most quirky modern culture of any country. There are numerous cultural missteps waiting to happen. Read on for ways to avoid the most common mistakes.
The traditional Japanese onsen bath is a beloved part of Japanese culture, but two very distinct things take note off as a first-timer. Firstly most public onsens are for birthday suits only. That’s right, and everyone goes naked. This can obviously feel off-putting for a foreigner not used to this immodesty, but once you fight back the anxiety and take the plunge, it can be liberating. Secondly, there is a strict no tattoo rule in public baths. Tattoos are taboo in Japan as they have always been associated with the Yakusa mafia. While body art in western culture is completely acceptable, it is still a touchy subject in Japan.
How to use a Japanese toilet
Japanese lavatories are famously high–tech and often lead to confusion for the expatriate first-time user. Toilets have many buttons and features, many of which you’ll probably never need to use. You can adjust the flushing with two or more different settings, and there will likely be an array of washing options to clean up afterward based on the gender of the user. There may also be an ‘Otohime’ function which, when pressed, plays a soundtrack of running water, which is used to drown out the sounds of those embarrassing noises. One feature which can feel off-putting the first time is a warm toilet seat. Many toilets have heated seats for comfort.
The Japanese take convenience shopping very seriously. So seriously, in fact that you don’t even need to enter a store. There are some five million vending machines in the country selling absolutely everything. It goes way beyond a candy bar or a can of Coke. How about fresh fruit and sushi, bread in a can, edible insect food, fresh flowers, underwear, or a Buddhist amulet?