Japan Culture Shock | Japanese likes “telephone” game!

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  • SumoMe

Since I moved to Kyoto, my Japanese-culture-shock instinct has been awakened. lol It’s ironic that I have lived in Japan for 4 years in total, but never felt this much culture shock back in my home university APU.

Today, I realized that Japanese people like to play “telephone” game, which is a game that A whispers to B so that the msg will be transmitted to C.

In short, they don’t directly ask me questions, even though I’m standing right in front of them. Instead, they ask questions to another person who introduced me to them.

So today I met a very lovely Japanese girl. 🙂 I like her very much because she is very Genki and cute.

Situation :

A: “hey Shen, this is Kana.”
Me: “Hi Kana! How are you? wow, you look like a Korean!”

Kana: “eh?! (Japanese expression of surprise) are you Korean?”
A: “No! He is….Oh yeah you guess!”

Kana: “Korea!” (A just said no dear-.-)
Me: “No”
Kana: “errr..Philippines!”
Me: “No”
Kana: “Myanmmar!”
Me: “That’s pretty close! In Southeast asia, start with Ma.”

Kana:” Ma….Ma…. Maradona!”

That cracks me up! hahaha. For the 1st time in my life I heard others guess my nationality as Maradona! A soccer player lol

Kana: “Ma….Madagascar!!!”

Haha, it’s a pretty new guess for me, but I said Southeast Asia lol. (check my previous post about the Japanese lack of geography knowledge)
Shen: ” Malaysia!”

Kana:”ahh!!” and she turns to my friend A and asked “Is Malaysia the country which has many transexual?”

I heard it so I answered directly to her. “No, that’s Thailand. They even have toilet for transexual ppl.”

Kana: “heeeeeee!! (Japanese expression of surprise)” and she turns to my friend A again and asked “How old is he?”

And I heard it again. -.- I answered “well…I’m 24.”

Kana: “heeeeeee!! He is quite older than me!”. Then she asked my friend A again. “How did you guys meet?”

WELL….I HEARD it AGAIN. so I answered “We met in APU. My university.”


I have experienced this kind of situation for many times. Have you?

WHY Japanese ppl don’t ask directly to me, when I’m standing right in front of them? @@

This can be rude in some other countries culture. I don’t think they did it on purpose so i’m fine with that. Just feel interesting that they actually have the culture of “telephone” game. If you haven’t noticed it, try to pay attention on the next conversation when your friend introduce you to a Japanese. 😉


In my opinion,

Although it can be rude that playing “telephone” game in a conversation, I think there must be some cultural reason on this habit.

Maybe it would be rude for them talking too aggressively to a new friend because it might make the friend A who connected us feel ignored? Or maybe they have a culture that the one who is introduced tend to be quiet to show respect to the one who introduces?

I have seen many times in business or daily situation that, the Japanese who is being introduced tend to be quiet and passive. Most of the times the one who introduces will make a warm-up conversation first so that the introduced one will feel easier to speak. So you see this could be the way how they build their social relationship. It’s not about respect or disrespect.

In conclusion, I will say this:
There is no good or bad about culture. It’s all about understanding. 🙂

Shen Lim
A Chinese Malaysian, Blogger, Vlogger on YouTube, Tour Guide in Japan. He believes 1 day his videos can bring Japan and Malaysia together. マレーシア華人、ブロガー、YouTubeクリエイター、日本にいるツアーガイドです。いつか自分の動画は日本とマレーシアを繋げる架け橋になると信じています。 Read more ABOUT him.

This Post Has 19 Comments

      1. Hamyo

        😀 lol How funny the way that girl trying to guess your nationality Shen, i mean,,, look at that, Ma… Maradona? oh seriously a country in southest Asia, Maradona? 😀 lol seriously…. Japanese people have to provide a World map at their house i guess. Another Great and fresh funny post Shen, keep posting about this Japan Culture Shock i simply love this post and the way you written it so funny. XD “Ma… Maradona?” lol sorry… i just can’t control my self to laughing, that part really stick inside my head.

        1. Leong Shen Lim

          Hey Hamyo. Thanks for your comment ^^ See, even you laughed by reading the conversation, can u imagine how I reacted when I heard that? ….I fell down lol

          Yeah I will keep writing down all the funny episode I have with Japanese during my stay in Japan ^^ Thanks for dropping by ya. You will experience this soon Hamyo 😉

      2. Kiko

        I don’t know how I stumbled across your blog but it’s great! I’m a nisei and sometimes my parents do things that they can’t explain why, it’s just natural for them to do (even though they’ve been living in the states for 30+ years). This explain a lot of miscommunication since my brother and I are very much westernized lol.
        Hope you continue to write. Keep up the good work!

      1. akina minami

        返信ありがとうございます(* ´I`)きつくないですよ!


          1. Leong Shen Lim


  1. KNOCK

    I found your blog and I find really delightful. You are funny and witty. I am a South East Asian too.

    Anyways, I experienced this one! I visited a Japanese guy friend in the hospital. He is an exchange student here in my country. Anyways, when I visited him, I accidentally met some of his other Japenese male friends. He seemed happy about the accidental meet-up. He was smiling and laughing and seems shy about it all the same time. He looked genuinely pleased, I think. But I was a little taken a back because he did not “properly” introduce” me. His friends were just basically surprised to see me and greeted me “Konnichiwa”. They were fast to go and told me to “take care” and all other pleasantries. But my japanese male friend just did not introduce me properly like how we do it here in my country and in western countries. I think he introduced me in his own way using japanese language and they just conversed in japanese language which i did not understand. I felt quite offended but after having read some of your posts on how they do their introductions and this, I was enlightened.

    Also, after since we have not yet meet. He says he will be working hard for his TOEIC exam. But he also promises to meet me after that, which is this Saturday. He does not text often but replies readily when i text him. In my country, these are signs of disinterest. I just dont know with japanese guys. With some of the forums I read these are just usual behaviors of japanese guys. I read that they really prioritize their studies and they dont meet up with female friends too often. Can i get your thoughts about this too? Thank you so much.

    Again, I enjoy reading your blog. You write well. I hope to hear from you about my questions. hahaha 🙂

    1. Knock

      I am not sure if I actually asked my questions since I just ended up sharing so much about my fascination with your blog and also my experiences with this japanese exchange student I am “dating”.

      Anyways, based on your observation with japanese men (he is 23 years old) can i get your thoughts regarding the following matters:

      1. is it normal for them not to text often?
      In my country, if a man is interested he will text everyday almost every minute or at the least multiple times a day. But this guy does not text often. He also texts only short messages in English.

      2. Is it normal for them to cancel on their dates if they are really busy say for their studies or because they have to attend to a meeting?
      when he cancelled on me i just tried to understand because he said he had to attend to a meeting and i thought that he was just responsible.

      Also he told me that he will be working hard for his TOEIC exam so he will not be able to meet me until such time that he finishes his exam which is this Saturday. Are they really responsible with their studies like that? Thank you.

      1. Leong Shen Lim

        Hi Knock!

        Wow~ it is the longest comment I ever got 😀 Thank you so much for writing this to me ^^ I’m really happy to see some engagement happening here in my blog!

        First of all…..You’re in love girl!!! Congratulations ^^

        I’m not a professional of love, I’m afraid that I can’t give u an accurate answer for this because it really depends on many factors like personality, culture, values, language, and etc.

        But i will try my best to tell u my opinion based on my experience.

        1. is it normal for them not to text often?

        In my experience, Japanese text a lot, more than talking on phone. Talking phone can be a very tiring job because Japanese people tend to show respect to each other, especially when they can’t see u in person, they become more lively tune and alert in the conversation.

        I haven’t texted a guy with love intention so I don’t know whether a Japanese guy texts often or not when it comes to love. But 1 thing I can say is that, language ability is a difficult barrier for them.

        My Japanese female friends reply me very slow when the msg is sent in English. But she replies me very quickly when we speak in Japanese. I think Japanese people are careful about the misunderstanding of language, so they take longer time to send text with a language they are not familiar with. I suppose he has the same situation 🙂

        2. Is it normal for them to cancel on their dates if they are really busy say for their studies or because they have to attend to a meeting?

        In my experience, many Japanese take it seriously when they are to go out with new friends. This can be a tiring job for them because in their social manner, when they are having meal or socializing with friends, they will focus on the conversation and talking. They wouldn’t take out their smart phone and play facebook. They keep trying to find topics to communicate with the person sitting in front of them.

        This can be a very tiring job for them. If you say going out for a dinner, they tend to think that “dinner should be more than 2 hours”. So it’s a long and tiring job, right? That’s why sometimes they cancel the date suddenly when the day is coming close, because they feel tired after studying, or working, then when they think about “Oh i still have a 2 hours dinner!”, sometimes they call it off. Just my experience. It doesnt apply to all Japanese.

        But 1 thing I can say is that, they are really responsible with working and studying. (of course some people don’t)


        1) He doesn’t text you often maybe because he has language difficulty.
        2) He cancels your date maybe because he is tired and he doesn’t want to let you down so he chose to prepare for another date.

        Hope this helps ^^

        1. Knock

          Thank you for your reply.

          I guess, what you shared is true. In all fairness to him he does offer another schedule when he has to cancel on me because of a meeting/study/etc. And when we do meet, he is very polite not to text or be bothered by anything else, In my country it is common for people to just text even during dinner, which is a bit annoying.

          Anyways, thanks again.

          Maybe I am just used to overly romantic guys as here in my country. As I have read, jap guys are rather “cool” which may come off as cold or distant. hahaha. I really dont know. hahaha

          I really find your blog enjoyable. I wish you great success in your blog. Continue to write witty stuff 🙂

          1. Leong Shen Lim

            I totally understand your feeling Knock. As in my country, we use cell phone in dinner even though it’s with new friends ^^”

            And you are right, Japanese men can be a bit too serious and maybe considered as boring. (not all Japanese men) But I have a feeling that it is easier to talk with them about deep topic for instance life, career, philosophy, compared to my home country ppl. I think the high education rate contributes to this. (almost every Japanese is going to college after high school @@)

            Thank you again for dropping by Knock ^^ You are always welcome to comment and ask question, or criticize, discuss, debate with me on any issue about Japan 😀

            Oh ya, I’m on youtube too, if you are interested 🙂

            I make videos about Japan. Hope you find something new there 🙂 Have a good day!

  2. Anyyss Shuhaimi

    Hi shen lim!

    I’m Anis from Malaysia and currently studying in kyudai for master course. Really happy when I found your blog and your blog is really interesting and a lot of posts seem helpful to me since I’m new to Japan’s environment.

    Anyway, I also experienced this kind of situation. Luckily, I understood that is their culture at that time. Some of my lab mates thought that South East Asian people were awesome since we knew the world geography well. They don’t even know Malaysia and Indonesia are neighbours to each other. Hoho!

    Anyway, I really enjoy your blog. Keep posting good story!

    Lots of love from Chikushi Campus, Kyushu University. 🙂

    1. Leong Shen Lim

      Hi Anis! My pleasure to receive your comment 😀

      So glad that my blog helped you in some ways ^^ Yes I totally understand your feeling. Many Japanese students are not familiar with world geography especially Asia, Africa, South America. There is a western tendency in Japan society, we can’t blame them too much for that though. It kinda irritated me at the beginning but now, I feel happy to share the southeast asia knowledge with them 🙂 I found it interesting sharing something people don’t know. I hope you can be the Malaysia knowledge informer too in your university ^^

      Thanks again and come visit anytime! 😀 Welcome any comments ^^

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