Kalin’s Chronicles: World Travel Etiquette – Japan

It seems that women have more rules to adhere to than men when it comes to world travel.  This can be very frustrating — especially for women from the United States.  I’m a fan of Sex in the City, but I was appalled by Samantha’s disrespecting the culture of Abu Dhabi in the Sex in City 2 movie.

So you won’t get dubbed “The Ugly American,” I’ll provide a few tips throughout the year on cultural etiquette in international destinations.  We’ll start with Japan…

I love Japanese culture – especially their emphasis on spirituality.  But I had a bit to learn about their cultural etiquette while reporting on tourism in Tokyo.  I noticed that the Japanese were always speaking to the male members of my crew instead of to me.  I was the only black member of the crew, so I thought it was my race.  But then I found that in the Japanese culture women always defer to the men in the group. It’s customary to bow when you greet people.  And if you’re doing business, you should also present your business card to the person – always with both hands.

When invited to someone’s home, it’s customary to take your shoes off  before walking into the house.  And when you sit on the floor to eat, be sure not to point the soles of your feet at anyone – it’s considered offensive.  When eating, it’s OK to share your food with others, but now with the end of the chopsticks that you’ve already eaten with.  And never,    ever blow your nose at the table! Here’s a surprising tip – it’s OK to loudly slurp your soup.  It’s an accepted practice to show the chef you’re enjoying the meal.  Boy did I have fun with that one!

As Japan’s Tohoku region continues to rebuild after the recent earthquakes and Tsunamis, the country’s tourism board says places outside of that area are still safe to visit.  To help promote tourism, the first “Been There Done That – Japan Checklist was produced last month to give travelers 27 unique lists of things to do and see in the country.   The book can be bought on Amazon, and part of the proceeds will go to the rebuilding of the Japan’s Tohoku region. A final thought on etiquette — learning just a few words of Japanese like “good morning, “please,” and “thank you” will get you major brownie points with the locals.  And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain.