Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Word on "Culture Shock"

I just wanted to address the issue of "culture shock" because I realized that, in all the millions and billions of blogs about foreigners in Japan, the first few posts generally discuss the phenomena of culture shock. I have completely failed to address that issue - but I have my reasons.

At Madison, we were given entire lectures and booklets on culture shock, complete with seven-step programs and emotional help-lines. Our textbooks included amusing tales of both Americans and Japanese encountering culture shock. But for me, culture shock was something of a moot point.

I was born and raised on Japanese cultural imports. I spent my pre-school years eating up The Power Rangers. In elementary school I moved onto Pokemon. In my middle school years, it was a healthy combination of miscellaneous manga and anime, with some heaping doses of video games (I was definitely a Final Fantasy addict). Obviously, in high school I moved onto (and stuck with) J-rock. However, even the most "otaku" of Japanophiles will still, inevitably, encounter culture shock. In fact, Japanophiles probably receive the worst shock of all, since they usually have unrealistic, often bizarre and mistaken fantasies about what Japan is like (contrary to popular belief, the country isn't populated solely by thin, beautiful models in tiny school girl uniforms who turn into Moon Princesses and fight evil. Also, contrary to what many J-Rock fans believe, this isn't the land of Beautiful Men - though there is a SURPRISING amount of them, lol).

For me, culture shock simply wasn't meant to be. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, where people of Asian descent were not only commonplace, they were sometimes the norm. I had easy access not only to Asian imports, but also to Asian people themselves. I was friends with many people of Asian descent, both born in America or having come from Asia. I even went through some years of my life in which the majority of my friends were probably of some sort of Asian descent. I've cooked dumplings with Chinese people, I've eaten sushi with Japanese people, I've shared samosas with Indians. Not only that, but I've traveled to Japan once in the past.

This may sound shocking but, when I got off the plane in Japan, nothing seemed out of the ordinary or out of place for me. When something unexpected occurs in Japanese culture, it's not "oh, wow, I can't believe that's how it is here", it's a matter of "oh, wow, I can't believe I FORGOT that's how it is here." At Narita airport, I rode the trains to Nerima and... nothing in the shape of the buildings, the size of the cars, the looming, distant mountains seemed unfamiliar. The moment I stepped off the plane, I was in complete and total acceptance of where I was and how I'd spend the next ten and a half months of my life. Very little takes me by surprise or jostles me in Japan. Culture shock simply didn't happen.

What they SHOULD lecture us on is "new school culture shock." That was the hard part for me - switching universities. I LIKE the way things are run at Madison. At Sophia, things seem messy, unorganized, often unfair. But that's just the way of Japanese universities. Switching schools is hard. Switching countries was fine but... I still long for Madison, lol. I don't like the shift in workload and I REALLY can't handle the one-and-a-half hour class periods. UGH. Today, I had history class from 1:30 to 3:00. Starting at 2:00, I wrote down what time it was every time I looked at my watch. I'm not making this up, this is what I wrote: 2:00...2:03...2:05...2:10...2:15...2:18...2:21...2:28...2:30...2:32...2:40...2:43...2:44...2:50...2:53...2:55...then she mercifully ended class five minutes early, lol. Welcome to my school life XD

Anyways, since we're talking about culture shock, I'll mention a couple things that DID surprise me (though they're trivial things).

1. Japanese people LOVE mayonnaise. They put it on EVERYTHING. It's normal here to eat raw cabbage drenched in mayonnaise. Very odd.

2. Despite Japan having the most natural disaster of any place in the world, they are total pussies when any natural disaster comes their way. Oooooh, the typhoon's making it windy, let's cancel school, ooooooh! Shut up. Try a Madison blizzard, seriously.

3. You will NOT lose weight in Japan. Japanese people eat as much shit as we do (though they have much better portion control and time-management about the whole thing). You may not necessarily gain weight in Japan (well, you will at first, as many foreigners who travel here know), but you sure as hell won't lose any. Japanese people looooove cream-filled breads, fried food, and ice cream.

4. Japanese subway toilets are dirty. Ew. The rest of the country is spotless - you can eat off the damn streets it's so clean - but the subway toilets are nasty.

5. There are some obese people here (it's pretty rare though, lol).

That's all I've got for today, lol.


  1. lols, Melinda told me today that Chiharu has been following your blog and was surprised at how often you swear xDD

  2. Oh shit, seriously?! XD Hahahaha. Well..... that's just me, lol. I've always had an incredibly bad potty-mouth - never in real conversation, but on the internet or when speaking very colloquially. I can also speak eloquently when I want to, lol. But when I'm in a bad mood - watch out f-word, you're about to abused, lol.