Be A Good Gaijin

Easy Rider

Ok, so, Japan is a country of rules in the realest way. I could literally host a 3-day webinar on all the rules and how many times I’ve broken them unintentionally/because, America. In lieu of that, here are some crucial tips to remember.

Low-Key Condescending, but Important Cultural Etiquette Tips for n00bs ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Take off your shoes. TAKE EM OFF. DO IT. (If you’ve been to my crib, you already know this is like “open sesame,” but srsly. Major 🗝)
  • Get used to bowing. Don’t try to shake everyone's hands.

  • Carry cash. While they probably have technology that enables you to pay with your mind, most places are old-school. 

  • Japanese taxi drivers are magic; do not open or close their magic taxi doors. They’ll get a lil’ pissy if you do. Awkward.

  • Pour drinks for other people. And while you’re at it, try to generally shed as many individualistic tendencies Western culture has indoctrinated us with.

  • Don’t cut in line or be banished to queuing purgatory. Especially important on the train platform--it’s not like NY. (I know you’re probably like, “Ok, STFU Anna, you need to chill.” But you’ll see what I mean.) 

  • Plz don’t stab your chopsticks in rice. Otherwise, my mom will personally teleport to wherever you are to audibly gasp in your ear. Forever. Here’s why.

  • As if you’re receiving a handwritten letter from the Obamas *tear*, accept business cards with two hands. You’ll come across as an ultra respectful business bawse.

With all of this said, don’t let the inevitable and palpable pressure of being a clumsy, sweaty, bumbling gaijin turn you into a paranoid, sad tourist.* For better or for worse, foreigners often get a pass on these things and Japanese people are extremely polite

*Lots of self conscious projection here. 

Clutch Phrases

  • Su-mi-ma-sen (Excuse me/sorry)

  • Do-mo a-ri-ga-tō  (Thank you)

  • Ei-go ga ha-na-se-mas ka (Do you speak English?)
  • Wa-ka-ri-ma-sen (I don’t understand)