According to official statistics, the number of foreign residents in Japan increased 6.6 percent from the previous year comprising over 2.7 million people in 2018. Meanwhile, over 30 million tourists visited Japan in the same year, and the number is expected to increase by 2020, the year of Tokyo Olympics.

Yolo Japan, a media company, conducted a survey (※1) on etiquette awareness of foreign residents in Japan.

Fifty-one percent of respondents looked up the information on Japanese rules of etiquette in their home countries. Meanwhile, 53 and 47 percent learned about etiquette by experience from Japanese friends and in the workplace respectively.

Foreigners’ awkward moments in Japan: when one does not know the codes of etiquette

When asked about most awkward experience because of not knowing the rules of etiquette, the majority (41 percent) brought up the topic of “taking out the trash”, followed by the topic of “business manners” (39 percent).

On experience of “taking out the trash”:

  • I didn’t know about trash bags designated by local communities, says a woman in her 40s from Australia
  • I didn’t know that trash should not be taken out in the evening before the collection day, says a man in his 50s from the US
  • I didn’t know about the difference between combustible and incombustible waste, says a woman in her 20s from Malaysia

On experience of “business manners”:

  • when I had to exchange name cards and arrange seats at a meeting, says a man in his 30s from England
  • when I had to greet a client, says a man in his 20s from the US
  • when I had to introduce myself at a business meeting, says a woman in her 20s from Australia

Let’s adopt the Japanese codes of etiquette as global standards

Eighty-one percent said they wish for the Japanese rules of etiquette to become global standards. While 29 percent referred to “waste management standards” in Japan as exemplary, 19 percent brought up “punctuality of the Japanese people”, and 13 percent thought of “politeness in public places such as transportation” as heart-warming and respectful.

Meanwhile, there also was an opinion on conservatism of the Japanese society such as age-based corporate hierarchy and outdated view on women’s role in society, 55 percent of the respondents wishing for a more liberal approach.

(※1) Conducted in August-September 2019, the survey sample includes over 513 foreign residents from 72 countries.

Source: survey by Yolo Japan on etiquette awareness of foreign residents in Japan