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Japan: A Crash Course in Culture Shock

Japan: A Crash Course in Culture Shock for Westerners

One of the reasons so many people in the West are just a little bit obsessed with Japan and all things Japanese is simply because it is so different. If you have entered our competition to win a two-week Japanese course in Japan (accommodation included) then you might want to have a read of our top 8 Japanese culture shocks for Westerners.

1. Don’t be late

Punctuality is extremely important to the Japanese. They are always early and will never be late. If you are late this is seen rude and disrespectful. Basically, you need to set your watch about 20 minutes early, and 40 minutes early if you are Italian or Spanish. If you are on time you are late.

2. If in Doubt, Bow

Bowing is an extremely important part of Japanese culture – when you meet someone, thank someone, say goodbye to someone, ask for something or just generally move or breathe, one should bow. It’s important to incline one’s head with hands at the sides and the deeper the bow, the greater the respect being shown.

3. Excuse me, sorry, sorry, excuse me

The British are well-known for their love of ‘excuse me’ and ‘sorry’ to be muttered at every given opportunity. Well, the Japanese definitely give the British a run for their money when it comes to being ‘polite’. “Sumimasen” excuse me and “gomenasai” sorry, are the most commonly used phrases you will hear.

4. Drink As Much As You Want (but not too much) – Nomihoudai

This is one that most definitely would not work in the UK or the USA. Nomihoudai is when you can order as many drinks as you want from a selection, for a one-off fee. However, the unwritten rules are – you cannot order multiple drink per person at the same time, you must finish your drink before ordering another, and (and this is the confusing/difficult part) you shouldn’t drink so much that you become unruly (hammered).

5. Face Masks Instead of Sick Days

The Japanese tend not to take sick days. A 70 or 80 hour working week is commonplace so these leaves little room for time off. As a result the Japanese will go to work with a cold or even the flu – slapping a mask over their nose and mouth and they are good to go.

6. Work Might Kill You

Sometimes people in Japan die from working too much. That’s right. It even has a name – “karōshi,”.

7. Kawaii culture

Kawaii (pronounced: ka why eee) is generally the highest compliment you can give for anything and everything – your dog, your car, your chopsticks.

8. Janken Pon (Rock-Paper-Scissors)

Everyone is familiar with Rock-paper-scissors but Janken isn’t just used by the Japanese to see who pays for the beer or whose turn it is to take the rubbish out, it can also be used for expensive, high-stakes decisions. In 2005, a Japanese businessman decided to auction off his art collection which included masterpieces from renowned artists like Cézanne, Picasso, and van Gogh. He had to choose between the world’s two most famous auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s – so he made the two auction houses compete in a game of janken. Christie’s won with scissors against Sotherby’s paper.

Win a Course in Japan

Cactus is offering the chance to win a two-week Japanese course in Japan with accommodation included. The competition ends 24th June 2016.

Check Your Japanese Language Level

You can also check your Japanese language level for free with our quick and easy online level test.

Cactus language offers the following types of language courses:

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To book any of our courses please call us on 01273 830 960 or email us. Our multilingual team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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