After living and working abroad for a while, Japanese expats coming back home may find themselves thinking they’ve lost touch with their own culture. But we found a list of things that Japanese expats say are some of the best parts of life in Japan that you just can’t find anywhere else.
1. Being asked to wait
When Japanese expats come back to Japan, one of the first things they are surprised at is the level of politeness while waiting in a bank or post office line. Staff will often apologize for not being able to immediately serve a customer and ask them very politely to wait until an employee can help them. One of the biggest shockers is that when a staff member says “can you wait 15 minutes?”, it will actually take 15 minutes.
Although waiting is an inevitable part of life inside or outside Japan, no one can deny that Japanese customer service makes the waiting game a little less painful. Japanese expats often complain that routine tasks like making a deposit at a bank, buying international postage or renewing your driver’s license are pretty terrible experiences overseas because “no one respects your time.” Unlike in Japan where the line is well-defined and employees are communicative, Japanese living abroad claim there’s just no way to tell how long you will be in a line overseas.
2. Apologies for train delays
Besides being clean, reliable and just about everywhere, Japanese trains are incredibly punctual. Even during the insanity that is the Tokyo rush hour, trains are still pretty much on time. In fact, trains are so rarely late that most offices require a delay certificate from the train company to prove that your morning commute was actually delayed.
And besides being on time, another reason Japanese expats love being back in Japan is hearing train conductors or station staff apologize for delays, whether the delays are their fault or not. This, they claim, would never happen overseas where an apology is a sign of accepting responsibility for the problem. Japanese culture tends to emphasize harmony and peace, so apologizing and moving fits in well here.
3. Seeing airport mechanics bow to greet passengers
After being away from Japan for so long, people coming back to the country probably experience a wave of emotions as their plane lands seeing the country for the first time. And many people report that seeing airplane mechanics bowing to each arriving plane as one of the best things about Japan. While particularity happy airport employees may wave sometimes outside of Japan, bowing as a group to arriving airplanes seems to be a very Japanese habit.
4. Japanese business men sleeping on the train
While an everyday occurrence (or annoyance) in Japan, seeing businessmen completely passed out on the train home is nowhere near as common outside of Japan. Certainly you see some people sleeping every now and then, but Japan definitely has dibs on the sheer number of businessmen who treat the train as their personal bedroom, and the speed at which people nod off is phenomenal.
Although in some countries, sleeping on the train is just considered rude (or in the case of New York: “disorderly conduct”), Japanese expats say that seeing sleeping white-collar workers is a reminder of Japanese public safety, whereas falling asleep on a train abroad is akin to wearing a “please rob me” sign.
5. Hard-working shop clerks (even when the boss is gone!)
A common theme throughout this list has been Japan’s legendary customer service. And another thing Japanese expats coming home notice is how shop employees will work just as hard regardless if the boss is around. Whereas some complain that they have been to places overseas where workers are on their phones or watching TV if alone in the shop, Japanese workers are usually still hard at work even if absolutely no one is in the store. While going to an American 7-Eleven isn’t as terrible as some of these expats make it seem, it’s definitely true that the vast majority of Japanese convenience store employees resemble worker bees on the clock even when their boss is away.
6. “Eye-catching” fashion
One of the more unbelievable things that Japanese expats appear to miss is “eye-catching” fashion and the cliques that cling to it. While not every Japanese person dresses in the latest “gothic Lolita” dress as seen in Harajuku, it’s not exactly strange to see groups of young people wearing the same type of incredibly striking and even gaudy outfits. They say they miss the wacky fashion from home, which is usually only seen at Halloween parties overseas. Japanese expats say that it’s because that while it’s true that Japanese culture stresses conformity, that urge to confirm means that people will often rally around ways to stick out.
How accurate is the Japan that these Japanese expats love? Is this a case of nostalgia for home putting a rose-colored tint over the real Japan or do they have a point about some of these unique aspects of Japanese life?
Source: Madame Riri
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