Japanese women don’t put their purse on the ground

Have you ever noticed that Japanese women never put their purse on the ground? It seems like a pretty straightforward thing but it really drew my attention in Japan. When Japanese women are in a café or restaurant, they will sit a bit forward on their chair and place their purse behind them on the chair, rather than placing it on the ground. The give up the comfort of resting against the back of the chair, to ensure their purse keeps clean. Taking into account this preference, many establishments provide special baskets for women to place their purse in. Very considerate and an excellent example of Japanese customer service.

Japanese purse baskets
The woman on the left has placed her purse behind her on the chair. Below the chairs are suspended baskets, intended as a place to keep your purse.
japanese purse basket
Another café where they offer a convenient basket to keep your purse off the ground.

Only when I started noticing the Japanese habit of never putting their purse on the ground, did I start thinking about how Belgian women do put their purse on the ground sometimes and how dirty that actually is. Since then, I take care to never place my own purse on the ground.

This Japanese purse etiquette is a good illustration of the importance of cleanliness and purity in Japanese culture. When it comes to daily habits, I find the Japanese often have very sensible views on cleanliness. After I left Japan, it took some getting used to a few ‘dirty’ Belgian habits again, like wearing shoes inside the house and shaking hands with strangers.


9 thoughts on “Japanese women don’t put their purse on the ground

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  1. Turkish women, too! My husband (also Turkish) makes fun of me when I put my purse or even backpack on a separate chair when we’re out. We live in the States, so I’m definitely an exception. But I simply can’t do it!
    I wish Turkish establishments did the same thing with the baskets. I’m sure everyone would appreciate this.

    1. I didn’t know Turkish women do this too! I hope it will become a habit in Belgium as well. The other day someone else moved my purse and put it on the ground, in the sand!!! It was shortly after writing this post, and it struck me again how people in Belgium absolutely do not seem conscious of how dirty it actually is.

  2. That habit I think comes from the fact that we take our shoes off indoors. It would be considered dirty to place anything inside your house that’s been on the ground outside.

    I put my bags, even very nice and expensive designer handbags, on the floor in public places and at work and because I do that I hate it when Japanese women put their bags on tables where we eat. I’ve seen people put their huge shopping bags from stores on restaurant tables and I am so bothered by that. It’s mostly women that do it but some men do, too.

    So what I’m saying is kind of opposite of what you’re saying but I do have reservations about not taking sneakers off on one’s bed, for example – you see that a lot in American movies. I do go into my apartment with my shoes on sometimes if I realize after I put my shoes on that I forgot something. That is very unJapanese though. ^^

    1. Yes, what you are saying is different from my experience. Would you say you are an exception, or are there more people who don’t follow these ‘rules’ about bags?
      I do have to confess that sometimes I too went back inside with shoes on when I forgot something. Shoes on the bed I would never do though, not even in Belgium.

  3. I love that! Wish it was a thing here in Australia. Though I once went to a Japanese Restaurant that had those baskets and no one knew what they were for! We also take our shoes off at the door and wear indoor shoes – there’s a lot of possums outside!

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