3. Learn about Japanese culture
Learning about the intricacies of Japanese culture is one of the most important things you should be aware of when trying to make Japanese friends. Cultural influence on friendships should not be underestimated and making the effort to learn about Japanese culture will always work in your favour!
Japanese Manners You Should Know
Simple things like please and thank you can make your life much easier and make those around you happier. Showing that you know what’s expected of you can raise others perceptions of you and indicate you’re a responsible, trustable person. Here are a few manner rules to get you started, besides your pleases and thank yous.
The Japanese language is famous for placing emphasis on politeness. If you know any Japanese you’ll know that there are four basic levels of politeness. When in doubt you should stick to the default desu-masu forms, but what level you should use depends on who you’re talking with. Pay close attention to the language of those around you to help you figure out when to use what.
- Extra-Polite (keigo)
- Polite (desu-masu)
- Casual (da-ru)
How to address people
Even in English it’s rude to point at someone and say “you over there!” So how do you address people in Japanese? Well first of all, pointing in general is considered very rude in Japanese society so you should avoid doing that. If you need to point at something to illustrate your point, try using a flat, open hand instead to soften it.
Second, stick to last names unless you’re given permission to use their first name. Family names come before personal names in Japanese but many Japanese people are aware of foreign customs and will rearrange their name for you. If you’re not sure which name is their family name, listen to what other people are calling them.
Omiyage (souvenirs) are a vital Japanese tradition! When you go over to someone’s house, you always bring a small gift with you to thank your host for having you over. Don’t bring expensive items to show off with or cheap keychains that will soon be discarded. Flowers are also a no-no since that’s what you’d bring to a funeral. We recommend bringing food or crafted gifts.
4. Learn about Japanese humor
Knowing Japanese comedians and telling some Japanese jokes is a great way to make a Japanese person feel comfortable. This will immediately reduce the foreigner vs Japanese gap and differentiate you from all the other foreigners who have no clue about Japanese humor.
Sarcasm is not considered as humorous in Japan and the foreigners who get frustrated when Japanese do not respond to sarcasm tend to suffer unnecessarily. The sooner you realize and accept sarcasm is not considered as humor here and is something you cannot explain, the less confusion and discomfort you will create.
Oyaji gags are the Japanese equivalent of silly dad jokes and similar to its western counterpart you will receive a positive reception by men in their 40s and older. However, in general, these jokes will be a hit or miss depending on the person.
If your style of humor is in the dad jokes realm, you should consider learning more about oyaji gags. It will work like a charm if you go to an izakaya and speak with the locals.
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