When I first arrived in Tokyo, Japan at the age of 21to do summer university courses for three months, I was very excited witheverything. Once the plane landed in Tokyo I was so amazed and delighted that Iwas finally in Japan, something I had been planning for many months.I faced several strange situations during my stay.One of the situation was language culture shock.Japanese language and the alphabet are completely different than westernlanguages. I remember feeling helpless and frustrated at my inability tounderstand anything.
Everything took extra time to figure out. I felt anxietyabout asking directions because I couldn’t understand what the other person wassaying. To overcome this problem, I spent extra time to figure out the wordsfor the places I wanted to go.
I began learning Japanese, made some friends andimmersed myself in their culture. By doing this it helped me enjoy my stay inJapan because I certainly felt I was experiencing Japanese culture. Even thoughI was able to speak a little it gave me the courage to go see and do as much asI could. After getting settled in Tokyo and meeting my fellowclass mates we were heading towards downtown to have breakfast.
It was a bit ofa surprise for a breakfast. The breakfast menu was for example savory foodslike soup, rice and vegetables or curries. Those of us from Western countriestend to have lighter version of breakfast such as cereals and acai bowls. Itfelt good afterwards because the meals were nutritious, healthy, cheap and avoidinga sugar hit in the morning.
Another situation was the menu of options on aJapanese toilet. Japanese toilets are more complicated and offer more usabilitythan a TV. There are so many buttons, so many unknown symbols andopen-to-interpretation stickmen figures; not to mention the fear that you couldbe sprayed with toilet water by merely approaching one. Some of the commonfeatures were that with a click of button it can clean private areas,electronically operated via a panel attached to the toilet, or with a remotecontrol.
In addition to this Japanese toilet include audio, for instance musicwill play to help the user relax. Additional features were heated seats, andwarm-air drying. I felt very confused at the first time and took lot of time tofigure out which button does a certain task. Nevertheless, after using it for couple of times, it was easy to getused to it. I had learned what to expect in most situations,adapted my own behavior and learned to appreciate new ways of thinking and attitudes.After living in Japan for a month, things started to make sense and Iunderstood Japanese culture better. Day after day I felt more and morecomfortable with my new home. I adopted many new traits while also keepingearlier ones from my home country.
The following steps helped me deal better with cultureshock. First, I developed a routine. Thinking about how I dealt with stressback home and apply it in the new culture. I was doing sports back home so Idecided to join a sports club and meet new people in a fun way. I tried to bepositive and see the good aspect in everything.
If I faced similar situation, I would use humor, laughabout myself or whatever is frustrating me. Humor helps us make light of asituation. I always try to remember – what can I learn from this? I don’t tryto negate the positive aspects of the other culture. Furthermore, I would learnasmuch as possible about my host country preferably before I go. Readingthrough travel forums, guidebooks, news reports and talking to people who havebeen there would help me learn about the host country.