KidTripster Teen: 5 things to know about Japanese etiquette before visiting Japan
Japan is a country steeped a deep respect for tradition. Proper manners are very important; being a foreigner is no excuse for being impolite. Here are five rules that you should commit to memory. And when in doubt, copy what you see the locals doing around you.
Bowing is an important part of Japanese culture. It comes up quite often, especially in interactions with strangers. Whenever you thank someone, giving them a quick bow (even if it’s just dropping your head) goes a long way. People in Japan even bow when talking on the phone! When in doubt, bow.
Photo courtesy: www.mcha-jp.com
2/When and where to eat
Especially when traveling, I seem to find myself eating on the go quite a bit. From my experience, this practice is more unconventional in Japan than in most other places. As a rule of thumb, if you’re sitting somewhere, it’s fine to eat, but eating while walking on the street is out of place. Some Japanese people even took a picture of me, while I was walking around with some food! Eating while moving isn’t rude per se, but people may stare at you.
Tipping people is not expected or most times, even an option in Japan. Waiters and waitresses don't expect you to add a tip to your food bill, and I’ve never seen a tip jar at any cafe or restaurant in Japan. If you go out to eat, you’ll cause some confusion if you try to leave your server a tip. Don’t worry if you forget. People in Japan have been some of the most forgiving and helpful people that I’ve ever met!
4/Money trays at cash registers
When shopping anywhere in Japan from tiny restaurants to gigantic shopping malls, it’s common practice for there to be a little tray on the counter next to the cash register. When you’re paying, you’ll need to place your money or credit card in the tray. The cashier will take your money from the tray and replace it with your change and receipt. You can take your change and go on your way. If you do try to hand money directly to a cashier, he or she probably will ask you to put it in the tray instead.
5/Taking you shoes off inside certain buildings
In most Japanese homes, as well as a few buildings such as museums and shrines, it’s expected that you’ll take off your shoes at the door and put on slippers or go barefoot. Often times, there’s a set of shelves or cubbies that you can put your shoes in while you’re inside the building.
Want to learn how to say "thank you" in Japanese? Click here.
Tessa Plumb is a high school senior in Portland, Oregon, studying Japanese. She’s visited Japan twice - once with her family and once as an exchange student. Her other interests include writing, video editing, and graphic design.