Guest Post // 5 Things Americans Should Know About Visiting Japan

Welcome, friends! While I am off in Japan, I have collected a lovely team of bloggers to share a variety of guest posts about travel, fashion, and everything in between! I will be back from my adventuring soon, but in the mean time please enjoy these wonderful ladies :)

I am so happy and honored to welcome Melyssa of The Nectar Collective to my blog today! Ever since I found her blog last year, it has been a constant source of inspiration, encouragement, & advice. Melyssa is such a genuine and creative person, which is what I love that about her! I thought she would be the perfect person to kick things off today, as she was living in Japan when I started reading her blog & has unique insights as an American that has been immersed in Japanese culture. Enjoy!

Hello Foreign Room readers! I'm Melyssa and I regularly hold down the fort at The Nectar Collective, where I blog about everything from self-improvement and creativity to corgis and adventures. I also lived in Japan for a couple years, so I'm excited to fill in for Jessica while she's off invading my old stomping grounds!

Today, I'm excited to share some tips that might come in handy for anyone who is thinking of traveling to Japan. Something that I learned after living abroad is that each country you visit will have a completely different culture and mentality than the one you came from. If you're coming from the US, Japan is about as opposite as you can get! Considering these tips before hopping on a plane will ensure that you understand Japanese culture enough to respect it and will give you an idea of what to expect when you arrive. I hope they're helpful! Now, let's get started.
1. Most people don't speak English. This has shocked many of my friends who visited Japan. Not only do people not really know English, but they are also too shy and embarrassed to speak it to strangers, as a function of Japan's humble and reserved society. Big cities generally have English signs, but if you're going somewhere besides Tokyo, you might want to print maps ahead of time and plan to speak in gestures. Or better yet, learn some Japanese before you go. They will LOVE you for it!

2. It's disrespectful to be loud on trains. The extensive train system in Japan is one of its best qualities -- getting around is a cinch! But that means that many of the people on trains are commuting after an extremely long day of work and use that time to relax and even sleep. In general, being loud in Japan is uncommon, and being loud on trains is something you only really see from foreign tourists. Be respectful of Japan's cultural values and speak quietly if you have to.

3. Learn how to say "thank you" in Japanese. You might feel like an idiot when using it, but it means a whole lot to Japanese people if you can thank them in their own language. This video does an awesome job of explaining how to say it and when you would use the different forms.
4. Embrace cultural differences. In an average day, a Japanese person might use a squat toilet, take a cigarette break at work, and eat octopus for dinner. These might be a little odd in your home country, but for the Japanese, they're second nature. You don't have to enjoy all of the cultural differences, but try to embrace them as another way of living instead of mocking or detesting them.

5. Be polite and sincere. Japan is a small country, yet many of its people choose not to travel internationally. This means that lots of Japanese people only gain interaction with other nationalities when they see tourists in Japan. This can prove to be a good and a bad thing, because if foreign tourists are being disrespectful, loud, and rude, then it gives Japanese people a bad impression about other countries. Likewise, if you're kind, polite, and sincere, it gives them a great impression about the rest of the world. You are an ambassador of your home country, so wear it well and always be genuinely nice to the people you meet (no matter where you are in the world!). :)

With all that said, these tips aren't meant to make you be someone you're not. It's important for Japanese people to meet foreign tourists, so that they can learn about other personalities and ways of living, but it's also important for us to respect the native culture we're embarking into. As long as you respect Japan when visiting, everyone will have a great time! If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me on my blog, The Nectar Collective. Sayonara! :)

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Amber Indoe said...

Wow living in Japan would be quite the experience! Hope Jess has a lot of fun!

Danica Pardini said...

Such a great post! I think no matter where you're going, researching about the culture before you leave can be so helpful. It's important to be respectful and have at least a little. It of knowledge of the customs there.

abby - little city adventures said...

I'm not traveling anytime soon but this was fun to read! I love #2, I wish people would embrace that sort of thing here...

Emily said...

These are such great tips. I went to Japan when I was 14 for a couple of weeks with my school. It was an amazing experience but I'd love to go now that I'm older and can better appreciate the culture!

Laura @ Inspiration.Sparks said...

Great tips Melyssa!! :)