Other than the obvious language difference, there is a lot more to being a foreigner in Japan. Culture shock may or may not happen to you.
It really depends on how open your personality might be or just how prepared and knowledgeable you might be of Japan.
Below are a few important facts about Japanese culture:
Etiquette – TEFL Japan
Etiquette plays a huge part in living and working in Japan. As you might have heard, bowing is used often in thanks and in greeting.
Even the cashier in supermarkets will be bowing to you for any purchases you have made.
Don’t let it fluster you in any way and just shoot back a thank you or even a slight bow yourself and go about your business.
–TEFL Online: Accredited TEFL Courses Recognized in Japan-
It is also considered impolite to refuse a request or offer. This may not apply so much to you but keep this in mind when asking your co-workers or students for something.
If you need help with something, make sure you consider the position of your co-worker before jumping in because the chances are they will still say yes even if they are super busy.
Whenever you come back from a trip, an omiyage or souvenirs for your office/co-workers is a very traditional thing.
It could be a simple box of candy but there should be enough for everyone to share. Your company will advise you to bring something from your home country. This is to share with your office when you arrive as well.
As for table manners, it is a big no-no to stick your chopsticks in your rice bowl. And leave them there while you take a drink or not.
The image of chopsticks sticking upright from a rice bowl is similar to the way Japanese make offerings to the dead.
Attending Social Events – TEFL Japan
Along with the ‘saying no’ rule, many companies urge you and even pay you to attend social events that your school or company comes up with. Usually, these involve all-you-can-drink parties after work to promote a stronger bond between co-workers.
ALT will usually find them being asked for weekend retreats with their fellow teachers once a year as well. It has become more understandable to refuse if you are busy. But as my previous company informed me, you have to attend at least two gatherings per school term.
To be honest, those parties are usually very fun!
Medical Masks – TEFL Japan
Medical masks are another huge part of Japanese culture. It was certainly fun for me when I first arrived to see people wearing them on subways and on the streets for something as small as a common cold.
However, this is promoted as a way to stop the spreading of illnesses.
During flu season, teachers at many schools are required to wear these masks to avoid catching or passing along any illness to students who are studying hard for their high school entrance exams.
These are just general, but common, cultural facts that I am sure you will run into if you are set on becoming a teacher in Japan. Whenever unsure, look around you and see what others are doing or ask your manager or friend. Always keep an open mind!
Shelley completed OnTESOL’s 250-hour TESOL Diploma. This program is recognized by TESL Canada