Culture Shock: Nigiri Sushi Etiquette

There are several japanese table manners that should be adhered in the country. One intriguing one is NOT mixing wasabi and soy sauce when eating sushi. Doing so could overpower the taste of the fish, offending the chef. In addition, it could also mess its presentation, ruin the taste of soy sauce and  wasabi. Instead, a small amount should be put on the sushi, and eaten with your hands.

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When I eat sushi, I tend to mix wasabi in soy sauce before immersing the fish, since I am paranoid of food safety and my father’s advice that wasabi kills parasites in raw fish; I was not properly educated on how to preserve the best taste of sushi.

If I were faced with this, I would initially feel culture shock, pleasant surprise of learning something new and confusion (in how to use the wasabi) lasting a few hours. Intercultural adaptation would occur because of prior exposure to japanese food, avoiding information overload. However, continual exposure to the same criticism would cause anxiety and stress. Couple it with other inabilities to adapt, and I would feel depressed, distress and frustration, retreating to my hotel or leaving earlier, as it bruises my low self esteem worsening the experience. As Hottola puts it, the sense of control is important for intercultural adaptation and learning to occur.

With such foresight, I would minimise culture shock or confusion by researching on the social norms in Japan before visiting from any Japanese friends, people who have been there, tripadvisor or travel guides. Confusion can be avoided by learning the language, culture and customs beforehand; however, the best way to consolidate new adaptations would be to stay longer, migrate there or go back a second time.



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