6 Things You Should Never Do in Japan if You’re New Here

Moving to a new country is a difficult experience. You don’t have any idea about the culture or the way of life, the language barrier can be an issue, and the citizens may appear daunting.

If you’re moving to Japan, this article is here to help.

It lists the most common mistakes people make when trying to navigate the murky territory of living abroad.

What Not To Do If You Just Moved To Japan?

If you’re moving to Japan for good, you should know that your culture and practices might be slightly different to theirs.

This is something you’ll learn to deal with in time – but here are a few pointers to get you started.

1. Never Litter

Japanese people are fanatical when it comes to cleanliness.

At a very young age, they are taught to clean up school corridors, which creates good habits for when they grow up. It isn’t surprising that Japan is also leading the world in its recycling efforts.

The Plastic Waste Management Institute says that Japan recycles 77% of its waste as a nation. They separate, recycle, and use many dustbins as possible to collect litter.

Mirza at Guidable.com noticed this culture difference at a festival, when Japanese people brought their garbage home with them, thus leaving the venue still clean.

She found the idea of collecting her own garbage strange, but was impressed by the local commitment to being tidy, and their respect for the environment.

This is the reason why, if you just moved to Japan and you want to make friends, it’s a good idea to be mindful of where you put your garbage.

2. Don’t Wear Shoes Inside The House

In relation to the natural fondness of the Japanese for cleanliness, if you have just moved to Japan, take note that you are expected not to wear your footwear inside the homes.

This is actually very common in Japanese culture and basic indoor manners.

The reason behind this practice is that Japanese people do not want dirt and dust from the outside to be all over their tatami mats and floors.

But do not fret, most, if not all, Japanese homes have what you call a “genkan”. It is a recessed vestibule where you can place your shoes before entering their houses.

Sometimes, guest slippers are provided. In other rooms, socks are the preferred footwear.

3. Don’t refuse a drink!

If you want to make friends quickly, drinking with them is a good way to go.

Some Japanese people love drinking and talking, a nice opportunity to catch up with their friends’ lives. Drinking for Japanese people – like with other cultures – is important as it helps them to enjoy themselves.

It is also considered a serious affair as it is a chance to build trust and camaraderie.

So if you are a big drinker yourself, this would be a great advantage. If you don’t drink – don’t worry. As long as you refuse alcohol in a light, casual and respectful manner, there shouldn’t be any problems.

4. Don’t try to become Japanese

Making some attempts to fit in go a long way. Learning the language, for instance, would be a good place to start – and will enable you to make great friends much more easily.

Having said that, be aware of your differences too – they can become conversation starters, and can lead to a very interesting cultural exchange.

Japanese people are known for their warmth and hospitality towards foreigners and expats, so you shouldn’t be so worried.

Naturally, as long as you don’t violate any national laws, rules or regulations, you are good to go.

5. Don’t Eat on Public Transport

Eating or drinking on the go is natural in many Western cultures, and simply seen as a way of saving time. However, in Japanese society, this is considered to be inappropriate behaviour.

Ryo Yokoe recollected his experience on Quora.com. He was taking a bus from Shibuya station, eating a chocolate bar. An elderly woman from outside the bus angrily shouted something at him which he couldn’t quite comprehend.

She approached the bus and smacked it while walking away.

Ryo did not understand the whole scenario. But later on, he realised that the old woman took issue on him eating on public transport.

It’s simply seen as creating a mess in public. So save your sushi or quirky-flavoured Kit-Kat for home!

6. Don’t Tip Your Waiter

Whether you’re dealing with a cab driver or a waiter, tipping is considered to be rude in Japan.

The idea is that the price you have paid already covers service fees. Forcing tips on staff can become extremely awkward.

If you really appreciate the service you have received from a Japanese person, a lovely custom is to seal some money in a decorative envelope and give it to them as a gift.

Hand it to them with both hands and bow down in gratitude.

Final Thoughts On What Not to Do in Japan

Despite these cultural differences, Japan is a fantastic destination to move to. Opportunities abound, and the culture and history are extraordinary.

As with all transitions, it is advisable to do your research before taking the leap and landing yourself in an awkward situation.

Learning these common do’s and don’ts will make your experience slightly easier, so keep these in mind and enjoy the experience!

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