Why Culture Smart Guides?
Culture Smart has just re-launched 22 of its bestselling titles. They've been totally re-designed and contain 32 additional pages of invaluable information to help people get the best out of their time abroad. As well as including a new section on relevant apps for each country and the country's covid response and what we can learn from each country's response to the pandemic.
With a new sleek and eye-catching design, Culture Smart Guides have quickly piled up onto my ‘To Be Read' book pile. These guides are not your average travel guide. Instead of telling you what to see and do, they educate! As someone who strives to be an ethical and sustainable traveller, knowing about the country, customs, and etiquette, is the first step when planning to travel to any country.
What They Include
The Culture Smart Guide “Japan: The Essential Guide on Customs and Culture” by Paul Norbury offers a lot of information in one place. Starting off with a comprehensive chapter on Japan’s history the reader gets transported back in time and learns about the different cultural influences that have impacted the country, as well as its very own religion called Shintoism.
The charts give the reader a good overview of historical periods, historic moments, and the different reigns. Chapters such as Gift Giving and Food and Drink give a well-rounded account of how to behave while visiting the country and what to watch out for when conversing with the Japanese.
Even sections that I would usually not be too intrigued by such as the business world or the economy, became suddenly fascinating when connected to the bigger picture on how Japan works as a country. Readers will especially enjoy the little snippets of real-life situations people could find themselves in and how to act appropriately.
One of the most striking aspects of this customs and culture guide is that the author does not rely on Orientalism or Exoticism to make Japan attractive to travellers. The language used is matter-of-fact and neutral, fleshing out history and traditions without making them seem lost in another time and place.
Even though there is an occasional lack of gender-neutral terms and the use of certain words such as “schizophrenic,” it is rather minor compared to other travel guides who heavily depend on outdated language and stereotypes. What is certainly not outdated in this guide is the mention of the COVID-19 pandemic and how the government has handled it.
The book does cover how the Japanese act towards foreigners, women, and LGBT+ members, and also touches upon unwanted attention for female travellers wanting to visit the country. It says that if the woman in question swiftly objects, this should ideally lead to an apology. A dedicated chapter on the laws and ways to reach out for help would definitely be an advantage.
Who Are They For?
This guide, as it says on the cover, is an essential toolkit for all travellers, tourists, and business people who want to land on Japanese ground running instead of drowning. For the traveller who prefers a fixed schedule and itinerary of what to do and see, the guide will leave you grasping for just that. It is meant to guide rather than instruct.
Reading the Culture Smart Guide has made me a more confident traveller and they will definitely be my go-to when wanting to learn more about a certain country. I am beyond excited for borders to open again and will make certain to always pack my very own copy of the Culture Smart Guides with me on my travels.
This review for “Japan: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture” by Paul Norbury was written by Sara Catherine Schmidt. The Japan guide is just one of their newly updated guides. For all other guides, click on the link below.
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