This is really. fucking. hard. (But that makes me a badass).

I’m listening to the song “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, quite possibly the most quintessential Amerrr’can sounding song ever.

It makes me feel introspective, and like I want to do Amerrr’can things.

Moving to a different country is really fucking hard. This is an objective fact.  I am making this an entry, because even though I realized all of the following things objectively, they did not add up in my head to the reality of how insane it is to move to a foreign country (particularly one as foreign as Japan).

You are in a completely alien environment. I mean, alright, I’ll give you that some things are universal. Everyone poops. Though don’t count on the toilets being the same. Everyone breathes…the air is relatively similar, except for the fishy aroma that occasionally drifts in on the wind. If you’re a human, smiling is good. Though if you’re any other animal…baring your teeth is not friendly …so perhaps nothing is actually universal.

Nothing works the same. Really. The microwave has a mode for rice balls, not popcorn. And by the way, rice “balls” are actually triangular. So that makes sense too. The heater and air conditioner are the same unit, controlled by remote. On the remote are kanji on each button that say important things (for example…”heat” and “cool); you can’t read the important things. You can’t even read the unimportant things. Similarly there are 6 options on the bathroom fan which you can’t read, a kanji on the stovetop, and about 8 buttons on the washing machine which you can’t read. You have to put specific garbage into specific bags, which then go outside into specific bins, and there are also nets outside for the garbage which shouldn’t go into either of the first two bags. Now, you can’t read any of the finer points of this…however there are pictures on the bags. For example…I know that if I’m throwing away fish bones (and therefore I infer food waste) it goes into the yellow bag. Also, the key to your apartment looks like a giant dogtag. Don’t worry, you should be able to figure out how to open your door within fifteen minutes. These are all the issues you have inside your own home.

Now, take a step outside. Maybe to the grocery store, 100 yen shop, a restaurant, or a convenience store. No brands are familiar. You can’t read packaging or ingredients or signs. When something is cut up in a rice bowl or noodle bowl or salad you oftentimes cannot determine if it’s meat, or fish, or seafood, or even a vegetable that you didn’t know existed. You also can’t read menus. Some have pictures, but then you run into the same problem as above…having no idea what’s in the food you’re ordering, which can result in an expensive mistake. Not to mention that constantly not knowing what food you’re buying/ordering/actually consuming and get a little mentally weird and exhausting after a bit. You manage to buy yogurt at a convenience store, but can’t ask for a spoon. None of the cleaning products at the grocery store have pictures on them determining what, in fact, they clean. Because personally, washing my dishes with toilet bowl cleaner would kind of gross me out. And probably make me ill. And possibly dead. I’m not sure what’s in toilet bowl cleaner.

Hopefully these places are all within sight of your apartment because GUESS WHAT. The streets here aren’t labeled.

You decipher and interpret everything in the world around you only visually, since you don’t speak, understand, or read the language. Everything you hear sounds the same, especially since the Japanese are not huge on inflection.

And all of these factors don’t even begin to scratch the surface of “culture” and “interpersonal communication”. When do you bow? How often? How low? Repeatedly? Do you tip? Do you say thank you? When do you not say thank you? Why are you constantly being started at? Why do people keep talking to you loooong after you’ve made it clear via your actions that you either don’t understand a lick of what they’re saying or that you are the most mentally handicapped person ever?

And this is the beginning of why it takes pretty much all the guts to move to a foreign country. And I am a badass.

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One response

  1. Keep Rocking. I love getting to read about what your doing. I'm proud of you. If anyone I know can learn these things it is definitely you! šŸ™‚ Skype date soon, k??

    10/25/2012 at 6:35 pm

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