Unfortunately at some point for every gaijin (foreigner) they will have to depart the land of the rising sun. Wether that may only be temporary and Japan will be dragging you back or if it’s permanent, the airport will be calling your name to fuck off out of the county and force you to go back to a life where you have to wipe your own arse after a shite, and not have a button that cleans your hoop for you.
When travelling, adjustment to new countries is a part of the programme. Sometimes the adjustment is as simple as getting hit by a car if you decided to play ‘dodge car’ during rush hour on a highway, other times it’s as difficult as trying to understand the lyrics to a post-hardcore metal song. When visiting Japan the adjustment is a perfect medium. Throughout your tenure in Japan you will still do things that warrant you getting the ‘stare of disapproval’ from someone in the street, it’s just the perks of being a gaijin who hasn’t grown up in Japan or achieved a black belt in Japanese customers and etiquette. Eventually you will learn such customs and appreciate them, even appreciating slurping when you eat noodles as a sign of appreciation and good manners, yes that is a thing.
You will get so used to such things that adjusting to life back in your home country or your next destination will be surprisingly more difficult than anticipated. Culture shock will likely set in, so much so you will find yourself getting very annoyed and frustrated by the things that previously wouldn’t bother you before your time in Japan.
It all boils down to how Japanese people are raised which forms their culture. Japanese people are raised in very respectful manner. Respect for their elders, respect for rules, respect for their culture and traditions, and respect for Hello Kitty the wee sexy thing she is. The culture of respect flows into all aspects of the life of a Japanese person and they nearly all conform to it; very, very few don’t conform. We foreigners are typically the biggest non-conformers in Japan, the gaijin punks so to speak. Yet despite our intentional (or not) anarchist and rebellious nature, there are quite a number of things we conform to and get so used to conforming to that upon departing Japan it’s hard to stop doing some of the customs and etiquettes, even the ones that would warrant you getting deemed to be a weird prick in western world such as bowing.
Bowing is one of these things that literally everyone does in Japan. It’s seen a hugely respectful thing to do – how deep your bow has a meaning behind it. A subtle small bow is a more casual one you would give to someone in a shop, with a deeper bow being more formal and a sign of high respect that you would give to say elders or people in a higher position in a job. No matter if you don’t conform to such norms as eating and drinking whilst walking down the street, bowing is something you will conform too and get so used to doing that you have to physically stop yourself from doing so when you leave the country.
Even the more simpler things such as being more quiet or completely silent in some places is something you get so accustomed to that when there is a woman wearing a basketball jersey that’s five times too big for her, bellowing her lungs out like the modern day Libberachi in a bus terminal in your next destination, it is unbearable. The tranquility of public areas and transport in Japan is golden and no matter how much you want to gossip with the gals on the subway or even in the elevator you don’t as you don’t want to be an obnoxious onion, as being silent in certain places is a big deal to people in Japan.
Despite everything, there will be times rules and customs will be broken as the Japanese love rules and following them, as much as some vegans love to tell you that they’re vegan. Whether it may be intentional like crossing the road on a red light when it’s clear of cars whilst eating that sexy bit of fried chicken from Lawsons, or it’s simply a mistake, you appreciate these customs when you are departing Japan. So much so that in the next country your find yourself in, you will be dishing out the ‘stare of disapproval’ like the old Japanese lady you have become.
Swankie – 24, Scotland. Loveable Loser.