There are many customs and behaviors that are natural for Japanese people, either because they are historically accepted, imposed by society or because they are part of the Japanese psyche. To foreign visitors, some of these customs can be a bit confusing.
MADAME RiRi offers a few examples.
1. Making the peace sign (vee)
Many young Japanese people instinctively form a vee with their fingers when they pose for photos. In many other countries, this is the sign of peace. But there is no such meaning in Japan. Fortunately, Japanese make the vee sign with the palm of their hand facing the photographer and not the back of the hand, which might get them in trouble overseas. In any case, it’s a good way to spot who the Japanese tourists are in a crowd.
2. Sitting on the floor
Many foreign people wonder why Japanese people sit on the floor. It is very rare to see people sit on the floor in Western countries where tatami mats are not common. Many foreign visitors to Japan find it hard (and painful) to sit on the floor, opting instead for the familiarity of the couch or chair.
3. Drinking barley tea
If you open the fridge in most Japanese homes or look at any vending machine, you’ll likely see barley tea. It’s a refreshing drink that goes well with meals and is particularly good in hot weather. And it doesn’t have a lot of caffeine.
4. Slurping ramen, sniffling
Japanese people usually slurp when they eat noodles such as ramen, soba and udon. Although slurping noodles is considered rude in Western countries, in Japan, it is an expression of one’s appreciation for the meal. So slurp away as loud as you like. Sniffling, clearing one's throat and swallowing phlegm are also habits that visitors may find unsettling.
5. Nodding response (Aizuchi)
When you communicate with Japanese people, you often see them nodding their response with words like “He,” “Un,” “Soso,” “So nanda” and so on. This type of nodding response is called “Aizuchi” in Japanese and dates back to the Edo period. “Aizuchi” is also a good way of looking like you are taking part in a conversation, but foreign people seldom use these words, perhaps because they feel it will look like they are not listening seriously.
6. Double-eyelid surgery
Perhaps this one applies to many women in Asia, not just Japan. Double eyelid surgery is common because young women want to have bigger eyes. Have a look at the girls who adorn the covers of fashion magazines, or pop diva Ayumi Hamasaki. Foreigners may wonder why Japanese women get cosmetic surgery for their eyes but don’t do anything about their teeth. In the West, a woman is more likely to get a nip and tuck, but rarely have her eyes altered.
7. Walking pigeon-toed in high heels
Some Japanese girls cannot walk gracefully in high heels and end up walking pigeon-toed.
Bowing is an integral part of Japanese society, whether you are saying hello, goodbye, apologizing, expressing condolences or just responding instinctively. Some Japanese people even bow while talking on the phone. In Western countries, the handshake and hug are more common.
Source: MADAME RiRi© Japan Today