Sunday, September 14, 2014

Understanding Japanese Lifestyle

I moved to Tokyo from the US about half a year ago. In my time here, I have had the opportunity to experience Japanese culture firsthand and interact with many Japanese people. Although we are all humans and more similar than different, there are some key differences I have noticed between the lifestyles of Japanese and American people.

How will I lead my life? Like an American? Like a Japanese? Neither and both. My preference is to pick the best from both lifestyles and lead my life in this way. What is best? This is really a matter of opinion.
Below, I have listed some of the major differences I have observed, as well as my reasoning.
  • Japanese people plan things well ahead of time. For example, a dinner with friends would normally be planned 3+ weeks in advance, as opposed to one week advance.
    • Why? This reduces the level of stress because they know what to expect and have time to prepare.
  • They are more humble. They speak less and listen more. Americans are more talkative and boastful, controlling the flow of conversations.
    • Why? This allows them to learn at a rapid pace and become experts of whatever they do.
  • They ask less questions.
    • Why? Not sure. Perhaps to make it easier on whoever they are talking to?
    • Why not? I am able to understand many things because I keep a list of questions and constantly ask people for answers.
  • They are cleaner.
    • Why? Space is tight in Japan. If people were not clean, things like fully packed trains would not be tolerable.
  • They are more honest.
    • Why? Liars need to remember who they lied to and keep covering up the truth with more lies, which takes a lot of mental energy. If you're honest, you don't need to remember and things just add up.
  • They are more helpful and less selfish.
    • Why? They can easily get help from others when they need it
  • They don't often intentionally try to hurt others feelings.
    • Why? Nobody benefits from this. In fact, everybody feels worse.
  • They are fairer.
    • Why? As a society, they don't have to worry as much about being taken advantage of or being ripped off.
  • They are more trusting of others.
    • Why? Firearms are prohibited. Violence is very uncommon.
    • Why not? I am still careful who I trust, as this is safer.
    • Note: Less than 2% of the population is foreigners, so they understand the background/habits of a majority of people they interact with. Understandably, they are less trusting of foreigners.
  • They are very concerned with how the appear in the group and try to fit in.
    • Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps because they can expect support from the group?
    • Why not? I don't care much what the group thinks about me. This gives me a great level of freedom to live my best. The only issue is that this can make it harder to stay in a Japanese group or make friends within the group. People may stop inviting me because I am "weird".
  • They give their lives to the job, working overtime to their humanly limits. Americans on the other hand are more likely to treat work as an exchange of their time for money.
    • Why? My hunch is that it is a habit passed down after World War II. After the War, Japan's economy was very weak and a lot of work needed to be done to restore it.
    • Why not? I prefer the American way because I value my free time and overworking reduces my quality of life (and productivity).
    • Note: Job security here is very good. Once you are in, it's unlikely you will get fired, and, if you do, you will likely get a generous leaving package.
  •  Their average commute to work time is at least double that of Americans.
    • Why? Housing near working locations is limited and expensive and companies generally pay transportation fees. It also seems that commuting is part of the culture here.
    • Why not? I chose to live walking distance from my office, as I don't want to waste time commuting (in a jam-packed train!).
  • They are less direct.
    • Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps because they don't want to hurt your feelings?
    • Why not? I choose to be direct, so we can resolve the situation and move on with no misunderstandings or bad feelings. Many times, I need to do this one-on-one, so we can talk freely without worrying about who is listening. Japanese people are generally okay with this.

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