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Unexpected Minor Culturally Shocking Things in Japan

by Ewa Nowogorski

You have probably heard of all the super culture shocks that people have experienced when coming to Japan, but here in this article I will discuss some personal things I have experienced that have subtly shocked me throughout my years living in Japan.

You don’t eat the peels of some fruits

Fruits such as peaches and apples are often enjoyed as they are in my home country, but I was given weird looks once when I ate a peach with its fuzzy skin still on in front of my host family. And not just to them, but Japanese people find it very weird that someone would even think of the skin, as for them it ruins the experience of the sweet, easy to chew fruit inside.

You can’t return items purchased in stores

In America, the consumer is well-protected, so if they buy something and are dissatisfied, they can return it for a full-refund, sometimes even if they don’t have the original packaging or receipt. If customers push, shop owners have no option but to give in, facing the greater risk of getting sued. However, in Japan, businesses come before consumers, and businesses actually have very little obligation to fulfill the promises they advertise. So if you find a product and it is broken, you will find it very hard to return it if the item does not have a physical warranty. I once purchased a cable at a very popular electronics store, only to have it not work. When I tried returning it, with the original packaging and receipt, I was refused and unable to. Apparently one must contact the product producer directly, and must provide solid proof that the item was faulty in some way in order to make any progress. I had to sell that cable for one fifth its original value at the local second hand shop.

Japanese people love solitary vacations and holidays

Older people, both men and women, but mainly men, have a habit of spending holidays alone, even if they have close friends or family. It still shocks me every time I hear about an amazing overseas trip some Japanese acquaintance of mine had, and be told that the trip was taken alone when I pry for more details. I always assumed that vacations and extended trips are not worth it for anyone unless done with friends or other close people, but for many Japanese people holiday trips are an important time to spend alone and be at peace, away from the social constraints of daily life.

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