For most part, tourists are well behaved and well-received by the locals. Not many locals have problems with tourists – and if they do, they’re usually in the category of “racist” or “nationalist”, rather than simply being a regular local irritated by your behavior. If you have manners and are polite in your home country, for the most part, you’ve got nothing to worry about elsewhere in the world too. Most tourists aren’t on the Logan Paul end of the bad behavior spectrum.
But, there are some things you could do that will make the locals raise their eyebrow and perhaps make them think a little bit less of you. They’re easy mistakes to make, so just be cognizant of them while you’re in Japan and you should be fine. Good luck and enjoy your trip!
Oh, wait…You probably want to know what they are. Here they are, according to 9 Japanese locals that we spoke to!
Criticizing local customs and culture
“Why do they eat with chopsticks when they could just eat with a knife and fork?”,
“Raw fish is so gross!”,
“You’re crazy for eating raw chicken. Don’t you know that it’s extremely dangerous?”
Believe it or not, there are people that say these comments to a local (or, at least, within earshot). And yes, a lot of people can understand you even if you’re speaking in English. Even if you’re speaking in French, or Italian. It’s not worth it to make comments like these, and before you do, ask yourself: what purpose does this serve? It’s not going to change anyone’s mind and it’s not going to make the world a better place. It’s just imposing a view. If you keep this is mind, it’s unlikely you’ll end up making comments like this in the first place – though we trust you won’t in the first place, because you’re one of the good guys!
Not following the rules
You might already know that it’s prohibited to talk on your cellphone on the train, or you can’t smoke unless you’re standing in a designated smoking zone. Great! One thing you might not be aware of is that it’s considered bad manners in Japan to walk and eat/drink at the same time. If you buy something to eat at the conbini, eat it outside the conbini and then move on. Don’t walk and eat at the same time.
The reason? You might spill your food or drink on another pedestrian, particularly in crowded areas. If not on a person, you might spill on the floor and make the area unsightly. Whether you end up doing this or not, the fact that you’re willing to risk it is seen as rude and selfish. So, uhh…Rather don’t do it. Will there be repercussions? Probably not. But you can be pretty sure that there’ll be complaints, and perhaps stricter enforcement by authorities in that neighbourhood.
Refusing to try the food you’re offered or suggested
One thing that’s valued in Japan is being open to new tastes and foods. Being explorative and willing to try something unusual is appreciated, and being a fussy eater is especially looked down upon. If someone offers up a sazae (turban shell snail), try it out. It might be disgusting, or it might be exactly what you enjoy. Either way, hey, at least you tried. There’s some consolation, too: if you don’t like it, you’re free to express that. It’s often met with laughter and surprise, because the locals are learning about you and your preferences. As long as you tried it, you’re all good. If you are disgusted, though, just don’t overdo the twisted facial expressions, frowning or retching motions.
If you really don’t want to eat something for whatever reason, we have two tips:
- Tell them you’ve tried it before and you’re not a fan of it. Be sure to have an alibi ready though, because you’re likely going to be quizzed a bit about it.
- For dietary, ethical or religious reasons. This is always going to be respected. If you’re vegetarian, are against whale consumption, or don’t eat pork, no one’s going to force you or look down on you for this. Simply let them know. You’re likely to have a conversation around it, but there’ll be no hard feelings…Unless you use it as a chance to start criticizing local customs and culture. Don’t do that!
And that’s it – three ways that you’ll get on the locals’ nerves in Japan, and a couple of hints to manage that process.
Let us know where you’re from, and what tourists do in your country that you find offensive!