Ways that being polite gets on Japanese people's nerves

Good morning everyone,

It's looking like it's going to be a great Mother's Day! I hope you plan on doing something nice for your mom. With today's weather, a picnic would be a great idea, don't you think? Even if you aren't planning on doing anything with your mom, I'd recommend getting outside because it's going to cloud over later and then rain tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Also, from tomorrow, it's going to cool down a fair bit with daytime highs around 20C. From Thursday the sun and warmer temperatures will return.

There is such a thing as being too courteous, and an online survey ranked the 25 most common examples of just that in Japan.

Japan is legendary for its adherence to etiquette, formality and customer service. However, sometimes these acts of kindness can go too far beyond what people need from friends, family, and businesses.

Whether by making people feeling uncomfortable, burdened to reciprocate, or just plain embarrassed, these are 25 things that Japanese people could use less of, according to a ranking by the people over at the website Goo Ranking.

25 Yakigakari: The person sentenced to grill

Much like in the west, at Japanese barbeques or yakiniku joints, there may be one person in the group who takes the tongs and never, ever lets go. While constantly providing the rest of the group with grilled meat and veggies, they have almost no time to enjoy the food themselves.

This can make the rest of the group feel uncomfortable as they wonder why the yakigakari won’t give it a rest. This can also irk people who want their food cooked in a particular way, but can’t get past the yakigakari’s monopoly of the grill. I've been guilty of this one in the past, but I think it's more of a cultural thing-when I'm the host of the bbq, I should cook for everyone in my opinion. It'd be really weird in Canada if the guests started cooking things for themselves on the bbq.

24 Surprise Birthdays

Surprise!!! At least, you better act surprised – and thrilled for that matter – because you have suddenly become the star of an event you were not prepared for. Not only that, you have become the mood-maker for the entire evening’s festivities and will let everyone down if you’re not feeling particularly into the party.

23 Sharing Homegrown Vegetables

This doesn’t seem like such a bad thing at all, and actually isn’t. The homegrown foods often surpass store-bought in terms of freshness and nutrition. However, they can sometimes come in quantities that’ll make your head spin.

I heard you kind of like cucumbers, so here’s 50 or so that you’ll need to deal with in the next few days.

I’ve occasionally had to struggle with how to manage two large shopping bags full of lemons or needed to devour dozens of apples before my home turned into a graveyard of rotting apples. It gets to the point where you can’t help but wonder if the person really wanted you to enjoy their food, or were just looking to dump it off on some sucker.

22 The Nabe Judge

Known in Japanese as a “nabe bugyo” or “nabe judge,” they are the person at a group dinner who dictates what should and shouldn’t go into the mixed hot-pot known as nabe. Although, they’re acting in the interest of everyone having the best possible meal, their authoritarian ways of controlling what should be a casual meal can be annoying to others.

21 Constant Omiyage

Contrary to western countries who buy souvenirs for mainly themselves, Japanese travelers will often stock up on omiyage or presents for their friends and families back home out of a sense of obligation. They can range from snacks or liquor to clothing or distinct national items like maple syrup.

As someone who rarely travels, after a while this custom begins to make me feel like a huge mooch.

20 Mid-Year and End-of-Year Gifts

In Japan giving gifts for birthdays or Christmas isn’t quite as prevalent as some other places. However, there is the annual traditions of giving presents half-way through and at the end of the year. And with it come the same anxieties and work that go into present shopping as people everywhere feel.

19 Predictive Text on Mobile Phones

Even machines are capable of being intrusively helpful. Personally I’ve never had a problem with it. In fact, I’m typing out this entire article on a mobile phone and ham tonne had probation Yeti.(that last line is a joke, can you get it?)

18 People Serving You Food You Don’t Want

Most restaurants in Japan have shared eating where everyone picks from the same plate. This style is fraught with potential acts of rudeness unintentional and otherwise, one of which is a person handing you a plate of squid meat soaked in its own fermented viscera (shiokara) under the assumption that you want it.

In such an instance you would be the jerk for refusing the cephalopod guts, leaving you with no alternative but to dig in.

17 Friends and Family Playing Cupid

This one’s probably pretty universal. You might think there isn’t anything worse that being thrust into a potential relationship with some stranger at the whim of a third party, but we haven’t gotten to number 13 yet.

16 Handmade Candy and Presents

I have to think this one really hinges on how well the giver can make candy and presents, so it’s best to perhaps consider this a wild-card in the rankings.

15 Send-off at the Beauty Salon

I wouldn’t know this first-hand since I never go to beauty salons. You'll find me at QB House-the place that cuts your hair for Y1,000 and has you in and out of the shop in 10 minutes or less.

However, I have seen the pomp and circumstance that goes on after someone at a salon in Japan has just completed their cut, dye or whatever else. A group of staff crowd around the customer waving goodbye and offering their heartfelt thanks in enthusiastic voices on the streets for all to see and hear.

While it’s nice to be congratulated on our achievements in life, getting our hair done probably doesn’t warrant such acclaim.

14 Housework Done by a Husband who Sucks at Doing Housework

I can't imagine how this would ever be a bad thing. But then I'm pretty good at doing housework. How bad can someone be at it that it'd make you angry?

13 Getting Set up with Someone Else’s Ex

This one really shouldn’t need an explanation, but since it’s on the list perhaps one is in order for some people.

It’s exactly as if I came up to you and offered you my toothbrush. I tried it out a few times but it didn’t work quite right or just wore out over time.

Of course, your response would probably be to kick me in the shin and walk away, and would have every right to do so. So if you try to set someone up with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, you ought to be prepared for the same kind of reaction.

12 Convenience Stores Asking about Point Cards

Not a day goes by that I don’t get queried by my convenience store clerk as to whether I have a T-point-super-member card or whatever. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that just getting one would be less of a hassle than constantly being asked for one. Also, consideration of how often I’m apparently going to a convenience store to be annoyed by this logically indicates that I should take advantage of a point card.

Still…I refuse to give them the satisfaction.

11 Exchanging Birthday Gifts with People you Don’t Care About

I was going to comment on the custom of obligatory gifts to certain co-workers and other people you’re not all that close with. However, I was contacted by high-ranking members of the gift certificate industry who informed me that I “had better shut up” about this tradition if I “knew what’s good” for me.

10 Neighbors Receiving Packages on Your Behalf

I’m actually surprised this is even legal, but apparently it goes on in Japan. If a courier comes to your home when you’re not around they may go to your neighbor’s and ask them to hold it sometimes under the pretense of mistaking the address. Often, if your neighbor is like mine who refuses to have anything to do with you, they’ll just politely decline and the delivery staff will have to write out one of those little papers.

9 Getting a New Year Card from Someone You Haven’t Heard from Since Forever

In Japan, exchanging New Year Cards is an annual custom wherein people give out small postcards to pretty much every conceivable acquaintance from their high school friends to the guy who refills their water cooler.

With such a wide range of people it’s only natural to have or be an unrequited recipient of a New Year Card. While most people simply shrug it off, there still is a pang when you get that card from an old middle school friend whom you haven’t seen or heard from in 20 years. Upon realizing you haven’t sent them one, you have automatically become a jerk. Happy holidays!

8 Kids’ Clothes Bought by Your Mother-in-Law

Always a sticky situation: naturally when your mother-in-law presents you a with sweater using slightly outdated wording like “Mommy made a very gay baby!” you have no choice but to bring it out during family gatherings which hopefully aren’t public.

And for those with political in-laws.

Luckily kids grow up and into new sizes very quickly.

7 People Bring You Food From a Buffet

Aside from the increased exposure to disease vectors, part of the fun of going to a buffet is being able to customize your own dish to your liking. However, if someone takes the liberty of getting your food for you, you might find yourself filling up on pizza slices before being able to partake in any squid soaked in fermented viscera.

6 Public Toilet Paper Folded into a Triangle

I actually rather like “fire fold” in which the cleaning staff will fold up the end of a toilet paper roll into a neat little triangle. After all, it’s a sign that this toilet had been freshly cleaned just before you arrived.

However, from a glass-half-empty perspective I can also see issues. The cleaner had just finished scrubbing away at a toilet soiled by lord-knows-how-many people and then immediately, without washing their hands, folds up the toilet paper to finish the job. This could mean you are potentially wiping with the particles of fecal matter of an untold number of people.

5 People Worrying about Your Future Marriage and Children

This one will probably be in the top five of any such list around the world. The much loathed “When are you going to settle down and have kids?” question comes from a place of caring but is as annoying as it is futile.

I mean really, has anyone who has ever felt the need to ask that question actually gotten a reply with a definite timeline?

4 Hairdresser Chats

Again, I have no personal experiences with this.

3 Rescheduling after Refusing an Invitation to Go Drinking

Most people’s response when asked to join a group of people they loathe for drinks would be to suck air through their teeth and say, “Sorry, I have plans.” And just when you think you’re in the clear, the entire group decides to change the date just for you. This becomes doubly damning if the new date is when you actually have something planned and are forced to either cancel that engagement or begin to let the others on to the fact you don’t like them.

The foolproof method would be “sick relative that requires constant care” excuse. Of course in doing so, you run the risk of stirring up some bad mojo.

2 Clerk Arbitrarily Determines your Receipt is Unnecessary

This incident often occurs in the fast-paced retail world of convenience stores. I can perfectly understand where the clerks there are coming from as it’s highly unlikely someone needs a proof of purchase for a pack of Pocky.

So rather than force a useless slip of paper into your valuable pocket real-estate, they considerately just keep the receipt for themselves.

A lot of convenience stores work around this issue by providing a receipt bin at the counter for customers to toss it in if they don’t need it, but the problem still seems to persist for it to make number two on this ranking.

1 Being Escorted out of a Clothing Store After Purchasing Something

Although not as boisterous as the beauty salon farewell, clothing store staff will sometimes walk their customers to the exit as if the shop were some Byzantine labyrinth requiring a guide. Aside from being an unnecessary courtesy it seems a little bad from a sales standpoint since it bars the customer from making any subsequent impulse buys on their way out.

And so for those coming to stay in Japan remember: Never hog the grill, nabe, or receipt while accompanying your daughter-in-law out of a store where you just bought her baby some clothes after asking her when she’s going to have her next child and recommending your own ex-husband as the potential father because he makes great homemade candy and vegetables.

 

Japanese people would really hate that.

Have a great day!


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