Last Updated 23 Dec 2022

Becoming Culturally Competent – Japanese Culture

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Aside from European American culture, a culture that has always been interesting to me is Japanese culture. Japanese culture is very different from European American culture when it comes to their beliefs, values, and customs. To explain, some of the things Japanese culture consists of is using chopsticks to eat, not blowing your nose in public, not tipping, not pointing at others, and avoiding loud conversations on the phone in public (Putinja, 2017). In addition to those things, Japanese also bow instead of shaking hands when greeting someone, believe extended eye contact is disrespectful, believe silence should be included in conversations as a time of reflection, and open gifts in private instead of in front of the giver (Bernstein, 2017).

Taking all of that into consideration, there are many differences between Japanese and European American cultures. However, there are two main differences between these two cultures that stood out to me. These include the Japanese customs of not blowing your nose in public as well as avoiding loud conversations on the phone in public. For starters, the custom of not blowing your nose in public is very different in Japanese culture than it is in American culture. To explain, in America blowing your nose in public is common and socially acceptable. Whereas, in Japan this is considered nasty and impolite. Therefore, Japanese do not blow their noses in public locations. Instead they wear face masks and wait until they are in a bathroom or another private place before blowing their nose (Putinja, 2017). In addition to not blowing their nose in public, Japanese also do not speak loudly on the phone while in public locations. This is different from European American culture because in America it is very common to see individuals on their phone in public speaking loudly (sometimes even yelling). This is avoided in Japanese culture because they believe you should go to a more private location with less people before answering your phone in order to avoid disrupting the conversations of others (Putinja, 2017). However, if you must answer your phone in public, it is acceptable as long as you make the conversation as brief as possible and speak quietly (Putinja, 2017). In opposition to this Japanese belief, in America, we could care less how loud your phone conversation is or when you answer your phone. In fact, it is common to see individuals on their phone while paying for services at the register, ordering food at a restaurant, walking around town or in a mall, etc. This would be heavily frowned upon in Japanese culture.

With all of that being said, due to the fact that Japanese culture is so different from European American culture, this could impact my ability to care for a Japanese patient in a non-judgmental manner. For example, two cultural differences that could cause me to form cultural biases are how Japanese bow instead of shaking hands when greeting someone and how Japanese do not use extended eye contact when speaking to someone. In the first scenario, I approach a Japanese patient and try to shake their hand while introducing myself to them, however they refuse to reach out their hand and bow instead. This could create a cultural bias if I was not culturally competent in Japanese culture because I would not know that they bow instead of shaking hands. Therefore, I might become offended by their refusal of shaking my hand and begin to think that they think I am dirty and do not want to touch me, or I might think that they are being disrespectful. In the second scenario, I am speaking to a Japanese patient and they avoid looking me in the eyes and look at their lap or to the side instead. This could also create a cultural bias if I was not culturally competent in Japanese culture because I would not know how they normally behave in conversations. Therefore, I might begin to think that they are ignoring me and refusing to listen to what I am saying. I could also begin to think that they might not want to proceed with the procedure I am explaining to them, or that they are being disrespectful like in the previous scenario. When in reality they just believe that extended eye contact is disrespectful (Bernstein, 2017).

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