When people hear the word travel, what usually comes to mind is adventure, fun, relaxation, leisure etc. What most people fail to think about are the embarrassments that are associated with travel; some of which make great stories while others are never spoken of again. Sometimes, the things a traveller can do out of ignorance may offend the people of the country they have travelled to and that is why it is advisable to always do some research before travelling.
It is always best to do some research about a particular country or place before going there and I believe in asking someone who’s been there before (especially about the country’s social norms) about it. This is because I love hearing stories; they add that personal touch that the Internet just cannot give you. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you shouldn’t use the Internet but hey, you can’t laugh with the Internet about travel embarrassments and you also can’t see the emotion that comes with the nostalgia which in most cases gives you either more or less to look forward to in your travels.
Here is an example of how embarrassing things can get when you’re in a new place and trying but failing to fit in:
Anyway, here are a couple of things that I think you should know about before travelling to Japan.
Japanese serve large portions of meals so you would have to get accustomed to eating large portions before going there because their restaurants will not allow you to carry any leftovers home. So, if you cannot finish the serving, you leave it (leaving it means you wouldn’t get your money’s worth so finish your food). Chopsticks are pretty much what you will find in most of their restaurants, so, you would have to learn how to use them. For anyone planning to visit Japan and has no idea how to use chopsticks, it would be a very good idea to buy some and practise how to use them before going there .
I am sure you have heard about the Japanese people’s super power, their ability to keep time. Don’t take this lightly, in Japan there is no room for all you so called ‘African timers’. You MUST keep time as well as they do especially when it comes to transportation. They have schedules for everything which are followed exactly as they are supposed to be, say, if a train is set to leave Station A at 9.00 a.m. and arrive at Station B at 9.03 a.m. and leave B to C at 9.05 a.m. then that is exactly what would happen. Their buses, trains and airplanes all follow a strict schedule so keep that in mind.
Most Japanese people do not speak English and even more of them do not understand English meaning that a working knowledge of Japanese is necessary before going there which would be useful when asking for directions and for basic communication. Learning some basic phrases and maybe a few useful sentences should suffice.
Here are a couple of things that I think that you should know about:
- Before you enter a Japanese house, some restaurants and some changing rooms, you will be required to remove your shoes and after removing them, you should arrange them as in the picture below and put on the slippers provided.
- If it happens to be raining and you walk into a shop or a restaurant you should leave your umbrella in the umbrella stand by the door instead of walking in with it as you drip water.
- In trains and buses, you should be quiet or if you have to talk, speak in low tones.
- If you happen to get sick with a cold or cough (something contagious), you should put on a surgical mask as a courtesy to everyone and anyone who will be around you.
- On escalators you should always stand on one side; this allows people who are in a hurry to walk up the escalators undisturbed. The left side is usually for standing in most cases but sometimes it can be the right.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
– James Michener
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In a perfect world, Gillian would be travelling round the world in her red vintage VW T1 van (Hippie Van) gathering stories of the people she meets and retelling them to those ready to listen. She is in the process of building this world which is now going to have all of you in it.