Any foreigner who has lived in Japan, or even just visited for a few days, cannot fail to have heard “You’re good with chopsticks” from their hosts. This survey from goo Ranking into what foreigner in Japan activity surprises the Japanese (in a good way) looked at what other things people were impressed with. Chopsticks did figure in the rankings!


Between the 21st and 23th of May 2008 1,072 members of the goo Research monitor panel completed a private internet-based questionnaire. Exactly 50% of the sample were male, 5.7% in their teens, 12.9% in their twenties, 31.8% in their thirties, 27.5% in their forties, 11.3% in their fifties, and 10.8% aged sixty or older. Note that the score in the results refers to the relative number of votes for each option, not a percentage of the total sample.

I’d love to see number eight myself, so if any of my readers have suitable photos, please post them and I’ll feature them on the site!

Number eleven is a Japanese habit of sticking a hand out in front to break through a crowd, often seen as someone tries to pass down a train for instance. However, some foreigners have found that a bicycle bell works just as well.

I don’t understand number sixteen! Is this a popular image from manga comics?

Ranking results

Q: What behaviour by foreigners in Japan surprises you? (Sample size=1,072)

Rank Action Score
1 Writing difficult kanji 100
2 Bowing on the telephone 88.1
3 Using dialect 86.0
4 Speaking Japanese fluently 82.5
5 Using proverbs, idioms 77.1
6 Eating natto 74.1
7 Habitually using chopsticks 68.2
8 Getting drunk with tie tied around head 64.3
9 Using Japanese era dates, not Western calendar 62.9
10 Singing enka, folk songs 61.0
11 Passing through crowds with a “suimasen” and the one-handed chop 58.9
12 Sitting “seiza” 56.1
13 Slurping noodles 54.0
14 Dancing a bon dance 37.6
15 Using a toothpick 31.8
16 After a bath drinking fruity milk with one hand on hip 26.6
17 Sleeping on a futon on the floor 25.2
18 Taking off shoes before going indoors 24.3
19 Wearing a kimono, yukata 22.7
20 Queueing properly 20.1


BakaNa · April 24, 2012 at 21:17

About number 16 – I’m pretty sure it is, encountered it in quite a high number of anime.
I don’t understand number 2 though. Do Japanese people bow while speaking on the phone?

    haru yasumi · November 17, 2013 at 01:28

    do you not nod at people on the phone or shake your head for “no”? it’s the same i think. even though it’s meaningless it’s second nature so you usually don’t even realise you do it.

haru yasumi · November 17, 2013 at 01:26

what is “one-handed chop”

i have strong feeling i do that. and if so it must be one of many japanese mannerism i have unconsciously picked up from watching too many japanese films.

maria · January 2, 2015 at 19:01

I bow on the phone, and I’ve never been to Japan (YET!). Was raised in other parts of the Far East, though, so I must have picked it up while growing up.

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