Sunday, November 16, 2008

Culture Shock.

So here it is, Day 4 in the Land of the Rising Sun. And let me tell you, boys and girls, there is some culture shock here.

They drive on the other side of the road. The street signs are totally different. Gestures that we use everyday are deeply insulting. It's definitely strange being in a place where you *might* be able to read 20% of the signs on the road, buildings, etc. If I'm going to function here, I damn well better learn some Japanese. Fortunately, most of the people here speak at least a little bit of English, and we're able to get by, but it seems only polite to actually put an effort in to learn their language. When in Rome.

Speaking of polite, the Japanese have a reputation for being very polite, and that reputation is well-earned. It has actually been kind of jarring, especially after spending almost 5 years of my life in Norfolk, Virginia, where politeness is as foreign as turn signals and healthy eating. It's not just a phony "I'm your best friend" type of politeness that we expect from car salesmen and politicians: there's an attitude behind it that backs up the polite smile, and that attitude is that they are genuinely trying to make sure you are happy.

Everything here has a certain ritual to it. Everything. Example: When you order at McDonald's, they greet you, they patiently wait while you figure out what you want on the convenient picture menu, make eye contact, etc. Then you put the money in a little tray -- not directly into the person's hand. She picks it up, makes change, hands you your paper money (and bows slightly), then hands you your coins (and bows again). Everything is carefully arranged on the tray (remember, this is McDonald's we're talking about), and they hand it to you with a smile and another bow. I'm sure we both looked like morons the first few times we stumbled through this little routine (you're supposed to acknowledge and return each bow), but they were always gracious and polite. Deep down, I'm sure a few of them thought things like "haha, idiots", "stupid Americans", or "you just insulted my entire family, and I hope you choke on your burger", but if they did, they never let it show.

I like it here. I really do. After only a few days of people going out of their way to be friendly, polite, and genuinely helpful, I think I'd rather gouge my own eyeballs out than return to a place like Norfolk. Though the language barrier and culture shock are going to take some adjusting, it's really not that bad. I think I'll manage.

I'm also becoming incredibly fascinated by Japanese and Okinawan culture. I was never all that intrigued by it, but I'm finding it more interesting now that I'm here. And I have a strong feeling that I will end up coming back to the States with a rather vast collection of ShiShi dogs...those things are just COOL...


  1. I want a ShiShi dog for Christmas now. Ethan (son) is afraid of them though he thiks they look scary

  2. This is amazing. I also share your interests and would like to stop by again soon. Thanks

  3. Ah, but which country produced 30STM? Yes. America. Well, America and Croatia.