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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Don't Get Offended in Japan

Whether you're going to Japan as a tourist, a student, or a long-term resident you shouldn't get offended in Japan. You are the visitor in that country which means you should be trying to grow accustomed to the Japanese lifestyle and mannerisms. Even if you don't try to be accommodating to them, you should at least try to be more understanding. Japan does some things way differently than other cultures that can come across rude but it them it is normal behavior. When people don't try to understand the culture they are temporarily living in they may get offended by actions that are not meant to be taken in a offensive way.

I'll be sharing three gestures/mannerisms in the Japanese culture that may seem rude to other cultures. Be open-minded and understanding about these gestures so you can avoid taking it the wrong way when you go to Japan. Not all Japanese people do these things, but it is very common.

Speaking English to Foreigners

If you watch YouTube or read blogs about Japan you may come across people complaining about how Japanese people speak English to them instead of Japanese. The reason why they're upset is because they have come to Japan to learn Japanese and to most likely live a life in Japan. They want to blend into the society but get upset when they are reminded they visually can't blend in due to being a foreigner. If, and that's a big if, a Japanese person you don't know comes up to you and talks they may use English to speak to you. There can be two reasons for this. One, being because they see you are foreign and don't know if you speak Japanese so they default to English if they know it. The second reason being that they may be trying to learn English and think speaking to a foreigner will help which it would definitely improve their English. If you don't want them speaking English to you and to use Japanese just ask kindly and I'm sure they'll follow your request. But isn't sad that people get so upset if Japanese people speak English to them in Japan when the reason why they want to speak Japanese to is to practice themselves? Sounds hypocritical to me. Why can't Japanese practice their English on you like you're practicing your Japanese on them? Food for thought.
Got interviewed by middle school students for their English class.

Interjecting While Speaking

In America and maybe in other countries, it would be taught that interrupting someone while they're talking is rude. You need to sit quietly and listen to what the other person is saying. After the person is done speaking you can reply.
This is not so in Japan. It is the total opposite. In Japan it is common for people to interject during a conversation. It's not like they fully interrupt the other person. Japanese tend to nod and make a "n" sound while people speak. They are not being rude at all. This gesture is actually polite because it's letting the speaker know that you are engaged in and understanding what they are saying. It will probably take some time getting used to but you'll pick up on it real fast, and it may even become a habit for yourself like it is for me.

No Eye Contact While Speaking

Another thing we are taught when we were young was to always look at someone when you speak. When you make eye contact with the other person in the conversation it is polite because it means you're listening and your focus is on them. Not only that but if you don't face the other person while you're speaking they may not hear you.
Once again, totally opposite in Japan. I actually don't know the meaning behind why they don't make eye contact while speaking but I notice a lot of my Japanese friends do it. I'll be looking at them because in my mind I'm thinking I'm letting them know I'm listening but then they're looking elsewhere while speaking. It's odd at first and very unusual where I'm from but you get used to it as you experience it more in conversation.

I hope this helps more people understand Japanese mannerisms that differ from the ones we've been taught since we were little. Japan is different in many ways, and this is just a part of that difference. None of these mannerisms are absolutely correct in everyone's eyes, but we need to keep in mind of the different culture and understand that it is a way of being for people. Acceptance is what need to be gained in order to understand instead of getting offended.

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