After living in Japan for a while, chances are you’ll be handcuffed to these new habits.

If you’ve spent time in Japan, then you may have noticed that your friends and family look at you a little funny when you come home. And it’s not because of your awesome new shirts with incomprehensible English written it on them, it’s because of the new little habits that you’ve picked up.

This has personally happened to me a bunch of times, and it usually takes a while for me to remember that, yeah, these new habits of mine weren’t things that I did before I went to Japan.

That’s why today we’re counting down the top five hardest Japanese habits to break. If you do any of these, then chances are you’ve spent some time in Japan before.

So let’s get to it! Starting off with…

Honorable Mention: Table manners

PAKUTASO

What is considered “appropriate” behavior at the table varies from culture to culture, but one thing that many Western countries don’t approve of is slurping and picking up your bowl to your mouth to drink soup.

But in Japan, slurping and bowl-picking-up are what you do in order to be polite!

While I personally never quite picked up the slurping habit, picking up the bowl to down the broth from ramen or udon is something that, only with a lot of reflection, I realized I never did before I went to Japan. Before I was enlightened, I used to always just use a spoon to scoop it up, bit by bit.

▼ How inefficient!

Of course, because ramen and other Japanese foods are eaten all over the world, some people may be introduced to the Japanese way of eating them outside of Japan, thus making this only an honorable mention.

But still, anyone who has lived in Japan for an extended period of time will tell you that the only way to truly enjoy a bowl of ramen is to slurp up the noodles, then drink the broth. Anything else is just a waste.

#5. Actually obeying crosswalk signals

PAKUTASO

Hey! A habit that’s good to pick up!

We’ve seen before that crosswalk signals are part of the nicest sounds in Japan, perhaps adding to the reasons why people actually obey them.

I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but in the U.S., crosswalk signals are generally seen as little more than a suggestion. If there are no cars immediately coming, then most Americans would just hop across the street, even with a red crosswalk signal.

In Japan though, I have never once flouted a crosswalk signal. I feel like the reason for this is because in Japan, waiting for crosswalk signals is just something that people do. When a whole group of strangers are patiently waiting for the green signal, you don’t want to be the only weird one running out into the road.

▼ Safe crossing is also something Japanese children learn at a young age,
and you sometimes see flags for kids to hold up as they cross the street.

This habit of waiting for the signal then carries over whenever I go home, and my friends laugh at me for obeying the signal like a chump. To this day I can’t cross the road with the red signal still up without feeling extremely uncomfortable.

#4. Mouth sounds

GAHAG

Even if you don’t manage to pick up the Japanese language while you’re in Japan, one thing you’re bound to pick up are Japanese people’s mannerisms while speaking.

And two of the most popular are: “heee” and “teeth-sucking.”

We’ve seen these sounds before in the top five most annoying sounds in Japan, but despite how annoying some may find them, you can’t argue with the fact that they’re everywhere… and extremely easy to pick up yourself.

For those unfamiliar, the “heee” sound is used to express anything from the mild surprise of “oh really?” to the life-changing shock of “oh my god I hope you’re joking!”

▼ Skip to 1:10 for a good “heee” explanation,
and to 2:50 for a barrage of “heee?!”

As for the “teeth-sucking” sound, to make it yourself, clench your teeth together, then imagine you just saw someone scrape their knee and react appropriately.

▼ Listen to the sound in action here, though in Japan
it’s often used to denote thinking hard about something, not just pain.

Since both of these “mouth sounds” are are used in different situations than in Western countries, using them outside of Japan can lead to some awkward situations.

Saying “heee” to someone for anything less than Earth-shattering news may come off as sarcastic, and “teeth sucking” when you’re thinking hard about something will just get you confused looks.

▼ “Dude, is something wrong?
You keep making a sound like you scraped your knee.”

#3. Covering your mouth while laughing

PAKUTASO

The mouth habits don’t stop! Covering up your mouth is fairly common in Japan, whether you’re doing it with a surgical mask or your hands.

While many cultures outside of Japan couldn’t care less about seeing the inside of someone’s mouth or their teeth, Japanese people (and especially Japanese women) prefer not to show off their mouthy innards while laughing.

▼ The difference between the American “horse laugh” (showing off your teeth)
and Japanese “feminine laugh” is explained and shown in more detail here.

Since laughing is a fairly common occurrence — taking into account all funny laughs, awkward laughs, and “please go away before I murder you” laughs — this is an easy habit to pick up. The only issue is, it’s mostly a women-only thing, so if you’re a guy and pick it up, you’re going to look a little strange, even in Japan.

▼ Although if your goal is to look as kawaii as possible,
this tweet says you’re headed in the right direction.

And when you go back to your home country where, presumably, people don’t usually cover their mouths when they laugh, it will come off as even stranger.

Whenever I cover my laughs back home in the U.S., people think I’m acting fancy, like a Victorian-era lady having tea in the garden. But no, I’m not trying to be fancy, I’ve just picked up a ladylike habit from Japan that won’t go away.

▼ Besides if I was a Victorian-era lady and had good teeth, you can bet
I’d go out of my way to show off those chompers when I laughed!

#2. Bowing all the time

PAKUTASO

Most people know that bowing is a part of Japanese culture, used like a handshake or as a way to apologize.

But those who have been to Japan know that the handshake/apologizing form of bowing is only a small part of all bowing. The rest consists of:

  • Bowing intermittently while talking to someone to show you’re listening
  • Bowing while on the phone with someone to show you’re listening
  • Bowing when saying hello to someone as a greeting
  • Bowing when a car stops for you at a crosswalk as a thank you
  • Bowing when you’re in a car and another driver lets you go first
  • Bowing pretty much anytime anywhere anyplace

To be fair, this type of bowing isn’t the same kind of deep bowing that many people think of. Instead it’s just a light bow, a bit of an extended nod, referred to as an eshaku.

▼ This video shows off eshaku (“slight bow”) with the comment “When passing by
someone in the office, you should give a light bow” showing just how common it is.

And since these eshaku happen so often, it’s super easy to pick up, but near impossible to let go. When everyone else is bowing while speaking on the phone, giving a small nod and saying hai every few seconds, you’re going to start doing it too, no matter how hard you resist.

Whenever I’m in the U.S. and friends or family are around me when I’m on the phone, I always accidentally let an eshaku or two slip out, and they tell me afterwards: “You know the person on the phone can’t see you bowing, right? They don’t care.”

▼ The fastest way to turn anyone into an emo Luke.

And the #1 hardest Japanese habit to break is…

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1. The peace sign

PAKUTASO

This is it, the bubonic plague of Japanese habits because this thing spreads like wildfire to anyone not infected with it yet and will make sure that you never pose for a photo the same way again.

▼Everyone, from young women to old dudes,
gives the peace sign in photos.

In Japan, putting up the peace sign is as ubiquitous to having your photo taken as smiling. And it’s a habit that you pick up very quickly, since if you’re the only one not giving the sign in a photo, you’re going to look incredibly out of place.

▼ Note how the only ones who don’t get a halo-smiley in the left photo
are the ones not making the peace sign. The barbarians!

While making the peace sign has been picking up popularity outside of Japan, it’s still nowhere near as universal as it is inside Japan. So when you go home, instead of blending in with everyone, your newfound habit will make you stick right out again.

▼ But hey, just embrace your new peace sign habit!
It’s impossible not to give a good smile when you do it.

So there you have it, the top five hardest Japanese habits to break. Are there any other Japanese habits that have become a part of your life? Let us know in the comments, especially if any of them involve listening to the top five nicest sounds in Japan over and over again.

Top image: PAKUTASO (edited by SoraNews24)

W.T.F. Japan will be back next Thursday. In the meantime, say hi on Twitter and let me know if there’s any topics you’d like to see covered. See you next week!