Attitude towards foreigners and Internationalization
How Japanese view foreigners may be a subject of personal judgment. Japanese appear very friendly with foreigners but at the same time it's always hard to make them 'a friend'. They will admire you for seemingly smaller doings but may also sometimes suspect you. For a foreigner, it's usual to hear the expression 'nihongo wa jouzu desu neh', which means 'your Japanese is so good', no matter how worse is your Japanese ability. Their expression may come as a compliment but given your level of Japanese you may also feel embarrassed at times. In Japan, you often come across the word 'internationalization', a slogan to show that Japan is positively open to the outside world. However, very few seem to have understood this catch-word. Everyone aspires to it but is often confused when it comes to realizing it practically.
A vertical society and the group-culture
In Japan, everyone belongs to some group, and every group has people of superior rank and status. Here, employees are not necessarily evaluated according to the execution of their specific assigned duties. Rather, individuals are treated as part of a group. One may be denied a promotion just because of his/her age even if he/she possesses the required talent to move up. Japanese believe in long-term relationships with their bosses as they tend to stay with the same job even though other opportunity arise.
Japan is a male dominated society
I was surprised to find a country like Japan as a male- dominated society. Despite of high level of literacy and religious freedom, there exists discrimination against women in the Japanese society. Though the number of working women in Japan is very high which may give an impression that no gender gap exists. The status of women continues to remain low and it is rare to find a women senior manager or CEO in the financial world or big trading companies. Even in daily life, women have their role clearly defined especially after marriage. She is a house-wife and supposed to execute all the domestic activities including child caring / raising. Most of men tend to shy away from helping their female counterparts in activities like cooking or shopping. However, this trend is changing now a days.
Japanese ladies often act cute
As a tradition, Japanese culture prefers every little, cute and immature things. A foreigner often has hard time accepting the fact when an adult Japanese woman speak and act like a child. It seems that Japanese men want cute, child-like women rather than women who are more emotionally matured. And, most of the Japanese women put a priority on pleasing men (like in most of the Asian countries) and prefer to live a luxurious life rather than seeking a responsible position. In fact from the early days of school women are taught to act and look cute, not sophisticated.
Japanese apologize too much
Japanese apologize so often. Generally, an apology is required when an offense or violation of social norms takes place. But apologizing is a part of Japanese culture. A display of modesty is considered a sign of virtue. When people have a problem or they need to ask a favor, they will begin with 'sumimasen', which means 'I'm sorry'. Though, expressions like 'sumimasen' make the atmosphere favorable for cordial interaction, foreigners are often puzzled by this behavior of Japanese.
Like most other countries, Japan has also a lot of positive traits, and at the same time a lot of strange ones. Based on my knowledge and experience, I have tried to summarize some of the characteristics of Japanese society. I found the above aspects of Japanese culture a bit strange. In case you differ with me, you're entitled to have your own opinion.