There are many social differences between Japan and America. The Japanese way of thinking and living is very different than American’s. For example, Americans will, for the most part state their minds, Americans love their gossip, and they are very independent so they try to depend mostly on their own hard work to make things happen in business and life. The whole population is not a cookie cutter so there are some deviations hare and there, so how does Japanese culture stack up against Americans.
Let’s start with back talk. Japanese people are known for their hospitality and courtesy. When you first come to Japan you will be amazed at how nice everyone is, however as you become more and more immersed in the culture you will begin to see that there is a double sided sword with the Japanese. The Japanese will treat you with the up most respect to your face, but once you leave a room they can turn on you and talk about you in the most aphorist of ways, saying things that they would never say to your face.
This leads into the “fish bowl”, as I call it. In Japan as a foreigner, if you are working for a company and are single you are considered a representative of that company. That is why Japanese people always have business cards and exchange them, as a point of pride. Anything you do is reflected on the company so if you tarnish your reputation, you tarnish your company’s reputation. This goes double for when you are a member of a family. Any action you do within you community you are a representative of your family and if you were to disgrace yourself, you would disgrace your family. As discussed above people talk and your actions will eventually make it back to your company.
Which leads me to the last social difference – social expectations. As time wears on in Japan social expectations are slowly laid upon you. Once you live in Japan for a while and have a grasp of the language more expectations are placed upon you. The expectations don’t stop until you die. Even though some of these expectations would be common sense to many; to others it may be a hard to understand and accept.
My child is entering elementary school in a few years and I have already been signed up against my will to be on a parent board for festivals. When I asked my wife about this she told me that having people join parent boards was normal practice. Since I belong to such a small community where there are only 10 students in the first year class, they need parents so I was signed up. My father in law is the leader of the area so he is in charge of putting together festivals and special days. If we were to decline to attend the meetings and stay at home it would not have a bad effect on us as a family, however it would have a negative impact on the way we are perceived in the community and make life for each member of the family hard.
In the end Japan is not that different from any other country in the world. Just like any country there is gossip and back talking behind people’s backs. What sets Japan apart is the community and group mentality that Japan holds for people to live within its society. People in Japan are connected by the groups, jobs and families and try their best not to disturb the balance by not breaking social norms and doing what is called upon them. For a foreigner form a more individualistic culture, these may seem hard, but to live in Japan learning to deal with these social expectations is necessary.