lifestyle

Survey reveals top 5 times Japanese travelers realise just how Japanese they are

47 Comments
By Meg Murphy, RocketNews24

Whether we like to admit it or not, where we were brought up has a huge impact on the person we become. From our way of thinking to what foods we prefer, it’s hard to deny that our environment shapes our personal identity.

While some people come from nations that are veritable melting pots of backgrounds, languages, and cultures, others come from a country with much more homogeneity. Japan is one such country, and its people have a strong sense of identity — though they may not readily admit it.

But often during a trip to a foreign country, there comes a moment of self-realization where they become aware of just how Japanese they really are. A recent survey asked Japanese travelers to identify the five moments they felt most Japanese when abroad. The results are really quite telling.

Taken by website goo Ranking, the survey asked 1,731 Japanese people between April 24 and May 8 this year to vote for the moment during a trip overseas that they became most aware of their Japanese-ness. Here’s how the results came out:

5. Being surprised when an employee couldn’t calculate the change (128 votes)

I would be surprised too if a store clerk struggled with a quick calculation, since almost everywhere you go any transaction you make is calculated by the register. But if it was the case that a shop or restaurant employee actually couldn’t count out the change they were supposed to give back, well… Then again, having worked through high school and university in customer service, I do have sympathy for store employees. The hours are long, the work is repetitive, customers can be awful… Sometimes brain-farts happen, folks.

4. Finding the sweets or beverages too sweet (174 votes)

Japanese confectioneries are distinctive for their subtle sweetness, so as to allow the consumer to enjoy the distinct flavors of the ingredients without being overwhelmed by a huge punch of sugar in the palate. As for beverages, though, I have to disagree. Coca-cola and Pepsi are just as widely sold here in Japan as they are anywhere else, not to mention all the super sugar-laden teas, coffees, and fruit drinks, which are to me, personally, just too sweet, so it surprises me that so many Japanese people would be shocked by the sweetness of food and drinks outside their country.

3. Not being able to handle the big portion sizes at restaurants (78 votes)

I’m not too sure about other countries, but America at least is known for serving rather large portions. Yes, this all depends on where you go for your meal, but in general, when compared to the average size of a meal you’d receive at a restaurant in Japan, we Americans do tend to consume quite a bit more.

2. Being shocked at the poor customer service (212 votes)

What constitutes “good” and “bad” service is entirely subjective, as each individual has their own idea of how they want their dining experience/ hotel stay etc to be. Cultural differences also determine what is expected of an employee towards customers. In Japan, the interaction is much more formal than what you would expect in the United States, where more casual, friendly interactions between customers and employees are desired. For the average Japanese patron, however, customer service outside of their homeland undoubtedly comes across as rather lacking, since Japanese store clerks are trained to follow set scripts and carry out actions in a very specific way.

1. Longing for a bowl of plain white rice (341 votes)

By a landslide margin, the number one instance when Japanese tourists overseas realized, “Yep, I’m Japanese after all,” was when they wished they had a steaming-hot bowl of plain white rice to accompany their meal. It’s not so surprising when you think about how much importance rice has played throughout their country’s history, and how much it is still consumed by each individual every day (it wouldn’t even be unusual to be served rice at every meal of the day). Some Japanese will insist that the rice grown in such-and-such region tastes the best, or that using good water when cooking rice really enhances the flavor, so don’t try to tell them they can substitute Japanese sticky white rice for the inexpensive plain white rice you generally find in US supermarkets either. It’s just not the same!

And there you have it: things that make the Japanese feel Japanese. Any of you, fellow expats and travelers, have a similar moment of realization while overseas in which you truly felt you were the nationality you were born as?

Source: goo Ranking

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Top 10 food disasters prepared by Japanese wives who have extraordinary talent in the kitchen -- Eat like the judges and lawyers of Japan at this theme restaurant in Kumamoto -- Japan’s abysmal ranking for rice consumption even catches Japanese Netizens off-guard

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


47 Comments
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When I'm in the states, one dinner also supplies breakfast and lunch for the next day. The good thing is that you can get a "doggie bag" and take the remainder to your hotel. Here in Japan, few places have a service for taking extra food home, although there will rarely be extra food.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Why does this author continue to write articles reinforcing stereotypes about Japanese people? One would think that in the age we live in today people should be more enlightened to understand that many of the things she has written here about Japanese people go for people from other countries all around the world.

Writing articles like this, one of many that this author has had posted here on JT, she keeps pushing the agenda that Japanese are "special", and also reinforces the belief of "us vs them" in an age when we SHOULD be focusing on learning how to live together and quit finding ways to divide us further.

BTW, there are plenty of things in that list I find annoying or bothersome too and while I am a Japanese citizen I am most definitely NOT ethnic Japanese.

18 ( +28 / -10 )

Of these 5 answers, 4 of them define Japanese-ness in contrast to a foreigner or group of foreigners failing or being inferior to Japanese in some way. Which then becomes a not very roundabout way of promoting Japanese people as superior to people from other countries. It's not the foods you had were sweeter because that's just what people like, it's that we Japanese appreciate subtlety and those barbarian foreigners don't. It's not that different cultures have different expectations of what customer service should be, it's just that there is only "good" and "bad" customer service and we Japanese have the good service so that must make you foreigners the bad.

We see it again and again all around the world- people construct definitions of their group as superior to other groups and then invent narratives to support those beliefs. Because actually working to be a meaningful contribution to society is apparently hard. It's much easier to skip the effort part and just define yourself to be part of the best people.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

Being surprised when an employee couldn’t calculate the change.

??

Even after a decade of soroban lessons, the average cashier in Japan would be lost without the register or ubiquitous calculator.

And no, it isn't to reassure the customer they are getting the right change, they really can't do double digit subtraction in their heads.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

A bowl of plain white rice? That is the dish that reminds me that I'm not Japanese. It's just crying out for some kind of topping. Even natto!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Like I wrote......If I wrote posts or replies on JT like what is written in this article it would be deleted.....and that part of the post "disappeared" like magic.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Get over yourselves already! You're no different from the average traveler.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Not content to bias and stereotype others, we have to endure Japanese doing it to themselves. Sigh.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Why does this author continue to write articles reinforcing stereotypes about Japanese people? One would think that in the age we live in today people should be more enlightened to understand that many of the things she has written here about Japanese people go for people from other countries all around the world. @Yubaru

Sorry mate, just wanted to point out that this was a survey about what Japanese people think about demselvez no?

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Rice "still consumed by each individual every day" you lost me there as I know many many Japanese who do not eat rice every day. Yeah, us against them with generalizations written as fact.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Who counts change? All the change is automatically dispensed by the cash register now. Only the few remaining mom and pop shops (or grandma and grandpa shops) use a soroban to calculate change.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Of course they perceive those stereotypes because they go overseas to search for them for reassurance.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Thanks for reminding us of the imaginary laurels our cognitive dissonance luxuriates on.

The author might try purchasing drinks and snacks from JR's green car vendors, to explode the mathematical superiority myth. All over the world, some people 'get' math, and some struggle. More just seem to get math here because it's been drilled into them intensively.

Customer service is superficially great on the sales end, but a combination of poor consumer protection, lack of training and a Fordist adherence to process...

Japanese store clerks are trained to follow set scripts and carry out actions in a very specific way

...too often (for this reader, at least) conspires to snafu attempts at satisfactory problem resolution, a phenomenon (with its attendant superiority myth) that translates into a major competitive disadvantage for some J brands overseas.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Sorry mate, just wanted to point out that this was a survey about what Japanese people think about demselvez no?

I understand that, however the original article is in Japanese, and things get changed (slanted) in translations and she is also the one who does it. It's on her.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

'Get over yourselves already! You're no different from the average traveler.'

Of course they are different. There are clearly two types of people - Japanese and 'foreigners'. I was once asked if the sight of people standing in line was a culture shock for a 'foreigner' like myself. I checked the origins of the word 'queue' but couldn't trace it to Japan. Perhaps the person who coined it did so after visiting Japan.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

5 It's not just brain-farts as you call them. It's a poor education. 2 Customer service in Japan is much more than the employee just following a script - I think it has become part of their DNA to try and please the customer. 1 Having difficulty finding good bread is my American issue in Japan. Difficult but not impossible.
0 ( +5 / -5 )

What are these "subtle Japanese confectioneries"? I find Japanese sweets are often almost entirely sugar and far too sweet for my taste.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Typical Rocket News garbage.

In Japan, the interaction is much more formal than what you would expect in the United States, where more casual, friendly interactions between customers and employees are desired.

I prefer a friendly open interaction compared to the formal robotic japanese staff. Of course, even when they're off duty, japanese still aren't as sociable.

Longing for a bowl of plain white rice

I knew this was #1 before reading the story. Funny thing is that southeast Asians, Koreans and Chinese might say the same. They all just love them a bowl of plain white rice for some reason. There are lots of Yoshinoya chains stateside. Perhaps they should go there and tell the cookk to "hold the beef please".

Being shocked at the poor customer service

Where are these people dining? I mean, the service aint fantastic, but it aint poor. Don't expect everyone to bend over backwards for you, after all- you're really not a "God".

Besides, the food is reasonably priced. And are no 45 min (time limit) when you're eating @ Buffet style restaurants- like there are here in Japan.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

@Yubaru

I understand that, however the original article is in Japanese, and things get changed (slanted) in translations and she is also the one who does it. It's on her.

Ahhhhhhh! Gotcha. Thanks! I can agree to that.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Another typical crock of crap list of generalizations that can apply to Japan itself in every single case. Even #5 needs to be qualified to "Japanese rice polished so that it has less nutrition", as other countries also have white rice and what would be 'plain' to them differs.

Sweet beverages? Please! We're talking about the land that comes up with azuki pepsi (so sweet I couldn't take more than one sip). It has more than its fair share of of non-sweetened drinks, for sure, but just as many sweetened. And the customer service here CAN be good, but it can also be crap, and the servers, when treated like robots, suffer rampant abuse at the hands of employers and customers.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

suffer rampant abuse at the hands of employers and customers.

Good point Smith. I once saw a man cause a scene at 7-11, chewing out the employee at the register because his obento wasn't warmed up properly. The poor kid repeatedly apologized and kept bowing over & over.

Try pulling that stunt stateside. The manager would refund the sale right then and there and tell the hostile customer to get the hell off of the property.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

My wife tried to get a refund at Aeon with 3 staff member- none could do it- They had to get the manager to handle it. Japan is land of buffet and multiple dish lunch meals- which are sizeable.

These responses are probably true Japanese response- they act overseas in sleepwalker mode where they compare the traditional sweets and teas with mass-produced foods- not with equivalent products, compare traditional meals with common foods not sophisticated foods and similar. I love the foreign clerks can't calculate the change compare to country with auto-change producing machines and many errors in charging and they have to scan every item- as little as 10 yen items.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Although I'm not Japanese I have lived herefor about seven years. I recently went back home to America after being away for about 3 or 4 years. I must agree thatI even had reverse culture shock at the noticeably worse customer service, noticeably larger portion sizes, and noticeably less safe feeling.

That being said, there are many good things I had missed about America that I couldn't experience in Japan: the more direct, honest, friendly people. The taste of a real cheeseburger with all the works. The feeling of getting a good value for your money when you go grocery shopping, especially vegetables and fruits.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

JP rice has absolutely no flavor, and must be piled high with things to give it taste. That is blatant ignorance to crave garbage, when there are lots of other things to savor, rather than try to bloat.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Being surprised when an employee couldn’t calculate the change (128 votes)

Bogus! This happens everywhere! You don't know how many times I've thrown the Japanese cashier of their game by simply giving them ¥100 in addition to the ¥1000 bill on a ¥600 tab because I was hoping to get one coin back.

Finding the sweets or beverages too sweet (174 votes)

Bogus! Japanese drinks and sweets are just as sweet. Ever heard of mitsuya cider or ramune? Or just try any of the baked sweets and breads at the so-called bakeries here ( you know, the ones that sell the spaghetti sandwiches and stuff) they're enough to send you into diabetic shock. And besides, Japanese use more sugar in their daily lives than anyone I've ever known. From bread to sushi rice to the everyday soup of dashi, mirin( also crazy sweet) , soy sauce and sugar. And Japan has a high percentage of people with diabetes. Go figure!

Not being able to handle the big portion sizes at restaurants (78 votes)

Bogus! Have you seen the portions the people eat here in Japan. I mean the ramen, the huge pieces of karaage, and the katsu kare omurisu. Who on god's green earth deep fries a big pork chop, lathers it in curry gravy, then slams it down on an omelet nine months pregnant with rice. I'll tell you who. And have you seen those katsu sandwiches they have at Lawson? Those things are massive.

Being shocked at the poor customer service (212 votes)

Bogus! Just because you're not treated as "God" doesn't mean you're getting bad customer service. And guess what? you're not God! And the store worker is a human being. You can and do get decent service outside of Japan. And those people are real. Here you get robots who shout "irrasshyaimase" at the top of their lungs while starring at the floor. It's simply a knee jerk reaction.

Longing for a bowl of plain white rice (341 votes)

Well, well, well. What can I say. Indoctrination and ideology at its best. This is one issue I especially thank god I'm not Japanese. I mean all the wonderful cuisines that fill the world, the different spices and ingredients, the different cooking techniques, and all you want is a bowl of white rice because you were beat over the head with white rice is synonymous with japaneseness. Yeah, yeah. When I'm on my death bed all I'm gonna beg for is a slice of my grandmother's meatloaf. Give me break!

I agree with commenters above that all this article seems to do is depict Japanese as superior, and all it accomplishes is division amongst people. Instead of introducing to the non-Japanese public the differences between Japanese people and others in a way that lets us appreciate the diversity of the earth and of her myriad of species, it delivers us those differences in a way that alienates and paints a very monochrome picture of nature.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

On a more down-to-earth note, I would think something like Japanese people noticing that most people in other countries don't carry so much cash, or perhaps lateness of trains or something would be more prevalant than the generalizations (and wrong ones, at that) in this list.

I think a better survery would be of repatriated Japanese; what do they experience in terms of reverse culture shock, etc. I can certainly tell you from being here for a long time and going home what I DON'T miss, as well as what I do, from the experience of both. It's more personal than cultural, though.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

So many times I've been surprised when the clerk could do some simple subtraction.

"So, that's 636 yen, out of 1000. Ahhhh..." reaches for calculator

3 ( +4 / -1 )

When I returned to the US for grad school I couldn't stomach to hang out with the Japanese families and their arrogant attitudes and statements that unfortunately I understood. They complained that Americans were stupid, lazy, the housing was bad, can't drink the water, etc.

On the other hand I saw gross lack of manners from them. In the student housing one family let their child write with crayons on the walls and then the child tried to do it in our apartment. Several men (highly educated and professional) were caught driving under the influence and had to do community service. One guy boasted how he would speed and if pulled over pretend he could not speak English to cause the officer to give up and not ticket him. A lawyer visiting from Japan got drunk and drove down the wrong side of the road in California and caused a major accident. But none of these stick in their heads because they are constantly taught that they are special and better.

That is pretty much why I don't have many JP friends even though I live here.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Who on god's green earth deep fries a big pork chop, lathers it in curry gravy, then slams it down on an omelet nine months pregnant with rice.

Your description is hilarious! That thing is about 1200 calories, I have always wondered who can eat one without feeling totally stuffed.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

After years of not getting this fixation with white rice, I finally experienced it myself last summer after being back in England for two months over summer. Most supermarkets here stock mostly basmati rice. I tried loads of others too but just couldn't eat them plain. When I got back to Japan and had my first bowl of white rice I just had to laugh out loud.

Being non-Japanese, I guess this shows that it's not so much how Japanese the Japanese are but how entrenched their preferences are. Nothing to do with nationality. The same thing goes for the exceptionally high standards of customer service.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Interestingly, the Japanese--especially before World War II--used to eat a lot more rice per person. However, due to a serious food shortage situation at the time of Japan's surrender and the fact the one of the first things the American occupation authorities did in the fall of 1945 and several years afterwards was send a huge amount of American wheat products to Japan to head off a potential famine, that actually ended up changing the palate of the Japanese. As such, today the Japanese are a lot less likely to eat rice at every meal per day (many say that change may explain why ramen and gyoza-- both of which uses wheat-based products extensively--really took off in popularity since the late 1940's even well before "instant ramen" was created in 1958).

In short, while the Japanese may publicly profess missing eating white rice when traveling outside of Japan out of respect of Japan's historic rice-growing culture, they eat white rice far less on a daily basis than before World War II even with rice advocacy groups active today in the country.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Gaijin having a reluctance in accepting they are NOT Japainese!!!

Of course Japainese are different from Germans or French, or Brits generally; that's why we have different nationalities.

Like it when disgruntled Gaijin claim "Japainese are like anyone else on the planet". Really!!!

Are Japainese similar Gypsies in Romania, or Yoruba in Nigeria???

You don't appreciate white rice because, even though you've lived in Japain for about 20 years and want to claim Japainesness; you are not!

My girlfriend doesn’t like fish and chips; I love the stuff. Most Brits love it; lots of Japainese I know can't stand it.

Level of customer service in London is GENERALLY HORRIBLE!

Same thing applies to Paris, Barcelona or Lisbon, places I actually know of, not by reading travelling blogs.

This is a survey on how Japainese see themselves; who are you to tell them who they are, or they should be like you?

Fer God sake!

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

This is a survey on how Japainese see themselves; who are you to tell them

. . . . And when there's a forum on JT about foreigners views of their culture vs japanese cultures and life in japan, we get bashed likewise. If not more.

As long as there's an extra cultural imbalance to be exploited here on JT, it'll always be this way among posters.

Being non-Japanese, I guess this shows that it's not so much how Japanese the Japanese are but how entrenched their preferences are. Nothing to do with nationality. The same thing goes for the exceptionally high standards of customer service.

You see. . . . "but how entrenched their preferences are." Says it all. Most westerners don't expect the "GOD-like" service the way japanese do. Just give me a decently priced variety of main dishes, full drink bar, open-friendly atmosphere (no robots,staff) and I'll be satisified. Sheesh- some folks have too high expectations. As if!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

By a landslide margin, the number one instance when Japanese tourists overseas realized, “Yep, I’m Japanese after all,” was when they wished they had a steaming-hot bowl of plain white rice to accompany their meal.

For pity sake -- then don't go overseas if your comfort zone is that narrow. It is one thing that restaurants like Red Lobster and other western ones have to have rice to please the pallet of the folks there in Japan, but this is in another thing entirely. Part of the thrill of going to new countries is the sampling of new and different cuisines. Good lord.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Whilst I think Japan is a great place to live I do feel sorry for the Japanese people themselves. They really are the most herd-minded people and their inability to view the view the world through anything except their navels is ever so dull. The amount of stupid tv programs that are made that reinforce these asinine stereotypes really just crams it in to their bleating heads. And yes foreigners like the Japanese sushi and can use chopsticks well and blah blah blah...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Echoing what a few others have touched on, the article should be re-titled (and re-written according):

Survey reveals top 5 times Japanese realise just how much like foreigners they are

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Survey reveals top 5 times Japanese realise just how much like foreigners they are"

Why, do foreigners usually realise they miss a good bowl of rice to accompany their meals?

Do they link that with their nationality?

My girlfriend is very happy to eat plain rice, or add a few Japanese pickles, or some natto on top; usually she's happy with JUST rice! I am certainly not; most Brits would scoff at the idea.

She read this survey and agrees entirely with it.

Very funny to read non nihonjin telling the real ones how they should be or feel about themselves.

Let's allow the Japainese to be, shall we?!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I really do pity Japanese and there fussy taste, and especially lack of spicy foods. The amount of awesome spicy foods from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. When you grow to like and handle spicy food your experience of excellent food is increased 2 fold. My 8 year old son starting to really like spicy foods and when the Mrs cant make it hot at home due to my youngest kid, hes happy to take the chilli , tobasco, Jalapenos sauce from me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I don't live in Japan, but in the months I've spent there have had mixed customer service encounters across different stores, shops, and services. Some have been fantastic and others have been less-than sufficient. But on-average, I must admit that the CSR tried to help, even if they couldn't. Is being ignored considered rude? I have been ignored.

When Japanese business partners come for a visit, we try to arrange different eating experiences which includes a home-style meal at well-regarded diner (that has photos of the menu items). Of 8 visitors, only 2 didn't order some sort of noodle-meal. It was mentioned that the noodles weren't the correct type after the meal. That was when I really understood they where really Japanese. The single supper we left them on their own, they ate at the Japanese restaurant across the street from the hotel. ;)

People are people. After a week eating local, sometimes-weird, foods, I do try to find a nice burger - which isn't always easy in some places. Sometimes the interpretation of a burger is extremely interesting.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Very funny to read non nihonjin telling the real ones how they should be or feel about themselves.

Funny... You must be on your first Japanese girlfriend, new to the country. Come talk after a few girlfriends and years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Living abroad for over a decade in Japan and other places made me realize how American I am in some ways, and how more than American I am in others.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

They are foreigner in foreign land.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

All those are pretty silly, but one thing that grinds me is that every time a colleague goes overseas for business or pleasure, they seem to only talk about the quality of Japanese food there and how they're glad to be back to have Japanese food in Japan, etc. etc. There often doesn't seem to be any desire to try the local cuisine wherever they visit

2 ( +2 / -0 )

dcog, I had a trip like that once, I was the only one in the group who was not Japanese. They arranged to eat yaki-niku, sushi and gyoza in Barcelona! What a waste...you could eat any of those any time back in Japan, why, why why? I'll never understand it. The sushi was awful, to add insult to injury. :-)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Himajin - Haha that pretty much sums it up! It's so strange, it's usually the very first thing that they will start talking about when recounting their trips as well

1 ( +1 / -0 )

An the award for best comment of the month goes to....... katsu78, imho.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'd be looking for a nice pair of slippers in the hotel room.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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