COMPARISON OF JAPANESE AND AMERICAN CULTURES
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive” (Mahatma). Our culture identifies who we are and how we behave in social environments and provides us with a foundation in which to live our lives and raise our families. Each individual culture has certain customs and courtesies that are important. Exposure to the cultures of others can be intimidating and can leave a person feeling confused and unsure about how they fit in (Schaefer 60). Culture shock can leave a person feeling out of place in an unfamiliar culture (Schaefer 60). Our diverse societies demand understanding and acceptance of other cultures. Learning and understanding these cultures before being exposed to them can help reduce culture shock. Our culture is what makes us different but it may also be what makes us the same.
The Japanese culture is generally one of formal practices and behaviors. The Japanese people are known to be respectful which is evident in the various customs and courtesies they practice. Two common Japanese customs, greetings and visiting, are no exceptions to this rule.
The greetings of the Japanese are very formal. A bow is the traditional greeting most often used. There are specific rules and guidelines to bowing that must be learned at a very young age. A sign of respect is shown by bowing lower than the person you are greeting (Japan). Handshakes are typically used only when a Japanese person greets an American or other Westerner and in that situation is the preferred greeting (Japan). The Japanese use formality when introductions are being made. The use of titles is very important to this culture. Introductions are made by using the family name followed by “san” (Japan). First names are used only by family and close friends (Japan). During business situations, associates will exchange business cards which are offered and accepted with both hands (Japan). Other verbal greetings will differ based on the relationship between the individuals (Japan).
Visiting customs in Japan are also of a formal nature. Visits are generally arranged in advance and are very rarely spontaneous (Japan). When someone comes for a visit they must remove their shoes in the entry area of the home and place them together, pointing toward the outdoors; slippers are usually worn while inside (Japan). It is also customary to remove your coat prior to stepping into the entry area (Japan). Guests are usually modest and reserved when they are visiting and will be offered the most comfortable seat in the home (Japan). When offered a meal it is customary for the guest to hesitate slightly before accepting it and will then accept with gratitude (Japan). Guests do not usually offer compliments on household items, as this may embarrass the host (Japan). It is customary to bring fruit or cake to offer as a gift for the host which is given and accepted with both hands and a slight bow (Japan). It...