As the coronavirus pandemic rages unabated, nations around the world have started looking at each other to understand how they might impede the virus's spread.

Some experts say customs and social habits in Japan such as wearing face masks during seasonal flu outbreaks, bowing rather than handshaking and removing shoes at home might play some role in hindering transmission of the virus, although to what extent is still unknown.

But even as the scientific evidence remains pending, populations in Western countries have embraced at least one habit — the donning of face masks in public — that just months earlier they had seen as a quirk of Japanese or East Asian behavior.