Traveling can be dangerous business and when making the journey to another country you should always learn the do’s and don’ts to avoid unnecessary trouble or international incidents. That’s why website Naver Matome rounded up a bunch of random things that visitors to other countries should avoid doing to stay safe and enjoy their time there. Let’s take a look at the list, bearing in mind that although these rules are regarding other countries, they certainly provide some insight to how things are in Japan too.
We’ll make this world tour going West to East starting with…
People under 18 can’t sit in the passenger seat of a car.
“Because it’s not a habit in Japan, really be careful of this.”
Huh, that’s probably good for safety but it seems a little demeaning to teenagers. I wonder if Hawaiian kids get excited when they turn the big one-eight and can finally ride shotgun.
No drinking on the beach.
“In Hawaii, the country has banned drinking on the beach. Don’t act like you’re in Japan, and let’s be careful.”
It’s always interesting how Japanese people refer to Hawaii as a “country”…
Strong language is not good.
“In Hawaii a lot of Japanese is spoken, and it can be easily heard by others when you lash out at someone. Because there is a law against verbal abuse in the United States, it’s possible you could be arrested.”
That’s right, if you’re going to verbally abuse someone (a favorite vacation pastime for many), do it carefully in Hawaii or someone could drop a dime on you.
Forcibly taking away a child who is throwing a tantrum is not good.
“Those travelling to the USA with small children take care. No matter how much the children yell, take them out forcibly and you could be arrested for child abuse. In the USA the laws for infant and animal protection are severe so please be careful.”
I’m not American but I have to think that anyone who removes a screaming child from the room I’m in would be thanked rather than arrested. Then again, who knows?
It’s bad to cut the neighbor’s grass.
“In the United States, sometimes the boundary between houses has not been clearly separated by a fence. In some cases it could become war if you accidentally or purposely mow the neighbor’s lawn, because to them it’s a hobby. When you mow the lawn, make sure to be aware exactly where the property line is.”
Sure some people can be over protective of their patches of grass, but is it really worth a travel advisory?
Trespassing is bad.
“In Japan of course it’s a crime and punishment can be imposed like in the USA. However, in the case of the USA, because there are guns in 50% of homes, it is a hazard to your life.”
Sadly this warning is important after the death of Yoshihiro Hattori who was shot and killed after mistakenly approaching the front door of a home in Louisiana. Being unable to understand the resident’s orders to stop the man thought Hattori was attacking and fired.
Going out and leaving a child in the hotel room is no good.
“It’s regarded as abandonment and child abuse so be careful.”
Next time send the child out for cigarettes instead.
Possession of weapons is bad.
“It is the same in Japan but more so in El Salvador. It seems that they’re cracking down on licenses for possession of guns. You could be put in prison.”
I have no clue why El Salvador of all countries is getting singled out for this, but there you go: If you like to travel while packing heat, this ain’t the place for you.
Backwards peace sign is taboo.
“Because the backwards peace has a very rude meaning in the UK, please don’t use it.”
…unless you’re really pissed off at someone.
Sharing a bed with children is taboo.
“In France the baby sleeps alone as soon as possible. There seems to be a custom of sleeping in one’s own room. Failure to do so would come off like the child cannot be brought up to be independent people. It’s important to note.”
That doesn’t really sound like a taboo as much as some practical child-rearing. Japan has been experiencing an epidemic of children living with the parents for an extended period of time. Maybe getting them accustomed to being alone earlier can help develop some individuality.
You can’t buy an engagement ring unless you are absolutely sure you want to get married.
“In France, it is said that only when the marriage is assured you get the engagement rings. In Japan, you are able to buy an engagement ring even if you haven’t fully committed. But in France, it’s not just the verbal promise; the ceremony and date must be planned out for it to be a true engagement.”
This message has not been brought to you by the jewelers’ association of France.
It’s bad to take a drink of wine without wiping your mouth with a napkin.
“Holding a portion of the wine glass to your mouth while dirty with food can be no good. Whenever you drink wine while eating something, please wipe your mouth with a napkin first.”
Better yet, why not wipe your mouth anytime it’s dirty with food.
Sniffling is taboo.
“In Italy there seems to be a custom of no sniffling. Instead of sniffling, ask to be excused and blow your nose.”
I actually was guffawing at this thinking it was ridiculous but someone told me that in France it’s the same way. There, instead of sniffling, you’re asked to leave the room and blow your nose.
Without formal documents, you can’t leave the country with an antique.
“If you bought an antique souvenir and try to leave the country, you could be sent to prison if you do not have the proper documents.”
On reading up about this, apparently it deals mostly with rugs and smugglers trying to pass off antiques with newly made ones. Also it seems there’s no set time frame for what qualifies as “antique,” meaning if I were a Turkish customs official I might confiscate me some antique iPhone5S’s.
Don’t make noises while eating
“There seem to be many Japanese people who make sounds while eating noodles (pasta, etc.).”
That certainly can come across as gauche in a lot of places but…
Don’t blow (“fu, fu”) on soup.
“Even if you’re the type who can’t eat hot food, be careful.”
Really?! I guess if you were dining with the heir to the Duke of Cumberland that might be frowned upon. Or maybe if you were taking a deep breath and blowing spit infused raspberries over your soup and everyone else’s, you may face protest. Otherwise this doesn’t seem so bad.
Don’t knock on the door of a Western toilet.
“It can be taken to mean ‘Get out quickly!’ When you want to check the bathroom, just twist the doorknob.”
This is kind of counter-intuitive, isn’t it. Knocking logically seems better than turning the handle to avoid any unpleasant meetings. However, when someone knocks on a stall I’m in, it freaks me out to no end… then comes the performance anxiety.
During a meal, do not reach out in front of people.
“If there is something you want to take, always try to ask people nearby.”
Or, if you simply must do it, try to make it fancy; like reaching through the gap created when your neighbor puts their fork to their mouth. People might be angry at first, but your reaching skills will win them over in the end.
In expensive boutiques, do not touch the merchandise without permission, let alone try it on.
“Not only trying on but when examining merchandise, even by only touching, always ask the clerk.”
And when they refuse you, wait for Richard Gere to sweep you out of that life of prostitution. Then go back and tell them off.
Naming a stuffed animal Muhammad is taboo.
“This is a name that must not be used lightly in Sudan. You may be sentenced to prison or caning. Be very careful.”
A lesson Gillian Gibbons learned the hard way when she was incarcerated for eight days only to be released by diplomatic intervention.
“Consumption of alcohol is officially illegal in Saudi Arabia. Drinking carelessly would be a serious thing…”
Yes, in that case, careless drinking would be a “serious thing.” Plan your spring breaks elsewhere people.
Romance between a non-muslim man and muslim woman is not allowed.
“In Iran it seems that a relation between a non-Muslim man and Muslim woman is forbidden by law. Some people were apparently arrested.”
Never heard that one before but it’s a shame. They’re only cheating themselves out of prime sitcom material.
Holding hands in a couples’ tourist resort is no good.
“There have been some cases that suggest public displays of affection in the country are prohibited.”
Looking around on the internet it seems that there’s mixed opinions on this. Some people say it’s forbidden but others say it’s no problem. Best to consider it like engagement rings in France and wait until your marriage is finalized before venturing into hand-holding. And yet again just like Hawaii, Japanese people love to call Dubai a country.
Women do not expose skin.
“In Islam, exposing skin other than on the face has been prohibited for women. Even tourists should please try to hide their hair with a scarf. Also hide the lines of your body and skin as much as possible.”
I wonder if a dragon hoodie would qualify.
Casual and thoughtless criticisms and debate are dangerous.
“Japan has recognized freedom of speech, but in Islamic countries, political and religious criticisms can be regarded as serious blasphemy.”
It’s not so much that Japan has “freedom of speech” more than the fact that most of Japan couldn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about any religion. Probably good they get warned on this.
Alcohol and pork are off limits.
“In Islam, alcohol and pork are prohibited. The severity seems different for each country. Be very careful.”
Although each country differs in severity, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a decent Oktoberfest around these parts.
Don’t get in the way of worshipping.
“Five times a day there is a custom to pray towards Mecca for Muslims. During those times let’s wait quietly.”
Resist that urge to say, “Garsh, lookit all’em there bowin’ an’ such. Honey, gimmie the camera and make sure the flash is on!”
Do not take pictures of women.
“Taking pictures of Muslim women is forbidden as a rule. Let’s refrain from shaking hands or talking too suggestively as well.”
That goes double for MY woman! [clenches fists]
Do not tease the cows who are roaming the streets for fun.
“Because a majority of India believes in Hinduism, many think cattle are important because they were used by the god Shiva.”
As a general rule, avoid teasing all animals that weigh a ton and have horns.
Absolutely do not use the left hand to pass something.
“In India, absolutely do not take something to eat with the left hand. Also when you pass something, pay money, and handshake it’s rude so be careful.”
As a left-handed person I must say; shame on you India… I thought you were cool.
‘Sumimasen’ is no good.
“China doesn’t seem to use any frequent words of apology like ‘sumimasen’ as in Japanese.”
Well… yeah! They use a different language there. You won’t get far saying “sumimasen” in Sweden either.
“A 100% tax is imposed just by entering the country with cigarettes. There’s also a US$225 fine for lighting up in public. Also, places selling tobacco in Bhutan face jail time. Please, take care smokers.”
The nerve of them! Banning a hazardous substance! Ah well, they still have the coolest flag in the world.
Do not pat heads.
“In Thailand, the head is considered sacred. The head of a child in particular is said to be where the spirit dwells. It is suggested that you do not pat heads.”
And if you do, don’t yell “I’M FEASTING ON YOUR SOUL!” while you do it.
Besmirching royalty is taboo.
“Because the monarchy is respected very much, sullying an image of the King or damaging the reputation of the royal family, even a little, pays a high penalty.”
I hear they’re even touchy about Elvis there too.
Shoes are strictly prohibited in the main hall of temples.
“When you go into the main hall, let’s not forget to take off shoes.”
Geez! Were ya raised in a barn or something?!
Women are absolutely not allowed to touch a Buddhist monk.
“In Thailand, women touching or being touched by Buddhist monks is strictly forbidden. You must be careful in all locations as well as temples and the city.”
However, it makes Buddhist monks incredibly attractive to women.
It’s bad to not wear a seat belt while riding in a taxi.
“Seat belts in the rear seats are mandatory by law in Japan. But let’s be extra careful in Singapore.”
In Japan, seat belt regulation tends to fall somewhere between wearing white after Labor Day and walking with untied shoelaces.
Littering of cigarette butts and garbage is not good.
“It’s a law, known well enough around the world. It’s to keep the country clean and safe. It’s also told to travelers, so you’re not allowed to expect leniency.”
Errant dandruff and flicked boogers (including eye-boogers) are also ill-advised.
Graffiti is not good.
“In Singapore the act of sullying the town is a very heavy crime. You can be placed in prison or fined.”
If I recall from that case of an American tourist a few years back, you can be sentenced to caning as well.
Eating and drink on public transport is taboo.
“In Japan, you often see people riding the trains while having a drink. But because it’s forbidden in Singapore, let’s not do it.”
In other words; try to touch and do as little as possible in Singapore and you’ll be okay.
Cleaning your plate is no good.
“In South Korea, it seems rude to the person who made it.”
It’s like saying, “You didn’t give me enough food.”
Taking a long shower is taboo.
“In Japan, it’s fine to take a long shower but in Australia it’s taboo.”
Over the years, I’ve grown reluctant to believe any information I hear about Australian culture. I’m just going to mentally file this with ‘drop bears’ and ‘Vegemite is delicious.’
Making an OK sign is taboo.
“Apparently, this sign means anal sex rather than OK.”
The following are things done in Japan that assumingly aren’t done anywhere else in the world.
If a child is a nuisance to others, it’s not good for the parent to apologize instead.
“Overseas, there is a custom that the responsibility is on the individual who acted poorly, even if it’s a child. But in Japan there is the perception that the blame is equal between the parent and child. When going abroad, encourage your children to apologize themselves.”
…especially if they’re 35.
Don’t appreciate chivalry.
“Men holding the door open for women is a simple custom abroad. However, in Japan many women are not used to ‘ladies first.’ Profusely thanking a man for that can seem unusual, so walk through in a dignified manner when it happens.”
However, if you’re a man and another man holds the door for you, it means he’s into you and expecting a big wet kiss on the mouth. Be prepared with lip balm.
It’s not good to ask people about their age, marital status, or religious/political affiliation if you don’t know them so well.
“It’s rude so try to refrain.”
But if you do it all at once it’s kind of funny: Are you, by any chance, married to a 70-year-old Jehovah’s Witness socialist?
At luxury brand stores, entering with another store’s bag is bad.
“Because the clerks take pride in their brand, try not to be rude even though you’re the customer.”
Dang, every 80’s cinematic shopping montage has lied to me…
Don’t call out to the waiter in a loud voice.
“In Japan it’s common to see people yell ‘Excuse me!’ [sumimasen] to the waiters, but in other countries it’s not good.”
In a lot of restaurants in Japan it’s also common for waiters to yell at the top of their lungs whenever a person enters. That really accentuates the dining experience.
At a fancy restaurant, it is generally not allowed for young children to accompany you.
“Overseas, the times and places for adults and children are clearly distinguished. So families with small children, please entrust them with someone else and go.”
Or leave them in the hote…. Aw I already forgot! This is a long list.
Don’t smoke during a meal.
“Always try to smoke in designated smoking areas. Even if you’re a heavy smoker, please follow the rules.”
This one’s largely due to the different style of eating at restaurants in Japan and other countries. A lot of restaurants in Japan serve multiple small dishes that everyone eats in staggered doses. Different from the single plate servings that other countries eat from, this leaves several windows to light up. That, and the fact that Japan is one of the few countries left that allows smoking in restaurants.
Other than places without waiters, do not take a seat without permission.
“Because there’s always a guide, please wait for assistance.”
They’re also the perfect person to entrust your young children to if it’s a fancy restaurant!
These rules were taken from various Japanese websites including ones like Yahoo! Answers. As such they should be taken with several grains of salt. If you are preparing a trip to another country, please take the time to research their cultures and laws and refer to multiple sources to ensure you have a safe and happy trip!
Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)
Images: Wikipedia – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
Lawnmower Image: Wikipedia – Fancy-cats-are-happy-cats
Hand Sign Images: RocketNews24