Japan has always been a polite society
17 important things I learned in Japan
It was hard not to be impressed with Japan. The efficiency that is displayed there is a very special one. The social order too.
The streets are clean, the trains run on time, the people are calm and polite, but yet so quirky and fascinating (cosplay, chicken-flavored ice cream, or how about a five-tier burger?).
Nobody returns to their homeland the way they came to Japan.
Here are some impressions that leave an impression on strangers and make us rethink the way we live, act, or see the world.
In short, they cause us to change our lives.
Just when you thought you already knew everything ...
After discussing these changes with a few people who have visited Japan over and over again, we came up with this list. It does not follow any particular prioritization.
1.) Always retaliate, no matter what it is about
In Japan, you quickly learn that you not only accept favors, but also quickly return them. As soon as possible. Do you remember the thank you card you never wrote or the birthday card you bought but never sent? That won't happen in Japan. Returning a favor is extremely important here in order to be on good terms with others.
On the other hand, it is much easier to return a favor in Japan because there are many more options. For example, if someone helps you move a new sofa home, all you have to do is buy them a can of Coke from the machine to say "thank you". Almost everything you do involves a nice gesture without words.
2.) Say thank you to people the next time you see them
Not just there. In Japan, people always remember to say thank you personally next time. It all sounds a little over the top, but when you receive a thank you, it feels good when someone says to you, “Thank you very much for helping me carry the sofa home.” It's just a nice gesture.
3.) Politeness there means much more than just asking and thankingu say
Politeness is found everywhere in Japanese culture and has even become entrenched in the way people interact and speak with one another (forms of politeness). For example, the salesperson accompanying you to the door with your purchases and the way you are greeted and said goodbye when you enter or exit a restaurant.
If you stop somewhere to ask for directions, you will either be given hand-drawn directions or the seller will even leave their post to give you personalized directions as much as possible. Politeness here means to back off a little and stop asking yourself "What's in this for me?"
4.) Put others before your personal needs
The easiest way to tell others how important they are to you: put them before your own interests. Give your friend the biggest piece of cake, your mother the best seat in the restaurant or position your guest in the middle of the photo. Such things are part of everyday life in Japan.
The traditional Japanese house has its own place for guests, namely the tokonoma niche, which stages the guest in front of Japanese art (hanging scrolls, flower arrangements, ceramics, etc.). Why shouldn't the guests feel special?
Have you just bought a cake or sweet pastries at the bakery? Then take a piece with you for your neighbors or friends to show them that you have thought of them. Japan offers so many opportunities to maintain relationships with one another.
5. Involve everyone in the group
In Japan everyone involved is invited, even if they don't like some of them. It's not common to just have your after-work beer with friends or just invite a few of your coworkers out to go out. So there are no strange moments because someone realizes that they haven't been invited to a party.
All people are included in photos, regardless of whether they are a relative or a friend. Involving everyone also means dealing with different people and tolerating them.
6.) Respect the property of others
We have the saying "If you find it, you can keep it." Not so in Japan! If you don't own something, you just don't take it. If someone loses a handkerchief, the person who finds it places the handkerchief in a prominent place on a nearby post so that the owner can find it quickly. And just because something isn't chained doesn't mean you can just take it with you, because that's not proper!
7.) Drinking something does not have to mean that it has to degenerate into violence
Even tourists visiting Japan notice that there are many drunk businessmen on the streets at night (some even during the day) and none of them are aggressive or violent. Fights in bars are rare, and most people are just satisfied after they've had a drink (and passed out just to keep drinking!). Have a drink, get drunk, but do it peacefully!
8.) Peace is a comprehensive attitude
Today Japanese school children are taught from an early age that violence is wrong and war is never right. A peaceful attitude is exemplified for the children and it is reminded of this annually. Japan's Basic Law Article 9 also adheres to this basic idea.
9.) Sometimes government control is a really good thing
Good examples of this are a world-class rail network (and public transport in general), one of the best postal services in the world (privatized, as it were, through the privatization of the Japanese Post Office), and high-quality but affordable healthcare. The government in Japan is doing really well at this, and it's hard to believe that a private service provider could do this better.
10.) Restraint can be a good trait
Japan's society is generally quite cautious. People stand in long lines without complaining and there are hardly any aggressive drivers on the streets. People don't yell, roll their eyes, or glare at each other. The Japanese are reserved and live this cool and calm way of life.
11.) Be a better listener
The Japanese usually speak calmly and prudently. They are often shy, reserved, and stoic. They tend to let someone speak first before saying anything. They are very good listeners!
Giving the other the opportunity to express their opinion can be a challenge. Because it presupposes that one opens up and lets the other speak, thus "degrading" oneself to the listener.
This makes us more open to the world when we try to understand the other person's point of view. When we stop debating and discussing more, we automatically lower our voices and don't try to dominate the conversation.
The Japanese appreciate the quiet very much; a short break between the two parts of the conversation is even desired.
12.) Be less nationalistic
Stop trumpeting that your country is the best country in the world, because even if not everyone says it outward, most people feel the same way. If you live among immigrants in a country like Japan, you quickly realize that you are not “from the best country in the world” because there is simply no such thing.
13.) Ganbaru - do your best!
There's a good reason we only have a rough description of the word and not a separate expression for it. Many of us give up too soon when we realize that something is costing more energy or money than we planned.
In Japan, however, the mindset is that you try to hold out to the end and do your best. Japan will make you aware of this attitude over time because everyone around you has the same attitude.
14.) Always stand behind the matter
Whenever someone in Japan says something, they also stand behind that statement. And nobody will forget this statement. For example, when invited, most people feel obliged to come.
If they say yes, they'll come too, no matter how much it rains. Someone who just doesn't show up is no longer welcomed. Either you cancel in advance or you send a substitute.
15.) Be a better citizen
At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the team cleaned up their part of the stadium. If you've ever been to Japan, you won't be surprised, because there you always clean up behind you. Even after the boisterous cherry blossom festival, you can find trash cans in the park to get rid of your rubbish.
If you're having a party at home, you can be sure that everyone is helping to tidy up and do the dishes. Japanese businessmen sweep the entrance of their shop every day and it is quite common for neighbors to help each other sweep the street, which in a certain way is expected. They even clean up after others, even if it's not really their job.
16.) Do everything you do with grace
If one had to describe Japan in one word, it would be "graceful". All social classes behave in the same elegant way. For example, bowing a greeting or showing someone the direction with your whole hand instead of just using your index finger.
The fact that the Japanese give a gift with both hands, dress well, or greet everyone with a smile shows that everything is done with grace and respect.
17.) Be on time
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in Japan is being late. It is extremely important to be on time for an appointment, because that way you show your counterpart and the processes run smoothly and more efficiently.
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