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5 Ways I Experienced Culture Shock In Japan – From An Indian Perspective

By Sonam Midha Jul 10, 2023

Japan is certainly a unique country, with many things that are very different from the rest of the world. I had never traveled abroad before coming to Japan, and to prepare myself for what was waiting for me, I read many books on Japan written by people from various countries, like Orienting: An Indian in Japan, Ikigai, A Geek in Japan, Why I’m Crazy about Japan, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc. Surely, it helped a lot, and I give a lot of credit for keeping my sanity upon my arrival in Japan to those writers, but a lot more was waiting for me to learn in person too. I experienced culture shock in various forms, from prices to perspectives. 

This is an endless topic, but here are the biggest 5 Ways I Experienced Culture Shock In Japan coming from India.

Punctuality: A Big Culture Shock

culture shock punctuality

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Starting with the most basic one, i.e., punctuality. Indians are famous for their relaxed behavior when it comes to time schedules. I realized very early when I entered Japan that the concept of time is very different in both countries. When in India, for example, we say the meeting time with a friend is 5 PM, both parties come at 5:30 or even later, and almost every time no one complains. But that was not the case in Japan! If someone says 5 PM in Japan, it means you should be there at least five minutes before. I guess it’s a wonderful concept, as respecting each other’s time saves you a lot of time for other plans. Also, another thing related to the time that was a culture shock is preparation and scheduling. I was surprised to see how my Japanese friends working in a company knew exactly when they were going to get days off and where they would be on a particular day many months ago. Planning so much in advance was surely a shock for an easy-going Indian like me who loves doing things impromptu.

Trust And Honesty: Shops without Shopkeepers

culture shock honesty

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Last month, I was baffled to see a shop without a shopkeeper in Japan, and my very first question from my Japanese friend was, “What if someone stole something?” With so much innocence, he looked at me and said very casually, “But why would someone steal?” Of course, it’s Japan, the country where you can get your lost money, wallet, umbrella, and almost anything you left anywhere back to you. People here are so honest, kind, and hardworking and firmly believe in not having what does not belong to them. I can list tons of experiences where I saw the behavior of my Japanese friends as super different from that of people from other countries.

Patience: Incredible Control Over Emotions

Patience learnt in Ski resort

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Last winter, I worked at a ski resort for a couple of months. One day, some overseas visitors came as a big group of fifteen people, and I was asked to give them fifteen skis and poles. Because it was a big order and skies are decided by calculating a lot of factors, followed by deciding on ski shoes and adjusting the ski values, each varying from person to person, based on their height, weight, and experience, my Japanese colleagues along with the leader came to help me and it took us a lot of time to get their order ready. When I started handing over the first ski, the customer replied that they had changed their mind and now wanted 15 snowboards instead of skis. I was baffled at that time and translated that to the leader in the hope that he would say that it was impossible and they had to go with the skis only. But his reaction was so different from my imagination. In fact, without any sign of annoyance, he immediately started preparing for snowboards and returning all the skis and shoes. He actually apologized to the customers for taking so much time. These kinds of manners are what I only see in Japan, and surely that kind of behavior is very different from what I experienced in India. 

Safe Driving: Seat Belts And No Horn Policy 

Woman with seatbelt

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Japan is one of the top countries when it comes to driving safety. This is because of the compulsory seat belt and no drink-and-drive rules. Almost everybody follows it with complete sincerity. People here are so considerate and well-mannered that they will even stop for the pedestrians to pass and try to avoid honking horns. It was a culture shock because honking on roads is so common in India, and in fact, we are asked to use horns while taking turns to avoid accidents. The Japanese have found a very peaceful solution to this problem where they actually stop at every corner for a few seconds and see right and left while following all the signals properly. My Japanese friend once jokingly said that he does not even know what the horn in his car sounds like. It was certainly an alienation coming from India, where driving is very chaotic with people going at different speeds along with cows and dogs sitting and walking with them, and sadly, all of this without a seat belt and in the absence of signals, especially in rural areas. I sometimes think I will surely get a reverse culture shock on Delhi roads if I visit India anytime soon, and certainly, this is the field where India must learn from Japan in order to reduce the problem of accidents, traffic, and pollution.

Passport And Visa: Culture Shock On Both Sides


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A very interesting culture shock came when my Japanese friend asked me to visit Europe with him next week. He said it very casually without knowing the fact that it doesn’t work that way for everyone as we need visas for visiting Europe and other countries. It’s really chaotic and takes months and sometimes years of paperwork only to get rejections at the end. I was surprised at my end that Japanese people don’t need visas to travel to the majority of places, and all they have to do is buy a ticket and fly the same day,  but it was more of a culture shock for my friend to know the reverse. It took me some time to introduce him to the concept of a visa and the privileges that come with strong passports. Also, coming from India, the concept of working holidays was a shock because I had not even the slightest idea that we could actually go to other countries during holidays and earn money in a legal manner. 

Overall, it was an amazing experience living in Japan and learning about this wonderful, technicolor country. For me, It is normal to get culture shock at the slightest things, even after living here for about two years, but I love embracing the differences and the growth of mindset that comes with them. If you liked this article and want to know more about Japanese culture, please read the following articles below.

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