Attitude towards foreigners (gaijin)

In general Japanese people are very friendly and helpful towards foreigners. It should be repeated however that because most Japanese have little knowledge of English there is a good possibility they will possibly be scared to converse with you, especially in a group situation. Remember the word “Sumimasen” (すみません - Excuse me).

Starting a conversation by talking Japanese is considered a sign of respect - they will respect you for at least trying.

Japanese are happy to ask you to take a picture with you, especially when they’ve had something to drink. You’ll find that you will often get a request to have your picture taken.

If you want them to take a picture yourself, you can ask by asking “Shashin ii desu ka?” where “shashin” means “picture” and “ii desu ka” makes it polite (please). Do note that this sentence is not actually really polite; rougly translated it would just mean “picture, please”. A more polite way to say the same would be to ask “Would you mind taking my picture” (Shasin wo totte morae masu ka? - 写真をとってもらえますか).

In the Japanese language, there are many politeness levels. Generally people will forgive you if you don’t use them as a foreigner - the Japanese do know that their language is not easy.

You will find that if you talk to strangers in bars they will want to add you on “Facebooku” - after which you’ll probably never hear from them again. Next to Facebook many Japanese also use Line, a messaging app comparable to Whatsapp.

If you meet Japanese businessmen, it would be wise to know about the ritual of the business card exchange.