Here are some etiquette rules to follow that I have discovered through my reading and research. Right now they are in no particular order, but I will categorize them as the list gets longer.
1. Do not have your back face the people sitting on the trains. It is extremely rude. No matter how crowed you need to face the person sitting in fron of you.
2. Do not add sugar or milk to your tea before trying it without first. It is not an insult to use those condiments, but it is if you use them before tasting the tea.
3. The Japanese are very modest. If you are given a compliment, it is customary to play down the compliment rather than just saying “thank you”. So if someone says, ‘You speak Japanese very well,’ and appropriate response might be, ‘I really don’t speak very well yet.’
4. When invited to one’s home, it is customary to bring a gift to show your gratitude for the invite. In response, a gift is usually given in return to thank you for the hostess. Then a gift is given to thank you for the gift that was given to you….thus resulting in never-ending cycle of gift-giving! I guess I’ll need to stock up at the dollar store.
5. The Japanese typically do not like to bring attention to themselves so they value using soft voices in public. One of my books shared that a train could be packed like a can of sardines, but not a person is speaking.
6. Just like #3, if you are given a gift you should refuse it once to twice before accepting.
7. Being on time is a sign of respect…uh-oh…I have to work EXTREMELY hard on this one!
8. Never stick your chopsticks in your rice bowl as that is a sign of death or that someone has died…something like that.
9. You should thank acquaintances for the last time you were together. It builds connections.
10. You should always carry a pack of tissues because the public restrooms do not always have TP.
11. Do not walk and eat. Eating should always be done while sitting and the Japanese value this time so eating while on the run is actually disrespectful.
12. No tipping. This is proving to be difficult for me as the customer service here is amazing!