The land of the rising sun, home to all kinds of weirdness from a western perspective, but have you ever wondered what the Japanese thought of America? Well we certainly did, so we asked the people of Japan “What’s weird about western culture?” and compiled the best answers here. Spoilers: No one said how that one kid at school Naruto runs to every class.
25. Cinema Is Universal, Beyond Flags And Borders And Passports.
In America the movie theaters are rather messy, with really sticky floors. In Japan everybody is completely silent for the entire movie, aside from humorous bits. Plus, they stay through the entire credits, and it’s very strange to see somebody leaving before the credits are done rolling and the lights come on. One last thing is the safety. Even when I was younger living here, I could go out downtown until midnight and get home safely with no problems at all. Even small kindergarten students can safely travel on the trains by themselves.
24. So Much Room To Stretch The Old Legs
Not Japanese myself, but know plenty of Japanese exchange students. I think the few things that stood out to them the most was the sheer size of houses and apartments here. At the time my husband I were living in an apartment that had a kitchen, dinning room, 2 bedrooms, a living room, and a formal sitting room, with patio that opened to the back yard. Our exchange student friends were floored that someone so young as ourselves could afford to live in a place that spacious. I know apartments in other areas of the country are smaller (ie: NY) but for the most part here in the US we have a TON more space then Japan.
23. Just A Little Bit Of Peace And Quiet, Is That Too Much To Ask?
As a guy that was born and raised in Japan I really only have one complaint about America. People in Japan respect other people’s comfort about 10x more than the average American. In Japan the subway would be full of people yet quiet enough to hear someone clear their throat. Where as here in America, It is quite loud everywhere I go.
22. “Fresh” Means Something A Bit Different
A friend of mine who immigrated to the US from Japan back in the 80s – shortly after he had moved to the US he saw a supermarket ad in the local paper that was advertising a special sale on fresh fish, so like any proper Japanese he hurried down to the store to get some.
When he got there he was very confused, so he went up to the clerk in the seafood department and asked, “I read that you have a sale on fresh fish, where are they? These ones are all dead!”
As an added note: in Japan it’s fairly common for grocery stores to have special short-duration daily discounts they call literally “time service” (タイムサービス), a typically Japanese sort of English loanword, so it’s not that unusual to hurry to the store right away when there’s a good sale.
21. How Do We Get Anywhere Without Sweet Trains?
The one thing that baffles me the most about the states is how horrible the transportation service, and service in general, is. The train schedule in Japan is always absolutely on time, and when people are paid professionals, they just get the work done no matter how much they hate it on the inside. It seems to me that there is a lack of a sense of professionalism in America.
20. Bathing Is Perfectly Normal!
I was born in Japan, moved to the US when I was 3 (my mom is American), but we go back frequently. So my favorite movie as a kid was Totoro. I watched it with my American friends when I was 16, and they all started freaking out about the scene where the dad is bathing with his 2 little girls. (If you haven’t seen this movie, it is a Miyazaki film for young kids, not the adult anime most Americans picture.) My brother and I bathed with my dad (Japanese) all the time when we were little and it never occurred to me that it was weird until then. In Japan, dads frequently bathe with their young kids, and if you don’t, people think you don’t care about your kids. It’s completely non-sexual.
19. How Will You Know I’m Cool If I’m Not Wearing My Air Jordans?
How come some Americans don’t take their shoes off in the house? I mean, not just running in to grab something, actually lying down/relaxing on couches and beds with their shoes on.
Also, how gigantic all the roads and cars are. I guess it’s because there’s more space, but in Los Angeles in particular, every other car seems to be an SUV.
18. Language Barriers Are Real
One odd thing is that in America when you see a person, regardless of skin color, you would expect them to speak some level of English, because, HEY THIS IS AMERICA~. However, in Japan, if you are a different race you will automatically be thought of as incapable of communication. It’s sad because I have worked very hard at Japanese and I can speak near-perfectly (enough to do translation work very well and have close to no accent when speaking). Yet when I went to a group interview for teaching English at a Japanese cram school, the interviewer pretty much ignored me entirely. Then after the interview asked me “Oh, so you can speak Japanese? You read kanji?”. I was pretty dumbfounded. I have also talked to many university professors, but even after I talk with them about economics and other topics in Japanese, they still tend to ask me “oh yeah, the final exam is in Japanese are you really going to be able to do it?”. I have also had Japanese people talk about me behind my back without realizing I understand what they say. I was also told by a friend who runs a restaurant that he was told by management never to hire western people because they make the customers unsettled since they cannot speak Japanese and Japanese people do not expect them to work in a restaurant since they all think Americans are rich.
17. But I Just Love You So Much!
My Japanese teacher found it both strange and distasteful how much Americans use the word “love,” and that we tell our friends/family/spouses/significant others that we love them all the time.
16. Japan Is A Country Full Of Secrets, Apparently
Japanese people tend to not reveal any private information or be very secretive, especially when compared to Americans. This can be about really mundane things as well, which can be very irritating. For example, I knew one guy who would suddenly say “I need to go out and… take care of something… I’ll be back in a while”. He would take two hours to head out and come back, so after a couple times (I was trying to be polite and not pry) I kind of jokingly asked him what he was doing every time because it was really weird. Apparently he was taking a walk to every supermarket in the neighborhood to scout prices on vegetables. No clue why he wanted to keep it a secret even now.
15. We Are Slow Because We Just Finished Eating Six Big Macs, Give Us A Break!
In the US people walk as slowly as possible crossing the crosswalk. Hell, many will stare at you with that “ha ha, I have control over you!” type look. In Japan people rush to get across the street to not inconvenience the drivers.
14. Can We Just Call It The Pledge Of Legions From Now On?
I first didn’t get American jokes at all, but now I learned to appreciate them. Japanese enjoy more absurd humor. It’s not about making sense, but it’s about the element of surprise, performance, and timing. I feel privileged for being able to enjoy both Japanese and American humors.
The thing I found strange about America is the attitude towards alcohol. People love to drink here and they drink a lot! Japanese enjoy drinking as much as Americans, but we can’t drink nearly as much. At the same time, American society is so uptight about drinking. Can’t drink in public places like parks, and checking ID everywhere you go. When I was kid, my dad would let me have a few sips of beer or sake. I remember when I was in high school, I used to hang out with buddies at a park drinking from stuff we bought from a vending machine.
When my brother visited me, he saw the American flag displayed everywhere, which he thought symbolized how strong patriotism is in the US. In Japan, we do not display our flags often. Definitely not in front of McDonalds or back of cars. Also, how American public schools force their kids to recite the pledge of legions is bizarre and scary in my opinion.
I’m always intrigued by the many Americans that are fascinated by Japan and its culture. People seem to overly fantasize and mythologize Japan. I have not yet met an American who has the same level of interest and enthusiasm in Korean or Vietnamese culture, even though there are more Korean American (1.7 million) or Vietnamese American (1.5 million) than Japanese American (1.3 million).
13. One Nation, Under God
Religious people are an oddity to me. I mean, Japan has lots of Shinto and Buddhism, but with such a secular society, for the normal person it’s only there as tradition to be looked at seasonal events. Over in America religion is much more integrated into everyone’s life and government, it feels almost like a massive brainwashing machine. It’s actually pretty creepy to me.
12. But What Would Happen To All Our Teen Drama Movies?
The dating culture in America bothers me (or lack of it).
When you are serious about someone, at least in Japan, you’re pretty much required to ask your person of interest if they want to date, even if you don’t know them very well: something called “付き合い” or “tsukiai”. The label is there from the very beginning of the relationship. It’s a definite commitment. Here, I feel like people are “together” but somehow they don’t have that couple title. Maybe it comes from the whole hook up culture here. People will just hang around each other, saying that they haven’t promised each other anything. The lack of commitment and effort of both parties to be in a relationship really confuses me. Also the serious-but-not-serious thing. What does that mean???
11. Come And Take It!
Grew up in Japan, moved to the USA when I was 21…… Americans have their country’s flag EVERYWHERE. HUGE flags. In Japan I saw our flag on government buildings….not here. Big flag on a pole outside the grocery store, I swear half your car dealers paint their store red, white, and blue… also, they have to have a flag somewhere. Friend joked that there are flags everywhere because Americans need to remind themselves that they’re in America. But really, why all the flags?
10. We Don’t Need Any More Cards To Keep In Our Wallets!
Why do American workers constantly have non work related conversation. The cashiers ask customers about their day and what they think about this or that etc. In Japan the only non work related conversations I heard in stores were ones where it was a mom/pop run business and there were no other customers around.
Not being able to pay bills in other locations. In Japan I could pay my electric, gas, water, cellphone etc. bills all at the convenience store. Here in America I have to write checks, send through the mail, or some other which way. Yes this is getting a bit easier going through the internet but I still have to go to a bunch of different sites.
Americans feel they need to give excuses all of the time. Oh sorry I was late, my car broke down. I didn’t really need to explain myself when in Japan. You apologize, take blame, and continue on with the consequences. Kind of a case by case thing as well but look up Hansei.
9. I Want A Free Helicopter Ride Now…
Cleaning out one’s ears is totally normal in Japan. My wife might do it like twice a day, and complains when I get more out of my ears than she does.
Vending machines!! Why aren’t there more of them in the States. Don’t people want a cold drink when they go for a walk?!
Cereal selection! My wife stared down the cereal aisle for thirty minutes while mumbling “there’s… just so many” repeatedly.
Service and tipping!! If tipping is supposed to make service so much better, why is the service so poor in this country? Go to Japan, the level of service at even McDonald’s will change your life.
Health care!! Why does it cost me a few hundred dollars to fill a filling that’s popped out. This is like a ten dollar, ten minute procedure in Japan as a walk in to any dentist.. And don’t even get me started on the cost of emergency ambulance care, did you know it’s free to ride a helicopter ambulance in Japan?!
8. Actually… That’s A Good Point
Americans are so wasteful. Especially with food. if you can’t finish it or you don’t like it then don’t get it. It’s extremely rude in Japan to not finish food. Also, Tipping is considered rude. Great service is expected and tipping is seen as disrespectful. Why is American service so bad then?
7. Don’t Be A Brat Then
I am Japanese American and took my fiance to Japan for her first time. We were both waiting in line at the supermarket and a child was acting up in front of us. The mom leans in and slaps the child in the face and the child becomes quiet. My fiance could not hide the shock in her face so I ask her what’s wrong, our conversation went down like this: “Didn’t you see that?” “What?” “She just hit her kid” “Yeah, he was being a brat.” “So that’s normal?” “Yeah”
6. But What If You Step In Dog Poop?
The shoes thing, is a big thing. My in laws live in a house with only tatami and hardwood flooring. They have a kitchen table and chairs. And no other place to sit/lie down on besides the floor. They have a low coffee table and cushions, and their futons are thick blankets on the floor. if you are used to sitting on the floor at home most of the time, your perception of cleanliness goes up a few ticks. would you put your ‘clean’ outdoor shoes on the kitchen table or countertops? It’s not the same thing, but it’s in the same vein. Also you wear indoor slippers on the hardwoods and you take them off before you enter into a tatami room, because again, you sit on tatami, you sleep there and eat there. The level of cleanliness is higher. More modern apartments/housing have more furniture and hardwoods and less tatami, but, many adults still grew up in the traditional system.
5. Is That Really Necessary?
I had a Japanese friend in college one time, I asked him, what was it about America that shocked him the most when he came here. He said, the first thing that shocked him was seeing a woman sitting down and drinking soda out of a 2 L bottle. The second thing that shocked him was that the woman was shaped like the bottle.
4. Respect Is Given, Not Earned
We always respect anyone older than us in Japan and always talk politely to them (even if you are friends). I find it weird that other countries don’t really care who is older and talk to everyone pretty much the same. Also, everything is huge in America.
3. The 1990’s Called, They Want Their Fat Jokes Back.
My father is a native Japanese and the one thing that he always goes off on is how intensely fat people in America are. There’s a Japanese marketplace that we frequent. It’s a pretty nice place, they have a fantastic food court and all of the food is imported from Japan. But because it is such a Japanese place there’s all kinds of white people there. So we’ll be sitting eating lunch before going grocery shopping and he’ll say, “Look at the fat person with the fox tail.” Or, “In Japan nobody is ever that overweight.”
2. Sue Me?
What I find disturbingly odd is how Americans advertise law services so much on tv and commercials. Why do you want to sue each other ALL THE TIME?
1. アメリカ 変な文化
The Japanese have their own internet. It is in Japanese.