A Chinese perspective: Some surprising cultural differences upon coming to Japan
On Feb 1, a Chinese newspaper writing primarily for Chinese nationals residing in Japan published an article titled “Some of the Things that Surprised Me when Coming to Japan.” Written by Chinese men and women who have experienced the Japanese lifestyle, the publication gives accounts of some quite startling differences between Chinese and Japanese customs and what is taken for granted as common sense.
On first coming to Japan, some of the things that shocked the Chinese that took part in this poll include:
- The notion that ramen and dumplings are often seen as a side dish to rice.
- Upon entering a public lavatory, toilet paper is always provided,
- Pedestrians in Japan obey crossing signals and wait to cross even if there is no traffic.
- Household waste is collected on fixed days of the week.
- In Japan, it’s considered impolite to eat while walking.
- It is against the law for those under the age of 20 to smoke or imbibe alcohol.
- While pregnant, Japanese women have a tendency to keep themselves slim. Even so, carrying a baby around with them in public is commonplace.
- Fundamentally, a child’s medical expenses are free of charge.
With regard to the working conditions in Japan, many Chinese comment that, to their surprise, even part-time workers are treated with great respect. Other areas that are strikingly different in Japan include: the fact that university scholarships must be paid back in full once entering full-time employment; women often only leave home after putting on a layer of makeup; hospital care includes full nursing; small infants don’t wear open-backed pants that allow easy access to little ones’ bottoms when they tug on your arm and quietly tell you that they’re seconds away from having an accident.
In China it is common practice to dispose of toilet paper in a rubbish bin, but in Japan flushing it down the toilet is the norm. The idea that the toilet doesn’t become blocked leaves many Chinese somewhat bewildered. In Japan, one sprinkles salt on tomatoes or watermelons but in China one sprinkles not salt but sugar. Finally, in the land of the rising sun, one of the most “Chinese” foods is a dessert called “annindoufu” (a dessert of almond jelly).
Other differences that left many Chinese lost for words were that even older members of society use cosmetics to make themselves presentable.
But the list doesn’t end there. Despite being one of China’s closest neighbors, there were many differences in Japan that Chinese residents were completely taken aback by:
- Sports newspapers in Japan often images of naked or scantily clad girls, despite the fact that they have no relation whatsoever to the sports news itself.
- It is considered impolite to carry on conversations in a loud voice while riding a train. Similarly, there is a strict “no talking on the phone” rules on board trains in Japan, with most people putting their mobile phone in the ‘manner mode’ setting which prevents it from ringing.
- Many Japanese people keep their wallet in their back pocket and plainly visible, however there is very little fear of it being stolen due to the relative safety of Japanese society.
- Public transport almost always arrives at the scheduled time.
- Anyone participating in a wedding ceremony adheres to the strict rule of formal wear.
- Although there are no rubbish bins supplied on the streets, citizens take their litter home with them. For this reason, the streets are always clean.
- At fast food restaurants McDonald’s or KFC you are expected to clear your table and dispose of any wrappers, cups, napkins and the like, however the staff treats the customer as though they were royalty and will often step forward to take a customer’s tray to the bins if possible.
- In Japan, a medical examination or staying over in hospital doesn’t require any form of ‘special connection’ or resorting to the act of bribery.
- One particularly striking difference in customs is that in Japan the husband hands his paycheck over to the wife. On the subject of money, when going on a date, a couple often splits the restaurant bill in half.
- In Japan, if a person commits suicide by jumping in front of a train, their remaining family is charged reparations.
- Japan has hotels designed specifically for the purpose of having sex, where the front lobby is designed in such a way that the customer is saved the embarrassment of coming face to face with hotel staff.
- Finally, many Chinese were, perhaps understandably, surprised to hear just how frequently Japan’s prime minister changes.
Many Chinese also state that living in Japan is very convenient, and society as a whole is very safe. It is very much a society in which you reap what you sow: by putting in the effort, you are recognized by those around you, which in turn encourages further individual growth. It is perhaps this social bond of solidarity that helped many a Japanese person overcome the devastation of the most recent great earthquake, where through the help and kindness of those around them many were able to rebuild, to some degree, their previous lives.
Well these are some of the most apparent differences expressed by the Chinese who have come to Japan. Having read this how does all of this compare to your own country’s customs? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.
Source: Record China
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