Japanese Customs that are Surprisingly Not Okay in America

The everyday customs observed in the country you live may actually be looked upon as poor manners somewhere else.

I recently read a very interesting article, Americans are Shocked! 7 Japanese Customs that are Not Okay in America. I’d like to introduce along with some of the Japanese reaction to it.

So, what Japanese customs are viewed as ill-mannered in America? According to the article, the following things are out of bounds.

Japanese Customs that are Out of Bounds in America
  • 1. Not tipping
  • 2. Slurping noodles
  • 3. Men not opening the door for ladies
  • 4. Bumping into people on the train
  • 5. Picking up the dish you are eating from
  • 6. Drinking in public
  • 7. Calling out to get a waiter’s attention

News source:Tofugu, Madameriri

These are all common things in Japan, though I personally doubt if we can call 4 and 7 customs because they are basically unavoidable sometimes.

What do other Japanese people think? As usual, I have picked out some responses to the article and will introduce them here.

“Americans are Shocked! 7 Japanese Customs that are Not Okay in America”(from 2 channel)
  • “So how are you supposed to get the waiter over to the table?!? Is there a call button on every single table in every restaurant?”
  • “If you just raise your hand without saying anything the waiter will see you and come over. It’s not like in Japan where there’s only one person doing everything with no time to pay attention to the customers.”
  • “No, no, no…It’s hard enough to get the attention of a waiter that even ABC and NBC did specials on how to get a waiter’s attention while you’re out on a date and no one is paying attention to you.”
  • “Slurping hot stuff prevents you from burning your mouth. So why don’t they do it?”
  • “If slurping noodles [ramen, udon, etc.] is prohibited, how are you supposed to eat them in America? Are you supposed to spin it around your fork like pasta?”
  • “>4. Bumping into people on the train is only commonplace on Tokyo trains [not customary throughout Japan].”
  • “>5. About picking up the plate you’re eating from: This is all a matter of the manners you were raised with. Even in Japan it’s unheard-of to pick up a [big] Western-style plate.”
  • “4 must be talking about a crowded train – you can’t bump into people in an empty train [in Japan]. 6 is no good [people should not drink in public].”
  • “Yeah – you can’t drink beer on the street. If you want to drink, someone told me to just cover the label with a paper bag. That’s about as far as it goes, though.”
  • “The other day an American friend of mine and I were walking [in Japan] and I got the idea to get some booze. My friend was blown away.”
  • “Even in Japan, the people that drink in public places are really just a bunch of punks.”
  • “Cherry blossom season or at festivals [are basically the only times when people drink in public]. I can’t understand how foreigners can go in their house without taking their shoes off. There’s absolutely no upside to it, and where in the hell are they changing into their slippers?”
  • “We take our shoes off in Japan because it’s so damp. Despite the climate in Japan, we already have to wear uncomfortable western clothing like leather shoes, suit and tie, and moreover, if we don’t take our shoes off, the situation would be worse; we would have more cases of athlete’s foot.”
  • “Are there [not necessarily cultural] things you can do in Japan that you can’t do overseas?”
  • “Belching around other people. This is very rude. More so than if you were to pass gas around other people in Japan.”
  • “Getting someone’s attention by poking them. Some BBA cabin attendant was totally shocked when I did it.”
  • “I also did that and someone totally scowled at me.”
  • “I cannot get used to tipping. If there’s a charge for service, write it on the bill! And do you have to pay both a service charge and a tip? Can’t you save money by just not paying it?”
  • “The bill covers the cost of the food. The tip is a gift to the server for their service.”
  • “I can’t understand ‘tipping culture’ either. Paying the workers is the duty of the restaurant – the customers have nothing to do with it.”
  • “When I forgot to tip at a casino in Las Vegas, the person got really upset. But at the time, I had no idea why they were mad, and was totally lost. About a year later, it suddenly came to me [that I didn’t leave a tip].”
  • “Americans themselves probably don’t want to tip.”
  • “I work as a waiter and I wish we would tip here. I’d like to be able to change my level of service to match how much they pay.”
  • “Tipping is good for the servers. When I was a student I worked at a restaurant and, no matter how busy it got, the pay was always the same. It was horrible. If there’s tips, the more customers there are, the more income you have, right?”
  • “Well, the hourly rate is super cheap.”
  • “Depending on the country there is or isn’t tipping, and / or the customary amount is different…it’s pretty tough, isn’t it? I want to be the kind of Japanese person that tips the way the Romans do…If you enter the country, the situation, and the amount of the bill, it will tell you the right amount to tip. If it’s an iPhone, of course…”
  • “Ignorance overseas is a sin. It’s no excuse to say you didn’t know. You have to learn [the customs] before you go.”
  • “Considering the fact that people imagine Japan as a bunch of people walking around with a kimono, wearing a chonmage hairstyle, and listening to a Walkman, it seems Japan has come a long way.”

Original page here

Tipping culture is the most commonly cited, easily understood cultural comparison. The majority seems to think that it’s bothersome and illogical. Generally, people think it is the job of the restaurant to take the amount the customer paid and distribute fairly among their employees.

However, in Japan, where no matter how hard you work you are not rewarded for it, I am starting to think that it may be a good system to motivate employees.

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