June 15, 2012
3 Customs Every Business Traveler Should Know in Japan
To bow or not to bow, that is the question – especially for business travelers. From greetings to tipping, avoid embarrassing situations while traveling in Japan with this easy guide to three of the country’s cultural customs.
Eating Out: Keep Your Spare Change
- Wash your hands with a moist rolled towel if provided for you before eating. The towel should not be used on any part of your face.
- If eating soup or a similar dish, hold the bowl under your mouth to avoid spilling
- Slurping foods such as ramen or udon is a sign you are enjoying the meal
- Do not pour soy sauce over your food. Use a small side plate to dip into.
Also do not tip for your meals in Japan. The service charge is already included in the bill and is actually considered very impolite to leave on the table. This rule also applies to other services as well such as taxis and hotels – so save your spare change for the vending machine!
Greeting: Take a Bow
In Japan, bowing is the traditional form of greeting. While offering your hand for a firm shake is a sign of respect in the United States, for this country the length and level of bow demonstrates respect. From a young age, Japanese children are taught the different levels of bowing for various situations, but with a few standards tips you will bow like the best of them.
- Keep your back straight
- Slightly bend at the waist
- Cast your eyes down to the floor
- For men, keep your hands by your sides and for women, bring your hands in front of your body
To avoid a misunderstanding or offending a fellow businessman, bow as long and as deep as the other person or even just a touch longer. It’s better to show more respect than too little!
When you are at home you can walk around the living room with your shoes on but in Japan that is a big no-no. Whenever entering a home and even often at hotels and businesses, it is customary and polite to remove your shoes. Slippers will be provided for you to wear. If you have larger feet, it is a good idea to bring your own house slippers!
What other Japanese customs do you think are important to know? Share your best tip!
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