When I first arrived in Tokyo, Japan at the age of 21
to do summer university courses for three months, I was very excited with
everything. Once the plane landed in Tokyo I was so amazed and delighted that I
was 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 western
languages. I remember feeling helpless and frustrated at my inability to
understand anything. Everything took extra time to figure out. I felt anxiety
about asking directions because I couldn’t understand what the other person was
saying. To overcome this problem, I spent extra time to figure out the words
for the places I wanted to go. I began learning Japanese, made some friends and
immersed myself in their culture. By doing this it helped me enjoy my stay in
Japan because I certainly felt I was experiencing Japanese culture. Even though
I was able to speak a little it gave me the courage to go see and do as much as
After getting settled in Tokyo and meeting my fellow
class mates we were heading towards downtown to have breakfast. It was a bit of
a surprise for a breakfast. The breakfast menu was for example savory foods
like soup, rice and vegetables or curries. Those of us from Western countries
tend to have lighter version of breakfast such as cereals and acai bowls. It
felt good afterwards because the meals were nutritious, healthy, cheap and avoiding
a sugar hit in the morning.
Another situation was the menu of options on a
Japanese toilet. Japanese toilets are more complicated and offer more usability
than a TV. There are so many buttons, so many unknown symbols and
open-to-interpretation stickmen figures; not to mention the fear that you could
be sprayed with toilet water by merely approaching one. Some of the common
features were that with a click of button it can clean private areas,
electronically operated via a panel attached to the toilet, or with a remote
control. In addition to this Japanese toilet include audio, for instance music
will play to help the user relax. Additional features were heated seats, and
warm-air drying. I felt very confused at the first time and took lot of time to
figure out which button does a certain task.
Nevertheless, after using it for couple of times, it was easy to get
used 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 I
understood Japanese culture better. Day after day I felt more and more
comfortable with my new home. I adopted many new traits while also keeping
earlier ones from my home country.
The following steps helped me deal better with culture
shock. First, I developed a routine. Thinking about how I dealt with stress
back home and apply it in the new culture. I was doing sports back home so I
decided to join a sports club and meet new people in a fun way. I tried to be
positive and see the good aspect in everything.
If I faced similar situation, I would use humor, laugh
about myself or whatever is frustrating me. Humor helps us make light of a
situation. I always try to remember – what can I learn from this? I don’t try
to negate the positive aspects of the other culture. Furthermore, I would learn
much as possible about my host country preferably before I go. Reading
through travel forums, guidebooks, news reports and talking to people who have
been there would help me learn about the host country.