• Eating in a place not meant for eating. Restaurants or bars, is seem as very strange. Do not more about while eating.
  • Don’t blow your nose in public. It is akin to flatulence in western cultures.
  • Do not pass food with chopsticks to somebody else’s chopsticks. Use the back of the chopstick for taking food from a communal plate.
  • Never put two chopsticks upright into rice; this is a funeral sign and quite offensive.
  • Laughing with your mouth open is like chewing with your mouth open, avoid.
  • Buddhist countries, or countries with high Buddhist populations, will be offended if you touch people on the head.
  • People expect you to not open gifts they give you in front of them, and expect you to try to refuse at first.
  • Do not wear shoes in somebody’s house. There are some subtleties here, but the point is about not bringing containment in from outside.
  • Toilet slippers always used in the toilet, and absolutely never outside of it.
  • Avoid commenting on Japanese topics with even a hint of controversy, like Chines/Korean relations or WW2. Foreign media reports of these events are unreliable, and you may look foolish and offend somebody.
  • It is best to remain emotionally neutral.
  • Downplay compliments, modesty is considered a virtue.
  • Tattoos are associated with organized crime, avoid displaying these.
  • Avoid talking on phones or eating in a train. This is like talking or eating during a business meeting.
  • Don’t talk a bath until you have already showered. You are expected to be clean before, like using a public pool.
  • The number 4 is unlucky. The rules are complex here, so try to avoid the number.
  • Never litter, always recycle.


  • Having you hand in your pocket seems complacent or arrogant in some places. Avoid.
  • Don’t shake hand with only one hand, use both hands.
  • Do not blow your nose at the dinner table.
  • Do not write in red ink. This is a superstition liked to dying.
  • Do not wear shoes in the house. People eat and sleep on the floor. Keep it clean. The lowed floor at the font of the house is for shoes, the raised floor is for bare feet/sox.
  • The oldest/highest ranking person eats first. Never eat before them. And wait till they leave before you do.
  • Never pour water for yourself, check or offer water to those around you first. Koreans put a priority on sharing.
  • Do not show the soles of your shoes, this is considered unclean.
  • If you eat at somebody’s house, buy them a gift. Gift from your own culture are a good idea.

TIPPING- In Japan and Korea this is a little offensive. People do their jobs without the extra incentive. If you feel you must give something, bring something from your culture and give that instead.

North Korean Tours are different and have their own rules, which will be covered separately.