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Have you noticed some habits that only foreigners in Japan do?

Culture

Have you noticed some habits that only foreigners in Japan do?

As foreigners living in Japan, we often do things a little differently than the locals. Let's find out what are these!

Eren Gudny

Eren Gudny

Published on 04 Dec 2021, 12:00

That's to be expected. Most of us bring some of our own cultures to a new country, thus we can partake in a cultural exchange. And what often happens in this kind of environment, is that we create a new culture, a sub-culture, of people living abroad.

This is especially noticeable as English speakers living in Japan since before we learn some basic Japanese we are stuck spending time with only each other. Some call it the "English bubble", and it's extra prominent in workplaces where only or mostly English is spoken, such as in English language schools.

What's interesting is the sub-culture that has arisen amongst English speakers in Japan. Namely, I've noticed three habits unique to foreigners in Japan.

Now, I'm not here to condemn these - I've certainly taken part in them myself at times - but rather to make an observation and let people decide how to act on it themselves. So, here are the three (strange) habits of foreigners in Japan:

1 - Talk about their home country. A lot.

Foreigners will find any excuse to bring up their home country. It doesn't matter what the conversation topic is, they'll find a way to circle back to their origins.

The most popular way of doing this is by comparison. Food, culture, work, history, family, no matter what, they've got something to say about it and how it compares to the Japanese version.

I can't talk about Norway without mentioning her nature.
I can't talk about Norway without mentioning her nature.

A subject that seems to fall victim to this a lot, is healthcare. On the one hand, you have people who appreciate the Japanese healthcare system and how accessible it is - often people who didn't have the same access back home.

On the other side, people from countries with free and universal healthcare can't stop complaining about how slow and difficult the system is in Japan. Either way, they mention it a lot.

Discussing differences between countries is a good way to increase understanding and bridge gaps, so it's not like this is a bad habit. It's just very noticeable with a backdrop like the humble and reserved Japanese people, who tend to do the opposite.

2 - Say prices in Japanese even though they're speaking English

A friend was telling me about her latest shopping spree and said something like "Altogether, I spent about juu-nana-man yen." Another friend told me tickets to the best seats for a baseball game were "san-juu-man each".

"Man" means 10.000 in Japanese, so what they were saying was that they spent 17.000 and 30.000 yen respectively. But why didn't they just say that? After all, we were speaking in English.

Ten-thousand yen bills.
Ten-thousand yen bills.

I noticed this strange habit fairly soon after I arrived in Japan. All foreigners do this. When talking about the price of something, they'll casually drop the price tag in Japanese, even if they are speaking English.

It really confused me because I didn't see the point of it. Every time it happened to me, it created a long pause in the conversation because I was doing translations and calculations in my head to process what was being said.

This gets especially punishing when you get to high numbers like 100.000+ because they're still measured by the tens of thousands. So, little old me who's always been terrible at quick maths had to jump through multiple hoops before I could actually respond or react to the other person.

That's why I recommend getting a handle on the numbers as soon as you get here. As to why foreigners do this - I still have no idea.

3 - Teach English

Becoming an English teacher in Japan is fairly entry-level since this job rarely requires a high level of Japanese. In fact, you can come to Japan and teach English without knowing a word of Japanese. That's what many people do.

And while companies certainly prefer that you have some relevant experience or education, it's not required. Which is why you find people of all backgrounds in the English teaching industry.

I've met people with all sorts of degrees, including in engineering, international relations, programming, and more, who somehow ended up in Japan teaching English. Even the people who have since moved on to other professions have taught English at some point.

And teaching English can be a lot of fun!

There are plenty of fantastic, fun, and cool things to see in Japan. Don't forget about them!
There are plenty of fantastic, fun, and cool things to see in Japan. Don't forget about them!

These are three behaviors that I've seen only in Japan. Have you noticed any other habits that only foreigners in Japan do?

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