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Culture

Adjusting To A New Culture

If you’re going to travel abroad, it is probably a good idea to research the cultural differences between your own country and the country you wish to travel to.  Seeing that Americans tend to assume the rest of the world changes to fulfill their needs, they can sometimes draw a lot of attention.  Anyway, that is not my focus.  My point is to discuss some basic cultural differences, tangible and intangible.

Prior to flying to Japan I read various books and took classes that prepared me for the differences between America and Japan(preparing to limit culture shock).  The two countries are quite similar from the exterior, but when you peel back a few layers the two can be polar opposites.

For example, shoes are removed before you enter a persons house.  However, this is not only restricted to houses.  Schools, restaurants, and other public places require you to remove your shoes before you step onto the main floor.  It may be confusing when you first experience it, but you catch on fairly quick.

Next are convenience stores.  Convenience stores truly are convenient.  You can do just about anything at a convenience store.  It’s comparable to a gas station on steroids.  To name a few things, you can:

    • buy sports tickets, movie tickets, bus tickets, or concert tickets.
    • buy school supplies, electronic goods, or everyday household goods.
    • buy umbrellas, gloves, hats, simple clothes, or standard beauty products.
    • buy shampoo, detergent, deodorant, soaps, etc.
    • buy beverages, eggs, fruit, sandwiches, pre-made meals, snacks, candy, fried or boiled food, or alcohol.
    • buy magazines about travel, news, sports, entertainment, or even promiscuous stories.
    • pay your bills.
    • use an ATM, photo copier, or restroom.

And the best part about it, they are located EVERYWHERE.  Some big names you may be familiar with are 7/11, Circle K, Thanks, Lawson, and Family Mart.

Another difference can be approached when shopping.  Foods are in large varieties, shapes, and sizes.  Although the sizes vary, the largest size is typically not so gargantuan.  One example can be found quickly when buying milk.  Milk does not come in one gallon, half gallon, or pint size containers.  Instead, milk is found in 1,000ml cardboard boxes, along with every other fruit juice, healthy beverage, or sometimes coffee.  You can of course find smaller sizes, but never one gallon jugs.  Another thing you may commonly see is 1.5L bottles of Coke and Pepsi rather than the standard 2L.

Of course, changes do not stop with beverages.  Bread can be a horrific sight in Japan.  I may be exaggerating a bit, but the lack of wheat bread is borderline ridiculous.  Not only that, but the variety of bread consists of all sorts of strange mixes.  To name a few, strawberry, blueberry, cinnamon, coffee, and buttered.  I mean come on, pre-buttered bread?  On top of that, bread comes in bags of 4-8 pieces.  Each ‘loaf’ is the same length, but the slices are cut bigger or smaller depending on whether you prefer 4, 5, 6, or 8 slices of bread.  I go with eight slices considering all others are monstrous.  To top it all off, each bag is roughly $2.00 and would probably be close to double what a loaf goes for in the U.S. considering the sizes.  I’m not sure what book can prepare you for something as treacherous as this. *slight sarcasm*

In addition to the bread, you can always find a large assortment of sandwiches, rolls, doughnuts, and other breaded items when shopping around.  Even convenience stores are stocked heavily in such items.  The sandwich below is a Cookie Cream Sandwich Roll.  In other words, chocolate cookie cream was added along with 450 or so calories. *Yum!!*  My only question is, where’s the lunch meat!!?

And next to the breads, you can find plenty of fruits and vegetables that look somewhat similar to what you will see in the U.S..  The only difference being is the variety.  Vegetables are a lot more abundant in terms of variety, and some of them I have never seen until I came to Japan.  The same goes for fruits considering Japan is close to some countries with very tropical climate which fruits can thrive in.  Please enjoy these pictures, I got quite a few strange looks and a few workers were laughing at me when I was taking pictures of the produce.

While we’re discussing shopping items, why not include something that you might not be able to see a lot of places in the world.  People in Japan love to eat everything.  Whether it’s seaweed or strange animals, it’s possible you can find it at your local grocery store.  How many of you have looked at an octopus or a squid at the zoo and thought, wow that looks good!  Well, I have.

Moving on, clothes dryers are something of little importance in Japan.  Although they are not uncommon, they are rarely used.  Instead, clothes are hung outside in the sun for a more natural way of drying your clothes.  It is said that the sun helps to kill certain bacteria that remains after washing.  As a result, doing laundry takes a lot more time.  I have also heard that a downside to women hanging their clothes outside is that some of their delicates can go missing.  Hopefully nobody is interested in what I hang outside.

Pocket tissues are one of the first things you are introduced to at large train stations.  People will approach you in or around the station and simply hand you tissues filled with advertisements.  They are usually innocent, however that is not always the case.  The top and left ads are for couple matchmaking.  Hello Kitty at the bottom is advertising a potential Christmas present.  Not so innocent, on the right, is a club to meet girls.  The clubs can be found throughout Japan and are mainly based in big cities or by train  stations.  Their main targets are middle aged men or college students, but I’ll get into details in another blog.

The last custom I would like to address is gift giving.  Japan is well-known for its gift giving skills.  More specifically, it is extremely common to give souvenirs or gifts to close friends and family members.  In other cases, teachers can benefit greatly from this custom.  All teachers are not included, but I’m one of the lucky ones that is treated to some souvenirs from time to time.  I’ve been given snacks and candy souvenirs from Okinawa, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and others amongst them.  In addition to souvenirs from Japan, I’ve been lucky enough to receive gifts from Korea, Canada, America, Sweden, France, and Brazil for no reason other than being a part of the culture.  Here are a few I’ve held onto.

There is no special rule concerning what to give.  I once had a teacher who told me you could give hand towels with strange logos attached to them as gifts.  Chances are you won’t need to use the hand towels for anything, but it’s a good idea to keep it and write the senders name on it.  Next time the person comes to your house, you can take it out of storage and present it in your bathroom.  The point of it all being that importance is placed upon the gesture and not so much the gift itself.

So if you ever go to a different country, there will always be things you’ve never read about.  Some differences are so simple that after a while you forget what’s different about it.  Other things stick out no matter how long you are there.  Some differences are better than others, and some you’ll wish to change everyone’s mind about it (dryers dryers dryers).  Otherwise, you will be hit hard with culture shock.  Sometimes you can’t prepare for what happens, but it’s good to hear from others that have experienced it to soften the blow.

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About travelnihon

I recently graduated from the University and am currently teaching English to all ages in Japan

Discussion

257 thoughts on “Adjusting To A New Culture

  1. Though my future travel plans do not include Japan as of yet, understanding the culture of any place I visit is helpful.

    Posted by marsha8of9 | February 4, 2012, 6:58 pm
  2. I think the biggest thing for me was going into stores and the employees yelling “Itarashimasen” that really freaked my family out a lot. We always thought they were yelling at us for no good reason. My Mom used to think it was their way to stop shoplifters.

    Posted by dafarmer | February 5, 2012, 5:51 am
  3. HELLO ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ
    I heard about your blog and I’ve read the post.
    Interesting ( ̄▽ ̄)
    Do you have Twitter BTW? And do you think you could tell me your ID?
    Thank you.

    Posted by honya | February 9, 2012, 2:24 pm
  4. Here in NY, I see people hung clothes outside…
    Also, you can find octopus in fish market.
    (=^^=)/

    Posted by Paparinko-chan | February 9, 2012, 4:02 pm
    • That may be true, but it is not common to see clothes hung outside. Also in some areas in the U.S., hanging clothes outside is in fact against the law. In addition, many people see it as a sign of poverty which causes many people to stray from the act of hanging clothes outside. It is a custom of the past in the U.S. and with new technology constantly being pushed into current generations, dryers have made drying clothes outside nearly obsolete in a sense.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/us/11clothesline.html

      Of course you can find octopus commonly at a fish market or specialty market in America, but in Japan you don’t have to go to a specialty market. Octopus, among many other ‘rare’ items, are commonly found at local supermarkets and grocery stores which is quite different from the U.S..

      That being said, I hope you enjoyed my perspective.

      Posted by travelnihon | February 9, 2012, 5:05 pm
  5. get your own dryer. i’m sure your rich American ass can afford one and stop complaining.
    also there is a place call laundromat and coin laundry in Japan where multiple dryers are equipped.
    we like drying clothes outside and it’s good for the environment too.

    Posted by yourmom | February 9, 2012, 6:40 pm
    • Thank you for your critical insight. If you had any common sense then you would understand that this post is an observation, a mere difference between two cultures. And popular to your insidious, uneducated prejudice, all Americans are not rich. I don’t appreciate negative comments such as this that create stereotypes towards people I care about in the U.S. and Japan. If there is something you would like to constructively criticize, then I welcome your comments. If not, then this blog is not for you.

      Posted by travelnihon | February 10, 2012, 3:28 am
    • Could you possibly sound more biased and ignorant? I think not.

      Maybe you should do yourself a favor and actually read the whole blog post before making such snap judgments about an entire country and it’s people. You will find that we have thousands of sub-cultures in America, along with many different sets of beliefs and values. Do some research before assuming that we are all rich and have money flying out our backsides. TravelNihon posted this to warn travelers to research the culture differences, which is good advice… Even if you’re just trying to form an opinion of one.

      I prefer using a dryer because it allows my clothes to be softer and more comfortable to wear. This is a personal preference, not some mandate by society. I know a lot of people (here in America) who hang their clothes to dry them when the weather permits it. It saves money on the electric bill, and helps the dryer last longer.

      When one cannot (or is not allowed one by the landlord) afford a washer and dryer, they use a laundromat. That requires hauling the laundry to another location to do the wash, and then you have to haul it all back home. Dry clothes are much easier to transport than wet ones, and there’s no risk of damaging your car interior in the process.

      Posted by cynicaldriver | February 14, 2012, 6:51 am
  6. Dryer expenses a lot of electricity (means generating much CO2 and consuming much fuels at power plants) so it’s not preferable way. Developing a dryer not by electrical heating may be the best, but otherwise drying by sun is better than using a dryer at least from the view of sustainability of the human life and the earth.

    Posted by ken | February 10, 2012, 4:46 am
    • My post is so minimally focused on dryers in Japan. I agree it’s a great way to save electricity. If you read my post and the translation, then you may agree that the translator took some liberties when translating it. I am well aware of the earth’s condition.

      Posted by travelnihon | February 10, 2012, 1:17 pm
  7. Like Ken, I felt your unfavourable feelings to the ‘dryer problem’. I agree it was just an observation, until the last paragraph came out. I don’t like your attitude ‘wishing the Japanese to change their minds and use dryers’. Even if drying clothes outside indicates poverty in US, it is not so in Japan. It is totally normal. I am surprised at your lack of ability to adjusting to a new culture, or is it prejudice which is making you dislike this culture?
    Don’t complain about the way in Japan, when it is not harming you in any way. There are enough dryers in Japan, and nothing is stopping you from using them.
    Women, especially young women dry their underwear indoors. You can do the same if you prefer not to hang cloths outside.
    I mostly enjoyed reading your other ‘observations’, but the bread part also had a bunch of your impressions added to your observations.

    Posted by Noboru | February 10, 2012, 3:58 pm
    • There is sarcasm interlaced with the final comment, I obviously don’t expect an entire culture to change for me, nor should anyone. Along with the idea of people hanging their clothes indoors rather than outdoors to avoid theft. I am not worried in the least about people stealing my clothing and it can happen in any country, it is something that is sadly a part of our society. You are reading into something too much that isn’t there. I’m in love with this country, it has so many things to offer. There is a reason why I chose to live here for an extended period. Yet people seem to want to critique me for my observations rather than compliment me for the several other posts I have written prior to this of which compliment Japan profusely on it’s beauty and opportunities.

      I’m sure you, like others, have found my blog from a website that within the title can be seen immediately as targeting me. However, my title suggests something much different. You seem fairly intelligent so you should understand that reading one article or entry is not enough to understand what a person may be trying to say. Rather, when compiling an opinion you should read further entries in order to properly understand what the author may be trying to say. It’s as if you published an article with a single, unclear source. I hope this helps.

      Posted by travelnihon | February 11, 2012, 9:14 am
    • I think Noboru-san pretty much nails it. I enjoyed reading this post for the most part — certainly it makes me miss Japan — but your complaints about dryers and bread contained an intolerance that was not present in your comments about, say, milk cartons. Since the rest of the article seems much more open-minded, I presume that this was just a slip in your presentation.

      I was also amused by the two commenters who agreed that shop owners yell, “Itarashimasen!” when customers enter. I’m not even sure that’s a word in Japanese. 🙂

      Finally, you mention that your neighbors (especially young men) tend not to acknowledge your greetings when you see them on the street. If you want to change that, here’s what you need to do: Make friends with one Japanese person in your neighborhood. Like, real, go out for coffee and chat friendship. Once one person in the neighborhood essentially vouches for your character by interacting with you socially, the word will spread that you are an okay guy, and people won’t be so shy. Now, how you make that friend, that may be the hard part.

      Posted by Bill | February 13, 2012, 11:22 pm
      • “Itarashimasen!” when customers enter
        ———-

        it should be ” Irasshaimase”- welcome to my shop…

        Posted by Hà Linh | February 14, 2012, 11:48 am
      • Intolerance is quite a strong word. Feel free to interpret what is written however you see fit, but the post was not meant to seriously criticize anyone. It more or less lists a number of differences and what I appreciate or don’t appreciate as much.

        And I noticed the comment about “itarashimasen” haha. I wasn’t going to point anything out about it, but since you brought it up again, the actual term is いらっしゃいませ “Irrasshaimase”. In other words, welcome!

        As for my neighbors, I react the same way to them as I would if I were living in America. If they were to extend hospitality my way, then I would return the favor. If they would rather ignore me, then I will allow them to keep to themselves. Japanese people are stereotyped as being shy people. They even quickly label themselves in such a fashion. Therefore, I take no offense to being ignored. It makes me laugh more than anything. So anyway, I move on and look for others that are interested in talking with me.

        Posted by travelnihon | February 14, 2012, 12:53 pm
  8. It is true that they are trying to save electricity and to be ecofriendly. We have to understand that power utility is double in Japan than the US as it is island country that has no energy resource.

    However, it is not main reason for them in my opinion. You may know that Japanese people is strict to keep things new as much as possible. You may know that everyone covers their books with a paper cover in Japan. It is to keep them new rather than to keep secret them.

    In that sense, dryer is assumed that can spoil their clothes quickly. With the same reason, about half people in Japan prefer to wash their car by hand and don’t use car wash machine as their car can get scratches with it.

    Posted by uiweo | February 11, 2012, 6:06 am
    • Most students in America cover their books throughout grade school and high school. I also know a lot of people who prefer to wash their own car, including my family. It’s fun to see how similar we can be despite being half a world apart.

      Posted by travelnihon | February 11, 2012, 9:18 am
  9. I had NO idea you also removed shoes before entering restaurants and such…wow.

    Interesting read… 🙂

    Posted by Mikalee Byerman | February 13, 2012, 5:10 pm
  10. Reblogged this on msamba.

    Posted by agogo22 | February 13, 2012, 5:35 pm
  11. Amazing post! I love learning about different cultures, this was really fascinating! One day, I will definitely make it out here, and experience this myself! Love!

    Posted by ABTERRA | February 13, 2012, 5:52 pm
  12. A very useful set of info, may I say. Tho’ no culture shock here re drying clothes in the open air – always has been the best way. Thanks so much for sharing this well researched info 😉

    Posted by DoF@theinfill | February 13, 2012, 5:54 pm
  13. Enjoyed your post. Taking my shoes off would make me feel at home (we don’t wear shoes inside our house- so much easier to keep the house clean)

    Posted by an uncommon girl | February 13, 2012, 6:08 pm
    • Me too! We always take our shoes off at home, but a lot of my friends always wore shoes in their house. haha

      Posted by travelnihon | February 13, 2012, 6:57 pm
      • Well, it’s good to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t wear “outside shoes” at home.
        Wonderful post. Just loved all those tiny differences. I actually took a class in college just because it talked about cultural differences like these. Keep up the cool writing.
        Nice gravatar/display image you have… row away my friend, row away.
        Oh, and have a good Valentine’s Day.

        Posted by The Boy! | February 14, 2012, 4:50 pm
  14. I grew up in Hawaii which is almost like a mini-Japan so the culture of Japanese is something that I am very familier with. It really can take a lot of adjustment to get used to. For example, when you see a “punk” type in Japan, they are not like their counter parts from the other side of the world. They spend countless hours selecting the right shirt, and ensuring that their hair is perfect for the part. There does not seem to be that, “I will just toss on a t-shirt and some sweats and go to school” mentality that you see in other parts of the world.

    It seems that everywhere besides the U.S. has smaller food portions. I really wish that we would have the same attitude here because for a single person, it means you can only buy small quantities at a time or you will be throwing away spoiled food. And yes, everything is in small containers, pouches, and other oddities. Even our cars are massive compared to other countries. Large is king in the U.S.

    Cool blog!

    Posted by Steve Z | February 13, 2012, 6:10 pm
  15. you just killed me with all those food photos. I LOVED THEM!

    Posted by eva626 | February 13, 2012, 6:11 pm
  16. I loved this post. Gee…I wonder what those grown men use the tissue paper for?? hahah

    Japan is a city I’ve always wanted to visit, and I will one day.

    Posted by N. Congo | February 13, 2012, 6:21 pm
  17. After living in Japan for seven years and moving back to the states I have reverse culture shock. Has that happened to you yet! The first thing I noticed was how much louder America is compared to Japan. That could also be based on the fact that its easy for me to block out Japanese than English but one thing for sure I was not ready for that. Hahahaha “Itarashimasen” thats funny that some one commited about that yeah that use to crack me up too. Not so much because of the yelling of the word but how high thier voices are when they say it. Use to get me laughing everytime walked into a shop. I think the thing that was hardest for me to get adjusted to was when passing a neighbor and I would say konbanwa, or some other informal greeting they would not respond or even recognize me.

    Posted by Dave | February 13, 2012, 6:33 pm
    • YES! Although I rarely see my neighbors, when I do spot them, the younger men especially ignore any greetings I send their way. The most I get from them is usually a head nod, but other than that they don’t say much.

      Posted by travelnihon | February 13, 2012, 7:23 pm
  18. Very interesting post. I like the way foods are packaged there. We should do this in the US. It just looks nicer and even healthier.

    Posted by graciehart1 | February 13, 2012, 6:35 pm
  19. Wait till you start discovering the plethora of hilariously bizarre stuff in the beauty section of Department Stores – like nose bridge enhancers, different kinds of bath salts, butt, leg, tummy, arm wraps – only invented by the Japanese. You can do a whole blog on those things.

    Posted by lostnchina | February 13, 2012, 6:38 pm
  20. Great “Stranger in a Strange Land” post! Awesome pics, too!

    Posted by The Hook | February 13, 2012, 6:39 pm
  21. i think you did a very good survey before going to japan !
    The pics are also good

    Posted by Jayati | February 13, 2012, 6:43 pm
  22. I love this post! Especially the convenience store which sounds more like a Walmart!

    Posted by unpocorodriguez | February 13, 2012, 6:45 pm
  23. Hi!!
    Really interesting post!
    Thank you!!!
    Laura

    Posted by laubao | February 13, 2012, 6:46 pm
  24. loved reading your post! maybe they are not big bread eaters? haha =]

    Posted by rompau30 | February 13, 2012, 6:57 pm
  25. Great blog! I’ve always wanted to travel to Japan. Love the pics.

    Posted by cooktravelwrite | February 13, 2012, 7:25 pm
  26. Really Interesting Blog! Thanks so much

    Posted by OHARA DESIGN GROUP | February 13, 2012, 7:55 pm
  27. Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss and commented:
    Your blog is amazing and interesting!

    Posted by sweetopiagirl | February 13, 2012, 8:03 pm
  28. i loved this post! i was born in japan and spend part of my youth there (5-10yrs old). i can still imagine the scenes and smells of country. it’s actually the only time i’ve been to disney (tokyo disney *haha*). one of my oldest memories whenever driving is passing by pachinko places. i always wished i was old enough at the time to see what all the hype was about *haha*. thanks for the walk down memory lane – enjoy your time there!

    Posted by zenmamajo | February 13, 2012, 8:19 pm
  29. Oh, I miss Japan! Anytime I found myself getting bored I just took a short trip to the grocery store and, wah-lah, boredom gone 🙂 Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Eat some onigiri for me. Have you tried an onsen yet? I know, weird for Americans, but once I got over myself it became, by far, my favorite thing to do.

    Posted by MelissaM | February 13, 2012, 8:20 pm
  30. Haha I love that they have biscuits with “DARE” written on them. Do they mean “DARE” to eat it? Lucky it’s not “TRUTH” because I think I’d be somewhat scared to know the ingredients!

    Posted by astronautel | February 13, 2012, 8:30 pm
  31. I’m headed off for Sao Paulo, Brazil, so this was very enlightening, since I’m sure I’ll find so many cultural differences there. Kind of gives me a “heads up” about what to expect. Thanks.

    Posted by Snart | February 13, 2012, 8:35 pm
  32. Nice photos. Thanks for sharing. I just can’t get excited about eating octopus, though. Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

    Posted by Constance V. Walden | February 13, 2012, 8:54 pm
  33. I travel to Japan for work and the first time I went, I loved the abundance of convenience stores! Sometimes I’d be on my own in Nagoya, not sure where to eat, and too exhausted to even wait for ramen at the local shop… so I’d stop by the local 7-11, Lawson, or FamilyMart and find some pretty decent seaweed-wrapped rice balls, coffee (seriously, how many varieties of canned coffee drinks do they have in Japan??? It was crazy!), and something for dessert (like the many packaged Belgium things, like waffles!).

    I collected about 15 of those tissue packs they handed out on the streets. I’m sure they’re for companion bars, but they were a free and functional souvenir!

    Posted by Jecka | February 13, 2012, 8:56 pm
  34. I love a lot of things about Japan. It’s pop culture, it’s history, Pikachu, Ryoma Sakamoto, the video games… Everything except for the octopus >.<

    Posted by Wonderwall | February 13, 2012, 9:14 pm
  35. What an interesting blog. I will be following you. Greetings from Minnesota 🙂

    Posted by Northern Narratives | February 13, 2012, 9:14 pm
  36. Great post 😀 And on Japanese convenience stores, they sound a lot like Shoppers Drug Mart here in Canada 😀

    Posted by Taku | February 13, 2012, 9:24 pm
  37. Interesting post! I went through the same kind of adjustment when moved to US from EU about 14 years ago. 🙂 It was my first time seeing milk in a gallon, banking drive thru, size of the meals and drinks in restaurants, free soft drink refills, etc. etc. 🙂

    Posted by Baking with Sibella | February 13, 2012, 9:29 pm
  38. Awesome post, good advice, nice pictures! I can relate. 😉 My wife, daughter and I moved to Japan from Jamaica in 2010 and I must say, it has been quite an experience so far. My wife teaches English at a high school and I have a small private English school, which officially started in mid 2011. We were mostly concerned for our (five year old) daughter who, despite one minor incident (similar to the most recent Karate Kid movie) at kindergarten, adjusted well and made a lot of friends pretty quickly. We have had the “total stranger go out of their way to give us directions, pay for our parking and give us a very large bag of chocolates as a parting gift” experience, which completely shocked us to say the least. We have also had the occasional “open-mouthed stare” maybe because we live in a rural community and there weren’t many foreigners here when we first got here. We adjusted very well to the move partly because of the massive amounts of research and preparations we did and partly because the people in our neighborhood really welcomed us. And besides, God is really really good to us! 🙂 Overall, Japan is a pretty awesome place with some pretty awesome people. Nice blog by the way. Cheers. 🙂

    Posted by EpignosisTCHR | February 13, 2012, 9:31 pm
    • I’ve had so many experiences already that have amazed me about how generous and selfless Japanese people can be. Of course, anywhere you go there will be positives and negatives, but I personally find myself coming across a lot more positive experiences. I’ve had friends that have paid for meals on several occasions, or treated me to movies, etc. Although I try as hard as I can to avoid being treated, it seems to be their goal to want to help me enjoy my time with them.

      Posted by travelnihon | February 14, 2012, 4:02 am
  39. No Hello Kitty, thank goodness.

    Posted by James' Stuff | February 13, 2012, 9:54 pm
  40. Great post! Brings back memories of my stay in Japan… Actually the shoes and clothes drying reminded me of home (India)…
    I miss the tissues!

    Posted by Rohini | February 13, 2012, 9:59 pm
  41. Great post! Brought back me memories of my stay in Japan… The shoes outside and clothes drying reminds me of home (India)

    I miss getting tissues all the time…

    Posted by Rohini | February 13, 2012, 10:02 pm
  42. I enjoyed your post, and experienced a similar trauma when moving from the UK to the US and trying to get used to American bread. It’s funny how some cultural differences we can laugh off and others are an irritation.

    Posted by Hamish MacFarlane | February 13, 2012, 10:04 pm
  43. Great post! This brings back so many memories of my trip to Japan in 2008. Their culture is really so distinct and different. They are some of the most polite people in the world! I remember the meat at the grocery store being so ridiculously expensive too! It’s like it was a precious commodity over there. Wonderful post 🙂

    Posted by Cafe23 | February 13, 2012, 10:23 pm
  44. Interesting description of things. Some big green onions there!

    Posted by diggingher | February 13, 2012, 10:52 pm
  45. I love the photographs. It was worth it if a few people laughed! I think the Japanese got “pan” came from Portuguese.

    Posted by joe185 | February 13, 2012, 11:38 pm
  46. very cool and informative. I hope I can return to Japan some day and really explore the country.

    Posted by vpill001 | February 13, 2012, 11:39 pm
  47. I enjoyed your post immensely. I am Japanese and there a few things I want to add, but they are not big deal. People can be very sensitive when it comes to their native country. I could tell you are well-intended.

    The following comment has little to do with your blog, so please don’t take it personally.

    There are people who have never been to other countries, but think they know everything once they watch/hear/read about those countries. I have heard some talk about Japan as if they’ve lived there even though they have never stepped into the soil. That happens to everywhere. Because of the power of media, including blogs, we somehow became big-headed. It’s a very scary trend.

    It’s good to learn about the culture and history beforehand, but sometimes it’s better to go out not imbued with any opinions, observations or whatever. This way, one can look at things with innocent eyes.

    If one uses common sense and behave courteously, I am sure everybody appreciates it.

    Posted by azukishiratama | February 13, 2012, 11:40 pm
    • I can not agree with you more. Having no preconceived notions about a country is very helpful in a way to preserve the innocence of your opinion. I first came to Japan for a period of a month to stay with a friend I had met in high school. At that time, I had almost no background knowledge about Japan which helped me to see everything for what it was. I like some things and disliked others, but I’m sure I could rant off plenty of things in American that I dislike.
      Like you said, using common sense and behaving courteously will get you very far in a different culture. People quickly recognize a good person for what they are. Simple acts of kindness towards people display to others the generosity that can be found in a foreigner.
      Sadly I have seen many posts from Americans living in or that lived in Japan that have heavily criticized the Japanese people, but what I think they lack is the perspective of their own actions. How quickly we judge something that is different is a lot different from how we judge something we know to be familiar. It is easy to categorize something that is not familiar to us, but we have to be aware of how we may be perceived, or how our friends would be perceived in a different culture.

      Posted by travelnihon | February 14, 2012, 4:21 am
      • Thank you very much for your comment.
        It looks like you are having ball in Japan. Have a good time!

        Spending sometime outside of your own country makes you look at yours from different point of view. It’s an eye-opening experience. Yes, there is no perfect world. Each country, person or even dog has strong points and faults. That makes our life interesting, don’t you think? My dog is drooling right now 🙂 Let’s learn from our experiences!

        Posted by azukishiratama | February 14, 2012, 1:00 pm
  48. Hi! Enjoyed your post here. Interesting and amusing. I wish I had space to hang my laundry outside (I’m in a condo with restrictions on this sort of thing) as the sun also whitens white clothes. Have you tried the pre-buttered bread? Just curious what that would taste like. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Posted by Kate | February 13, 2012, 11:46 pm
  49. Nice, I am adjusting myself to a new culture too… in the US! It’s been more than a year now so I talk about differences with humor (or at least try haha!). My friends always tell me that it’s interesting for them to read someone write about the US and calling it “abroad”, like I’m sure your Japanese friends might tell you about Japan 🙂
    Can’t wait to read more 🙂

    Posted by Leslie Is Hungry | February 13, 2012, 11:55 pm

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