Culture Shock in Japan

Culture Shock in Japan


Let’s talk about culture shock. I’m from Germany, somewhere in the south. This is my hometown’s city center. In 2016 I moved to Nagano city, Japan. Nagano’s city center looks like this. And in December 2017 I finally moved to Yokohama
to start working in Tokyo. Tokyo’s city center looks like this. As you can see this already is quite a big
difference. From the small, almost rural town in central
Europe to one of the world’s largest metropolitan regions. However the first time I came to Japan was
actually 7 years earlier. On my 22nd birthday, in May 2009, I had been
visiting the country for the first time. When I came here, what immediately and shockingly
struck me was: Japanese people actually speak Japanese. And what I mean by that is finding an English
speaking person is rare, today but even more so 10 years ago. Therefore if you want to learn some Japanese,
here are the 3 most useful words and phrases: Japan is a very considerate and polite society,
so knowing how to apologize is essential. Same goes for the second sentence: You should
be say able to say thank you. Again, being polite is essential. And finally, the third most important phrase
is I don’t need a plastic bag. I already have enough of them. Things in Japan are packed in bags, are packed
in bags, are packaged in bags. For example When I go to a backery all the
different items are put into individual plastic bags. Then these bags are put into a larger bag,
dividing them for example by heated and non-heated food and these are placed in a master bag. Needles to say that, coming from a region
of the world where excessive use of plastic is being frowned upon and more and more stores
don’t use plastic bags at all, this was quite a shock to me. Coming back to the language, Foreign languages,
and especially English are seen as somewhat cool in Japan. Therefore, as proven by this graph, if a company
wants its product to be perceived as cool, they should put some English on it. This, paired with often lacking English proficiency,
makes for pretty entertaining slogans every now and then. For example when I went to the hardware store
the other day and checked dustbins, I found not only a clean dustbox of every description,
but also another one, cheering me up and telling me „there is a reason to be loved for a
long day“. There’s nothing worse than writing slogans
using incorrect language on your products. What? Ah yes, that’s right. tatooing slogans using incorrect language
on your body is worse. For example this one, which says stupid foreigner
or this one, which says BBQ grill Also some non-Japanese companies use and have
used Japanese wrongly, with the most prominent example being the british clothing brand Superdry,
which has a history of using google translate japanese for their slogans. Currently they decided to go with „kyokudo
kansou (shinasai)“, which translates to extremely dry (do it). Another thing that struck me soon after leaving
the airport was the amazing service quality. We boarded a bus and there where two people
putting our luggage into the bottom of the bus. When we left, they bowed until we were out
of sight. In Germany, the bus driver would open the
storage space for you to put your stuff into and that would be it. There are a lot of jobs in Japan that I would
initially label as „useless“ because they don’t exist in my home country. For example people guarding construction sites
or guiding the traffic, like this car which is entering the car park with the help of
8 people. The more I live here however, the more I understand
that these positions are indeed necessary from a service quality standpoint and that
not having them would make living here a totally different experience. A phrase related with service quality is omote
nashi, which is often translated as „hospitality“. Depending on how it is read it can mean there
is no exterior surface, nothing is hidden. This stems from the tea ceremony, which is
done in front of the guest, revealing everything the host is doing, also here nothing is hidden. It is not common to tip in Japan and other
than it is often the case in the west, omotenashi is not done with the hope or even expectation
of a financial reward. Another proverb I like is ichigo ichie, which
means „one time, one meeting“. It stands for every meeting we have with another
person being unique and non-repeatable. For Japanese service this means that there
is only this one chance to impress a customer and show your businesses best side to them. In the west we often say „the customer is
always right“ or “the customer is king“, in Japan they say „the customer is god“. Looking at it from the other side, when I
joined a Japanese company for the first time, what was really unusual to me was this: In
Germany we have a required minimum of 20 days of paid leave per year for a five day workweek. Most employers increase that to 25 days a
year. In addition there are national holidays, in
my region of Germany 14 per year. In Japan, the required minimum number of paid
leave days is 10. There are also 16 national holidays, however
if you take them off, your employer is not required to pay you for that time. That being said, it is the norm to do so. So far so good, that’s in the worst case
a difference of 24 days per year. But Germany is known for having lots of holidays
and Japan is known for working a lot. So nothing really unexpected. However, what was surprising to me, always
shocks friends when I first tell them and would be unthinkable in Europe, is that you
have to take one of your precious holidays if you need to recover from being sick. This might be one of the reasons many Japanese
go to work wearing a mask instead of resting at home. Also, in Japan open offices still seem to
be seen as a good thing, with sometimes 100s of people working in the same room. For someone working in a profession where
it’s absolutely not beneficial for my results if someone at the desk next to me is having
a chat, that was quite a surprise. These were some of the things that surprised,
impressed or, even shocked me here in Japan. There was much more than this, but the longer
I live here, the more I adapt, the less I notice the differences. Therefore I’m curious to know: If you have
been to Japan before, what culture shock did you experience? Please let me know in the comments. For now thank you for watching and see you
next time.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

26 thoughts on “Culture Shock in Japan

  1. ..i guess Japan has a very efficient waste disposal or recycling system if they tend to use a lot of plastic..

  2. nice to see another video from you! I always enjoy them. I hope that you are doing well in your work in Tokyo!

  3. Was that Bad Lobenstein? I directed a film there last year 😄 small world! We hung out at the town center every day after the shoot.

  4. The most shocking experience for me would be the way that Japanese people queue in the convenience store. The another I appreciate a lot is that they are so polite, they take others' feelings as their first priority

  5. The plastic bags are a genuine nightmare.
    viel zu viele

    I always bring my own bag to the スーパーマーケット.

    I'm sure this will change in Japan in the future, especially if more and more people refuse plastic bags.
    Let's continue being a good role model 😉

    Everyone, don't accept plastic bags (kindly)!

  6. Hey there is a “German town” on a small remote island in Okinawa! I went there maybe you could tell me if it’s just like the real thing or not

  7. Ahahah the plastic bag phrase.
    I thought it was interesting when you said at the end that the more in live in Japan the less you notice the differences. I feel the same about the UK. I find it weird to talk about culture shock since I fully adapted!

  8. It must be nice to have stuff treating you well in supermarkets, here they pretty much throw it at you and if you aren't packing it fast enough they sometimes even shout at you (on the other hand customers often treat them just as bad so it is more like a circle) I was always wondering what are Japanese tourists / expats thinking when they encounter this for the first time.
    On the side note: I thought you are around my age, not almost 7 years older O_o do you use some special skin care?

  9. Thanks for watching guys!
    I want to add one thing, just to make sure there's no misunderstanding: This video is meant to be humorous.

    Also, just yesterday I was told that Japanese retailers will have to charge for plastic bags in the future. AFAIK the law will be implemented within fiscal 2020.

  10. I remember it was sort of easy to speak Japanese with new people – because they would all ask exactly the same questions and have the same conversation.

  11. Thank you for an informative video. In Chicago we bring our own bags to the store. If you want a bag you will be charged 7 cents each. As for holidays, at the hospital where I work, there are only 6 holidays—Christmas, New Year’s day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day, & Independence Day. Nope, not Easter…You may accrue vacation days, however, usually can only use 2 weeks at a time. Unless you are granted more for a special circumstance. You may take 12 weeks leave for childbirth, not paid—unless you use your accrued vacation time.

  12. I don't like the YouTube Bell. But I missed some of your Videos, so now it is activated.
    I have 30 holidays a year, they are paid better than normal work days, because we are metal industry business. I would never work again in my old job as a street contruction builder again because I had less holidays, more stress, more hours per week, to many hours unpaid driving somewhere… I earned a lot of money, but money isn't everything. I prefer to work in my garden now, growing vegetables and go to work by bike. Less money, more life quality.

  13. I also learned how to say "I don't need a bag" while in Japan. I think the most embarrassing moment for me was getting on a bus and trying to swipe my card, but not knowing that there were two places to swipe the card, one for when you get on and one for when you get off. I was at the front of the line and holding things up. My Japanese was not good enough in order to understand the driver. So embarrassing…. Do you practice aikido? (book in background of your video)

  14. I would love to go to Japan your videos are amazing and I appreciate you making videos about Japan and different area and talk about the culture

  15. Alter Schwede. Urlaub für ne grippe zu opfern is richtig gemein. Verdient man denn mehr in Japan im Gegenzug?

  16. 言葉に話を戻すと、外国語や特に英語を使うのが日本ではカッコいいと思われてる。

    それは無い
    勘違いするな

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