We often hear about foreigners’ favorite parts of Japanese culture, like trains running on time and unparalleled customer service, but it’s not every day that we hear from Japanese people about their favorite parts of foreign cultures.
With that in mind, one of RocketNews24’s Japanese-language writers decided to interview a few well-traveled Japanese people and hear some of their favorite aspects of the different cultures they’ve experienced and how they compare to their own.
The question: Until now, in your personal experience or something you’ve observed, what is one strong point of [foreign] culture?”
Our writer talked to five different people, covering a total of eight countries about their experiences abroad.
Subject 1: Male, 20s
On Turkey: In Turkey, it’s customary to call your loved ones “Hayatim”. The word basically means, “My life”. Telling someone that they are your life’s essence is so romantic! It’s also used between children and their parents, which is lot different feeling than the words we use in Japanese.
On Germany: Unlike in Japan, where dogs and cats are often displayed in little boxes in pet shop windows, in Germany, if you want a pet you go to a place where abandoned animals are saved and have ample space to run around [like a humane society]. My German friend once saw a Japanese pet shop and thought it was so sad to see the animals confined to the small spaces. I think many other places should follow the German way of valuing animals.
On China: When I was studying abroad in America, I met many Chinese students too. They each had their own favorite Chinese poem and they shared and appreciated them openly. I thought that was a great aspect of their culture. If you know a lot of poems, it shows your education and refinement. Everyone really knew a lot of them. For me, I don’t know much about Japanese haiku or waka poetry and I was really anxious when I thought they might ask me my favorite Japanese poem! I still remember the feeling.
Subject 2: Female, 30s
On the USA: Definitely, “ladies first” culture. In Japan, in most situations, women are always the ones responsible for pouring drinks, filling plates, passing out napkins, etc, but in America, (and probably around Europe too), that’s all the man’s job. Or like when you’re carrying a heavy box up the stairs, a stranger will help you, or they’ll let you go first into the elevator. Having a door held open for you makes a girl feel really happy. It’s a shame that these things don’t happen in Japan.
On Italy: In the big tourist city of Rome, there are free bottles of mineral water available for tourists and you can take as many as you’d like.
On Greece: If you travel to any of the islands, when you get off the ferry there are people from the various hotels/lodgings beckoning you to their hotel with pictures and brochures. If you like it, you can negotiate the price and they’ll take you there by car. No need to walk around looking for a place to stay, so it’s really convenient.
Subject 3: Male, 30s
On the Netherlands: The Netherlands has a pretty frugal culture. But, while they do save a lot of money, they are quite generous with donations and charity. In Japan, donations are more for show, the culture around it is really small, so this was a big culture shock. Even though it might seem like the Dutch are being cheap, it’s really a great part of their culture.
Subject 3: Male, 20s
On the UK: In the five years I lived in the UK, there was always some kind of controversial discussion going on. Even young students had opinions on topics like immigration, discrimination, and LGBT culture. Everyone had an opinion and indifferent people were hard to come by; that’s in stark contrast to Japan.
Subject 2: Female, 30s
On the USA: This probably isn’t limited to just America, but recently in California, I noticed the method of customer service. In Japan, there is strong consciousness of the customer and the shop clerk, but here it’s more like just an exchange between two people. For example, in Japan, at the checkout of a supermarket, it’s like every clerk says exactly the same thing in every situation, in that case it’s very uniform, which is good. In America, however, the clerk changes her speech dependent on the customer; you can make chitchat and it’s a much more personal experience.
It is always really interesting to hear what people from other cultures think of customs in your own country, because they are often things that seem so commonplace to you. If you’re from any of the countries featured here, what do you think about what these Japanese people took away from your culture? Tell us in the comments section below and also let us know of any aspects of different cultures that you find great!
Top Image: Pixabay/Unsplash