For anyone, a first date can be nerve-wracking. But a first date in a foreign country? That’s a whole other level of stress!
There are a few cultural differences foreigners face while navigating the dating world in Japan. What is expected of a person on a first date? It’s difficult to generalize a whole nation of people, as everyone is unique and has their own personal preferences and expectations when it comes to dating; but there are a few key differences that it’s important to note.
It can often feel like all the cards are stacked against you; language barriers, cultural differences, different expectations– But a first date doesn’t have to be a stressful experience! Let’s take a look at some of the basic do’s and don’ts of going on a first date in Japan!
Do: Dress Up!
Always, always, always dress to impress! Japanese people generally tend to put a lot of care into their appearance, and especially so for a first date. Putting a little extra care into your fashion and grooming shows your date that you respect them enough to take the extra time to look your best.
Japanese women are known to go all-out for first dates, suffering through uncomfortable outfits and painful high-heeled shoes to impress their dates. So why not go the extra mile for them as well?
Do: Have a Plan.
The most successful first dates are always planned out beforehand. Don’t expect to just roll up to the station with no plan, and have your date be impressed. Having a clear plan of what to do manages expectations, and can lead to less awkward down time.
Worried about what to do? Some classic date ideas include: Shopping, drinking coffee in a cafe, getting lunch at a new restaurant, visiting a museum or exhibit, or playing a sport or game together. But in my experience, the most successful first dates take those ideas and run with them! Think of ways to incorporate you and your dates interests into a classic date idea, it shows off your personality, and everyone has more fun doing something they’re interested in.
Do: Offer to Pay!
This can cause a lot of headaches for foreigners. Who is expected to pay on a first date?
Traditionally, Japanese women tend to expect men to pay for a first date. Recently however, the opinions of younger generations are tending to shift towards a more equal split. It’s polite to offer to pay for the date, especially if you are the one who did the asking-out– and be prepared to pay! If your date declines your offer to pay, politely offer again, after a second decline you can go ahead and split the bill!
Don’t: Go to a Theme Park.
Do you know about the ‘Disneyland Curse’? It’s common belief among young people in Japan that if you take your date to Disneyland on a first date, your relationship is doomed to fail.
Why is this? What’s the problem with the happiest place on earth?
Well theme parks in general are always crowded, and especially so on weekends (prime date time)! Expect to be queueing for what seems like hours just about anything you can think of. Attractions, food, shopping, even the washroom– you’ll be queueing. And in these long, long lines, you’ll need to fill the time.
On a first date, hours upon hours trapped in a line together trying to find things to talk about can be a painfully uncomfortable experience. You’ll be amazed how fast you run out of things to talk about when you’re standing in line for over 90 minutes.
Plus, theme parks are expensive! If you’re offering to pay for the date, expect to be out tens of thousands of yen. It can be a big price to pay for a maybe-uncomfortable experience, so maybe save Disneyland for a later date!
Do: Be Polite.
It may seem obvious, but good manners will go a long way on a first date. In Japan, men tend to be more doting towards their girlfriends than in some Western cultures; it’s not uncommon to see men walking alongside their girlfriend carrying their purses and shopping bags. It’s just a common courtesy and politeness that is often expected of romantic partners. Small acts of chivalry can go a long way to let your date know she’s important to you.
Apart from holding doors and offering to carry a bag; other forms of politeness are vital to a first date. Listen to your date when they speak, don’t dominate the conversation. Practice good table manners, and keep your voice down in public spaces.
Don’t: Show PDA on a First Date.
In the US, holding hands, hugging, or a kiss at the end of a first date are common practice. However in Japan, people tend to be more reserved on a first date. In fact its very uncommon to see couples expressing public displays of affection, or PDA, in public; no matter how long they’ve been together. Be courteous, and read the atmosphere to make sure that any signs of affection would be appropriate in the situation.