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5 tips to engage in cultural exchange in Japan

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5 tips to engage in cultural exchange in Japan

If you stay in Japan for a long term, you might be invited to take part in cultural exchanges with Japanese families on more than a few occasions. Besides language, the following tips will surely raise your confidence to have happy and meaningful moments with the locals without worrying about being "rude"

Vy Nguyen

Vy Nguyen

Published on 02 Jan, 12:00

While studying abroad in Japan, I was fortunate to have numerous opportunities to experience Japanese life & culture with host families.

It would be great if your Japanese is good enough to have smooth conversations with the host, but the language isn’t everything! By contrast, there are several Japanese cultural and etiquette rules that if you know them well, the host will be favorably disposed toward you, making the cultural exchange more successful. Let's find out!

1 / Let the host know in advance if you have any inconvenience

A welcome meal prepared by the homestay family
A welcome meal prepared by the homestay family

Japanese people often use their best efforts to prepare for a homestay, especially when hosting international guests. Normally, the host will ask you about your food allergies beforehand to be well-prepared.

But in case you have not been contacted, you can take the initiative to inform them of the dishes that you cannot eat, or your personal inconveniences such as car sickness, etc. to avoid the situation that when you arrive, you cannot take the food that has been prepared which may cause an awkwardness between both sides, and the host hasten to find a replacement for you.

2/ Punctuality & punctuality

The Japanese are well-known for timing accuracy, so make sure that there will be ample time to arrive at the location 10 minutes before the meeting since the host will likely get there early to wait for you.

Being late for the first meeting will definitely not leave a good impression. If your homestay is far away, you should carefully research the route beforehand!

3/ No matter where you go, the greeting is a must

It isn’t a coincidence that Japan is considered one of the most "polite" countries in the world. Three things that you should pay attention to in communicating with Japanese people are to give greetings to people you meet, to say thank you when being helped, and to apologize for making mistakes.

You don't need to use honorifics to show respect, however, greeting when you come and leave, as well as always saying thank you to the host for their hospitality are something that you should keep in mind. When in Rome, do as the Romans do!

4/ Appropriate dressing

Most of the host families that I have ever visited had kids or elderly people. Thus, you should dress elegantly to avoid causing any "embarrassment" to the family members.

If you have tattoos, consider covering them under clothes. Besides, wearing a traditional costume can be a huge "plus" when going to cultural exchanges, so preparing an elegant ‘ao dai’ for homestay occasions will help you leave a good impression.

5/ A small hometown gift to say thank you

A souvenirs from Vietnam for homestay family
A souvenirs from Vietnam for homestay family
Japan is a country where gift-giving tradition is very popular, which can be seen by a variety of souvenirs sold in almost every attraction.

Therefore, even a small gift can express your understanding of Japanese culture, and your gratitude to the host's warm and thoughtful hospitality; moreover, the host also feels great since you have put an effort into preparing a hometown gift, which can make their cultural exchange experience more memorable.

In particular, if you are invited to dine with the homestay family, you can prepare some typical-yet-simple Vietnamese dishes such as spring rolls, summer rolls, etc., and bring them to the meal to exchange culinary cultures.

Hope the above 5 tips could help you confidently engage in cultural exchanges with Japanese families and leave them with a great impression of beautiful Vietnamese!

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