Like other cultures around the globe, Japanese culture is difficult to sum up in a brief statement and for people coming to japan we recommend that you look into information about Japanese people and culture before you come to Japan in order to avoid any possible problems or misunderstandings.
Even the Japanese tend to describe themselves as 'island country' where the population is largely homogeneous and culture and identity are often seem as being the same throughout the country. In fact, education and other systems run by the local or prefectural governments are most often the same throughout Japan. Even though this is true of Japanese society in some respects, there are of course differences in culture depending on location, history and other influences. For example, Japan is sometimes divided into the Kanto (Tokyo and the surrounding area) and Kansai (Kinki area including Osaka, Kyoto and Nara) cultures, and the dialects, foods and even humor differ greatly between the two.
Below is a simple list of things that are often noticed by people visiting and living in Japan.
- Japanese people are often group oriented.
- Uniformity is often preferred.
- Japanese do not like to stand out- they often say "the nail that sticks out gets hit."
- Indirectness is often seen as being polite. (Avoiding conflicts is preferred.)
- Japanese tend to match their opinions of those of others.
- Japanese may not express their emotions openly or strongly.
- People may seem shy, and it may take time to make friends.
- Japanese prefer to keep distance in conversation, but trains, etc. may be very crowded.
- People do not mind waiting in line. (Cutting in line is rude.)
- People set much value on manners and rules.
- Japanese may have a specific image about foreigners. (You may encounter stereotypes.)
- Japanese are often embarrassed to use English.
- Greetings are mostly bowing, but will return a handshake.
- Physical contact during conversation is not common between colleagues.
- Social invitations may be made out of politeness. (May not be meant)
- Slurping food and/or tea is not considered impolite.
- Punctuality is considered politeness.
- Japanese often give gifts, but there is no need to reciprocate.
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