One of the first Japanese words you will hear in reference to you is “Gaijin,” literally translated as “outside person.” For those who came from a heterogeneous society composed of immigrants from around the world, it may be troubling to be referred to as a “foreigner,” “alien,” or “gaijin.” The term “gaijin” is not generally used to downgrade foreigners, although some visitors, who live in rural areas where people are unaccustomed to foreigners, sometimes find it very annoying to have children point fingers at them and call them “gaijin.” Others wonder why Japanese do not identify foreigners as “Americans,” “British,” or “Australians,” rather than lumping all non-Japanese together as “gaijin.” Long-time foreign residents of Japan may also find it annoying to still be referred to as “gaijin,” but the continuing use of the term must be understood in terms of Japan’s historical development and relative homogeneity.Upon meeting each other for the first, second or umpteenth time, men and women usually bow, although the more cosmopolitan may shake hands.The status of women in Japan is complex and cannot be characterized in simple terms.Slowly, there is a growing number of professional women and professional women’s associations.For a typical couple, the female spouse is still generally expected to do all of the cleaning, cooking and other chores, whether she is working or not.Since your name may be difficult for Japanese to pronounce, you may be asked to provide a nickname, e.g., “Mak-san” for Mr. Japanese may use nicknames or first names among themselves but foreigners should refrain from doing so until they are asked!Invitations are extended either in person, by telephone or on printed invitations for formal receptions or dinners and all should be taken seriously.
Often, people will bow and shake hands simultaneously!Ask your advisor for advice about how to greet people who are older and younger than you, your peers, and other categories of people you will meet in Japan.More women continue to work after getting married and having children.However many companies have separate programs for women, usually non-career track, and follow practices that would be considered discriminatory in other societies.
When in doubt, always ask someone, preferably older than you, for suggestions. Most Japanese use the family name followed by san (Mr./Miss/Mrs.), sensei (literally, “teacher,” but used in addressing not only professors but also physicians, dentists, politicians), or the title of the person being addressed (e.g., Tanaka Kyoju / Professor Tanaka, Tanaka Bucho / Director Tanaka, Tanaka Gakucho / President Tanaka).
If you are in doubt and there is no one immediately available to ask for advice, use san.