Cultural Etiquette for Expats Living in Tokyo
As an expat living in Tokyo, it’s important to be aware of the cultural etiquette and customs of the city. Japan is known for its unique culture and social norms, and understanding these can help you avoid inadvertently offending others and improve your overall experience in the city. In this blog, we’ll provide you with tips for navigating the cultural etiquette of Tokyo.
■【Respect for Elders】Cultural Etiquette
In Japanese culture, respect for elders is highly valued. This means that you should always address older people with honorifics, such as -san, and show deference to their opinions and ideas. If you’re unsure how to behave in a particular situation, observing how others act can be a good way to gauge appropriate behavior.
■【Bow as a Sign of Respect】Cultural Etiquette
Bowing is a traditional Japanese custom used as a sign of respect and greeting. When meeting someone for the first time, it’s appropriate to bow slightly while introducing yourself. The depth and length of the bow can vary depending on the situation, but a general rule of thumb is to match the level of the person you’re bowing to. For example, if you’re meeting someone of a higher social status, you may want to bow deeper and for a longer period of time.
■【Shoes Off in Homes and Some Businesses】
In Japan, it’s customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home or certain businesses, such as traditional restaurants and temples. If you’re unsure whether to remove your shoes, look for a shoe rack or designated area for shoes at the entrance. Make sure to also wear clean socks, as going barefoot is considered impolite.
■【Use Chopsticks Properly】
Chopsticks are a common utensil used in Japanese cuisine, and it’s important to use them properly. Never stick chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, as this resembles the way rice is offered to the dead in a funeral. When not in use, place chopsticks on the rest provided or on the edge of your plate. Also, avoid using chopsticks to pass food directly from your chopsticks to someone else’s, as this is considered bad manners.
In Tokyo, personal space is highly valued, and people generally avoid physical contact with others they don’t know. Avoid touching or standing too close to others, especially when in crowded places like public transportation. If you do accidentally bump into someone, a simple apology or “sumimasen” (excuse me) will suffice.
In conclusion, understanding and respecting the cultural etiquette and customs of Tokyo is an important part of living as an expat in the city. Remember to show respect for elders, bow as a sign of respect, remove your shoes in appropriate situations, use chopsticks properly, and be mindful of personal space. By following these tips, you can show your appreciation for Japanese culture and improve your overall experience in Tokyo.
■【More Tips for Expats】
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