Cultural Differences between the UK and Japan – Experience of Studying Abroad from Asia

For international students living in a new environment/country, there is not only a language difference but also cultural differences to understand. In this blog, you can see some cultural gaps I felt since I came to the UK as an International student from Japan.

A picture I took in Brighton (Summer 2023)

List of Contents

  • Punctuality
  • Communication Style
  • Smile
  • Restroom
  • Social Norm


I believe some of you have heard of the high punctuality of Japanese society. Living in the UK has made me realise how punctual Japan is.

There are things that I realised about the UK’s punctuality as well. Firstly, many people plan or move somewhere ahead because trains and buses are delayed sometimes. Consequently, in my case, I found myself adopting a more punctual approach. Secondly, there appears to be less pressure on both workers and consumers in the UK due to the stance for punctuality, compared to Japan.

Communication Style

My perception of the Japanese communication style is very indirect because many people living there often share the same culture as well as norms. However, I felt the UK has a more direct communication style than Japan’s. For example, while Japanese people tend to let others guess how they feel, people I have met in the UK tend to say what they like and not in order to communicate and understand each other. 

As a person from Japan, I am learning so much from the communication style here.


In Japan, if random people make eye contact somewhere such as on a train or at school, they will break the eye contact with no reaction. On the contrary, people in the UK often make a smile if they meet the same situation to show their politeness and to be nice. 

In London or city areas, I personally feel that fewer people do that as the places are busy, but in Guildford where the University of Surrey is located, people often smile at each other at school or even in the town area. 

It is nice to directly see and try a different culture like this.


In terms of restrooms, I found out how Japanese restrooms are developed. For example, those often have a sound system, flashing technology, and products to make them smell like flowers. 

However, as a person who uses women’s restrooms, I find it really helpful that more restrooms provide sanitary products for free in the UK than in Japan, such as the University of Surrey and buildings of an organisation. 

It is very interesting to see what a country and society’s priorities are regarding restrooms.

Social Norm

In terms of norms, as described in the communication style section, Japan has many rules people try to follow such as putting their bags on the floor while being on a train if crowded to make space for others, giving something when people hang out in others’ houses, and many more.

Compared with that, the UK does not seem to have the same amount of strictly followed norms as Japan, so you will have more freedom in terms of how to act in public and other places. I believe that is because the UK has a larger population of people from various backgrounds.

Thank you very much for reading this far.  I hope you will have a lovely day.