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    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

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    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

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    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Social Life in Japan

Behavior

The Japanese are very well aware of the world around them as well as the differences in opinions and behaviors. Because of this they are quite understanding of various cultures and foreigners so odd behaviors are generally accepted, but not encouraged.

Your behavior should begin with modesty as being loud, rude, showing off wealth, or dressing provocatively will get you stares. Likewise, placing yourself above others or boasting is viewed negatively.

Additionally, the Japanese people are very proud and insulting them or putting a person down in anyway can be very offensive as the person will feel "shamed." Additionally, turning down an invitation or offer may be received as an insult to the inviter. Due to this, the Japanese will rarely give you critical advice, insult you, or put you in a situation in which an answer is immediately needed in fear of "shaming" you. This is especially true in business. Turning down a business offer or even an invitation to a meal or event may unknowingly be an insult and could force your contact to feel so shamed that he will actually leave his job; if all hope is lost on a business deal, allow your Japanese counterpart to gracefully exit the situation so he can save "face."

When greeting people in business, follow the local's lead. Although bowing is common among locals, many Japanese take great pride in understanding foreign customs and may insist on following European etiquette. Allow them to take the lead and follow suite. One thing that must be followed however is acknowledgement of the person speaking to you, which is symbolized by a regular head nod when a point is made. It is considered rude to make strong eye contact with a person older or more respected than you. Finally, there are numerous meanings behind body language so avoid touching your face or head, as simply scratching your head may send an unintentional message to the present company.

Dress

The traditional clothing of Japan is called the kimono, which is a simple garment that completely covers a person from the neck down. This outfit, worn by both men and women, comes in various designs and styles as differing types of kimono are used for differing occasions. Generally, men wear a black kimono, which women wear kimono of every color and pattern as well as scenes from nature or the animal world. Women also tend to include numerous details on their kimono, such as a sash called an obi and a belt-like rope called an obijime.

Today the kimono is only worn on special occasions in Japan as most people prefer western-styled clothing, which range in style and design significantly as there are few dress restrictions in Japan. As a visitor to Japan there is, likewise, no real dress restrictions as shorts and short-sleeved shirts are common and well accepted. Clothes that is quite revealing may be looked down upon, but short skirts are no uncommon in Japan. More than anything, dress for the weather and the occasion in Japan. Temples always require more conservative dress and the cities, especially during work hours, tend to be quite formal. There seems to be a differing dress from day to night in many cities as the work crowd fades and the nightlife begins. If in doubt, dress on the more conservative and formal side.

This page was last updated: November, 2013