Every culture has its own rules regarding etiquette. In the case
of Japan, some of these rules are straightforward while others
are more subtle. One of the basic concepts of Japanese society
is tatemae and honne. Honne means your true feelings while tatemae is the face you
present to the world. While they do not ignore their feelings,
Japanese consider tatemae to be more important in maintaining
a harmonious society.
A good example is the different types of
language used depending on who you are talking to. Keigo
is respectful Japanese language used to elders or superiors, and
sometimes even japanese people make mistakes with these multiple
layers of linguistic complexity. Other seemingly straightforward
things like seating arrangements at dinner or in a taxi are equally difficult to fathom.
But Japanese people tend not to point out mistakes made by foreigners
for fear of embarrassing them. At the same time, they don't really
expect foreigners to adhere strictly to these rules anyway. I suppose the key thing is that
making a bit of an effort to be polite and to show at least some understanding
of local customs will be noticed and appreciated and can make life a bit easier.
Here are some broad categories for different types of situations most
people will face at some point on even a short visit to Japan.