Etiquette mistakes can be avoided in Japan.

The ancient customs of Japanese culture emphasize honor, humility and respect in ways that may seem unfamiliar to a westerner.Everything from your body language to how you eat can affect how others see you.It is considered a sign of respect for a guest to conform to local customs when most Japanese people are used to western visitors.It is possible to make a good impression by doing your research and understanding different social situations.

Step 1: It’s important to dress properly.

You won’t have to worry about buying clothes for your trip because most Japanese people dress the same as westerners.Japanese culture places a higher premium on professional attire in public places than it does in the west.You should pack and wear nicer clothing.In Japan, adult men don’t wear shorts.Expectations for women in Japan to dress modestly are higher than in the west.Japanese women usually don’t wear clothes that fit.In major cities like Tokyo, this expectation is not present.In Japan, flip-flops are not usually worn in public.You may get strange looks, but it won’t be considered rude.

Step 2: Understand your body language.

Body language signals are more understood in Japan than in western cultures.A subtle nod, smile or place of hands can change the meaning of your words.There are some body language signals that could be considered rude if you haven’t mastered them.Try to keep your back straight.It is considered rude and disrespectful to sit against a wall while standing.Don’t keep your hands in your pockets.Point with your hand.Pointing with a finger can be seen as a threat.

Step 3: Don’t spread germs.

People in Japan are very careful about spreading germs.In major cities like Tokyo, a lot of public places are crowded and can spread illness easily.Blow your nose in public.You can find a bathroom.If you cough into the crook of your arm, you will cover your mouth.It is polite to wear a surgical mask if you have a cold.

Step 4: Keep a distance.

Japanese people like to leave a bit more space between them.If both conversants were to bow at the same time, there would be no risk of bumping heads.Touching is discouraged and can be seen as aggressive.A common western action is to pat someone’s shoulder.

Step 5: To bow correctly, learn to do so.

Bowing is the most common form of communication.There are two types of bows that should suffice for a visitor.A deep bow is used when apologizing.To bend at the waist, keep your legs and back straight.If you want to return to the upright position, you need to bend far enough so that your face is pointing toward the floor and hold the position for at least 2 full seconds.You should perform a deep bow for anyone who is particularly prestigious.You are considered to be of higher station if you are substantially older than yourself.The equivalent of a handshake is a smaller bow.If you want to return to your starting position quickly, keep your legs and back straight and bend at the waist.Meeting people of the same age or station is appropriate.

Step 6: Before entering a house, remove your shoes.

It is not acceptable to wear shoes inside a residence.You won’t have to walk barefoot or in socks when you enter a home because it is customary to provide guests with slippers.The removal of shoes is required at some hotels and restaurants.If you see tatami, woven bamboo floor mats on the ground, remove your shoes.

Step 7: Learn how to give a gift.

It is considered a necessary act of humility to politely refuse a gift the first time it is offered to you in Japanese culture.At which point you can accept it, Japanese people will expect this and will continue to offer it.It’s a good idea to say “I am humbled by your generosity but I should not accept” the first time.To avoid the appearance of boasting about your wealth or generosity, say “I would like to offer this small token” when giving a gift.The gift should be received with both hands.

Step 8: Show up on time.

In Japanese culture punctuality is very important and showing up late to a meeting or event may indicate that you don’t respect the time of your friends.If you are late, apologize.

Step 9: Take care of your hands.

Dinner guests are usually given a bowl of water for washing hands or a moist hand towel.Some Japanese restaurants don’t have napkins.Japanese people use a handkerchief as a napkin for their meals.

Step 10: Wait until everyone has their food.

It is rude to eat or drink before everyone at the table gets their portion.Many westerners will not pay much attention to someone eating early in Japan.When receiving food, it is polite to say “itadakimasu,” which means “I gratefully receive.” When drinking from a communal pitcher, you should offer to pour a drink for others before pouring your own.

Step 11: The layout should be respected.

The presentation and layout of food is important with formal meals.In an improper fashion, do not reorganize the food, utensils or plates.If the hashioki is available, place your chopsticks on it when you aren’t using them.The soup bowl should be on the right side of your plate.

Step 12: Don’t throw away food.

It’s not a good idea to put food on your plate and not finish it.It is considered bad table manners to spill food on yourself or on the table.As you take each bite, you should hold the plate or bowl under your chin.