30 Oct 2019

Sing karaoke and don't tip: etiquette in Japan

This weekend the England rugby team faces South Africa in the hotly-anticipated final of the Rugby World Cup in Yokohama. But how much do we know about our hosts? Here are our top ten etiquette tips for making a good impression in Japan:

1.) Shake hands gently: the Japanese tend to favour a limp handshake – a bone-crushing grip is seen as overly aggressive.

2.) Go easy on the eye contact: direct eye contact is rare in Japan, again to avoid any suggestion of aggression.

3.) Avoid a toothy grin: the Japanese generally refrain from showing their teeth when they smile.

4.) Take care with chopsticks: don’t cross chopsticks when you lay them down, and definitely don’t stick them in a bowl of rice pointing upwards: this has associations with funerals.

5.) Don’t point: at least, not with your index finger. Instead, use the whole hand, palm upwards, to gesture at something.

6.) Embrace karaoke: accept an invitation to karaoke, however tone deaf you are. This popular social activity acts as an icebreaker and serves to enhance personal relationships.

7.) Give malt whisky … or marmalade: gift-giving is very important in Japan. Traditionally British items, including cakes, biscuits, whisky or even fine marmalade, will usually be well received.

8.) But pretend to refuse a gift: expressing reluctance to receive a gift shows humility. Gifts should also be received with both hands and not opened in front of the giver unless he or she asks you to.

9.) Don’t take a call on public transport: phone calls are widely prohibited on public buses and trains. Texting is fine, however.

10.) And finally... don’t leave a tip: tipping is not customary in Japan, and may even cause offence.

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