By on April 7th, 2017

Understanding the Culture of Japanese International Students

If you’ll soon be hosting a student from Japan, you’ll have a lot of time to learn all about their home country and the culture they come from. At the same time, cultural differences often make it difficult for international students to initially assimilate. While yours is probably studying to better understand what to expect in the U.S., it will help if you do your part by understanding their culture, too. Here are some useful insights.

The Japanese Are Very Empathetic

This is obviously a wonderful trait and one of the many reasons families all over the world love hosting international students from Japan. The Japanese people are always concerned with the feelings of others.

That being said, it can lead to some misunderstandings if you’re not careful.

For example, let’s say you decide to take your student to a restaurant in town that they really like. While on the way there, you may idly mention that you love another restaurant, too, as you pass it.

In America, this happens all the time and, at most, it might serve as the beginning of a conversation. However, Japanese international students are more likely to read into this. They’ll think you’d prefer that restaurant and will insist you go there instead, for your own sake.

These kinds of misunderstandings are tough to avoid. Just do your best to always be clear about why you’re saying something and you’ll have a much easier time.

Japanese International Students Tend to Be More Indirect

Most international students are fairly indirect when first settling in. They may also be timid and shy.

With a Japanese student, though, an indirect form of conversation is probably their preference.

This goes back to the way the Japanese view feelings. In America, we tend to get to the point very quickly, even when disagreeing with someone else. That doesn’t mean we’re impolite; it’s just how our culture speaks.

The Japanese never want to offend, so they may take a bit longer to express their true opinions.

In Japan, Shoes Aren’t Worn in the House (or Restaurants)

This shouldn’t be too much of an issue, as most people don’t allow shoes on in their homes. If you do, just know your student will probably keep to their habit of removing their shoes.

At restaurants, this might be challenge at first. Except for the Westernized restaurants, in Japan, you would take off your shoes before entering.

Punctuality Is a Priority in Japan

Another nice trait of Japanese culture is their dedication to being punctual. In Japan, TV shows are often scheduled for odd times like 8:04 and that’s exactly when they begin.

If you’re already raising a teenager – or have before – it will probably be a nice change of pace to all of a sudden have one who is always on time. That being said, if you’re not, you may often find yourself out of sync with your student.

Personal Space Is Also Different

This depends largely on the region of Japan international students come from, but most of them will have a very different take on personal space than Americans. Touching, for example, is far more uncommon in Japan. When you first meet your exchange student, you may want to give them a big hug, whereas their inclination would be to give you a slight bow.

The Japanese also tend to give each other more space when talking. If you go to a store or out to eat, your student might be overwhelmed at first as their customer service traditions are much more formal and unobtrusive.

Despite these cultural differences, students from our country constantly go there and students from there constantly come here. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect that they will get in the way of having a good time.