My name is Brittany, I’m an American who’s been living in Japan for about 13 years.

So I’d like to talk about five differences that I noticed when I moved from America to Japan.

Number one: beds.

So for example in America we usually sleep on a mattress that is on a bed frame. In Japan depending where you live, you might be sleeping on a futon on the floor or on tatami mats. So, when I first came to Japan I stayed in a dormitory that had a tatami room. So, for tatami rooms, you can’t really put heavy furniture on top of the tatami mats. It will ruin the mats. So, a lot of the times you have to sleep on futons on the floor. So, that is something you might want to prepare yourself for. Especially if you have a bad back. Sometimes sleeping on the floor can be quite uncomfortable, so just be prepared for that. And it’s important to know how to properly fold your futon in order to store it and have room for other things other than sleeping in your room.

Number two is doing laundry.

So, in Japan a lot of people don’t use dryers to dry their clothes. So, I know it’s very common in the US and a lot of other countries to dry your clothes in a dryer, however in Japan you’ll see that homes are quite compact so sometimes there is no space for a dryer. Plus, um, Japanese people typically think that putting your clothes into a dryer will, um, ruin them faster. And they think that it is more sanitary to hang them out in the sun to dry. So, a lot of homes in Japan have balconies and usually those are exclusively used for hanging laundry. So, that is also something you might need to know before you come just to know what to expect.

Number three: paying for things

So, when you pay for things in Japan you don’t hand money over directly to the shop worker. I know in America we usually just hand it over and that is a polite thing to do, to place it in the other person’s hand. However, in Japan there is usually a blue plate or a metal plate on the counter. So, what you’re supposed to do is place the money on the counter, they will take it, ring up your charges, put the change back on the counter, sometimes they’ll place the change in your hand, but it’s important to know that you shouldn’t handover money directly to someone. And this is for all kinds of situations. For example, if you go to a wedding you are supposed to give some money to the new bride and groom. That should be placed inside of an envelope. Again, you don’t want to handover money directly to someone.

Number four: riding the escalator

So, in Japan, especially in Tokyo, it is quite narrow and there are a lot of people and it’s very busy. One thing I noticed right away is when riding the escalator, people stand on one side and allow the other side for people to walk up. Now this is not an official rule and I think there are even signs in train stations saying not to walk on the escalators, but this is an unspoken rule because, especially in Tokyo, people are busy, they need to catch their next train, they are going to work, so it is a polite thing to do to stand off to one side to allow the person on your opposite side to walk up. And this will differ depending on cities. In Tokyo people stand on the left side and walk up on the right side. However, in cities like Osaka it is the opposite. People stand on the right side and walk up on the left. So that is something, and one tip is just to observe your surroundings and try to mimic the people around you.

The last major difference that I noticed, number five, is no phones on the trains.

So, that doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone, but people do not talk on the phones on the trains. So again, Japan, especially Tokyo, is very crowded. There are lots of people around so, in order to keep the peace, keep the harmony, people don’t talk on the phones as it would disturb others, right? It would disturb your neighbors. So, it is one good thing to know not to talk loudly on the train and not to speak on the phone.

OK, that’s all I have for you. I hope you found these tips helpful and thank you so much for watching.

See you next time!

Who this course is for:

  • To Know Japanese Culture From Basic


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