Asia Expat Guides: Cultural Guidelines for Expats in Japan

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Moving to a new, foreign country is a daunting task which many expats find very overwhelming. At Asia Expat Guides, we understand your concerns and your specific needs as an expat. We routinely share articles and expat tips about moving to Asia at In this particular slide, we compile the cultural guidelines for new expats in Japan.


  • 1. Cultural Guidelines for Expats in Japan A Guide for New Expats in JapanBy: Asia Expat Guides

2. The Japanese language is complex, subtle, and predictable. Nonverbal communications are subtle, and Japanese are disconcerted by broad expressions and gestures of Americans. So, remember to tone it down when speaking with a Japanese. The Japanese require more information about the person with whom they interact, so as to determine which form to use in their complex language. Thus, they are given to asking questions about your job, title, responsibilities, and so on. On the same note, when a business meeting is scheduled, they prefer advance information in the form of email, brochures, and even proposals. For expats, learning Japanese language is always worth it because the Japanese appreciate it when outsiders seek to learn more about their unique culture and language, even if it is only a few phrases or expressions in Japanese. 3. Eating in Japan is ritualistic, communal, and time consuming. The interaction is considered as important as the food, so take your time when eating with the Japanese. While the traditional diet emphasizes rice, noodles, and fish, youths tend toward popular Western foods. The alcoholic beverage of sake often accompanies the main or ceremonial meal so as to facilitate conversation. 4. Japanese are punctual, so you should always be punctual when having an appointment with the Japanese. Yet, you have to be patient sometimes as they expect you to wait for group decisions that also take time to arrive at consensus. The Japanese need time for connections to make proper contacts, therefore it is advisable for you to wait patiently for meetings to move beyond preliminary tea and sometimes long formalities. 5. Traditionally, they respect seniority and the elderly. There is a sense of order, propriety, and appropriate behavior between inferiors and superiors. Therefore, when approaching an organization, approach a person at the highest level as the first person contacted is also involved throughout the negotiation. 6. Since personal relationships score high with Japanese and future relationships depend on how you respond in the first encounter, cut and dried relationships with business contacts are inadequate and must be supplemented by a social relationship for maximum effect. This usually means entertaining the client with a night on the town and not at ones home. When away from home on business, the Japanese businessperson expects to be entertained lavishly (meals, theater tickets, etc.), but he will repay this kindness manifold. For social visiting, a guest is frequently given a present or small gift, such as a hand towel beautifully wrapped. However, on the next exchange of visit, you are expected to offer a gift in kind. 7. To many, Japanese behavior may seem puzzling and a source of both confusion and wonderment. However, you should not worry any longer! At Asia Expat Guides, we will ensure that you are equipped with the necessary information pertaining to this beautiful country before moving to Japan. Besides introducing you to the local places, food and your living area, we will also offer you the Japanese language class so that you will be able to speak Japanese language fluently, and minimize the impact of culture shock. So worry no more. Just concentrate on having a good time in Japan and leave all your burdens to us! 8. For more information about being an expat in Asia, visit


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