- In developing a relationship with Japanese students, it is important to avoid strong displays of emotion in public (shock, anger, enthusiasm). They may conclude you lack self-control.
- Japanese culture is very honorific and deferential which includes much formality. They may ask you many questions about your family, work, and responsibilities in order to know which forms of honor to extend to you (although much is lost in the translation into English).
- Because Japan is an honor-shame culture primarily, communication is often complicated and key ideas and perspectives may be delivered indirectly (like by a roommate instead of directly by the student you have befriended).
- Japan looks at their history through epochs covering many years. Asking the student about these epochs can be very interesting (start with the current one and work backwards in time).
- Apology is an important part of Japanese cultural behavior. Both individuals and companies are expected to apologize for mistakes.
- Japanese strive for consensus in decisions, and individuals are especially loyal to their identification group. Some decision making seems very subjective to foreign outsiders.
- Personal recognition is played down in favor of group recognition. They have a saying that “the nail that stands up gets hammered down.”
- Japanese students have anxiety about life in general because of the need to avoid shame or embarrassment. So, there is pressure to conform, but many behaviors are situation-bound (which makes it very difficult for foreigners to learn what to do when).
- Age is revered, but there is great competitiveness among peers.
- Japanese students have a great work-ethic and excel in their studies.
- A bow is a usual greeting. Quickly lower your eyes and keep your palms against your thighs.
- Japan is a high-context culture, so be careful with using excessive facial expressions or hand gestures.
- Japanese typically remain farther apart when talking than do Americans.
- If invited to a Japanese home, bring flowers or candy (but never an even number). Japanese people do not usually open a gift immediately upon receiving it.
Principles cited in this blog: Many dos and don’ts to remember in order to be thoughtful.
Application for ISI ministry: We desire to be winsome and thoughtful to our guests from other countries. Learning a few small customs can make a big difference!
Next blog topic: Being thoughtful to students from Africa
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson