Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Side effects of living in Japan may include...

...An incredibly high expectation of what your toilet (and other bathroom appliances) should be able to do;
If I got hit on the head tomorrow and forgot everything I've learned in Japan, the first thing that would jog my memory would be a Japanese toilet. Or rather, the sentient beings that hide in our bathrooms and pass themselves off as our toilets. I SWEAR that they know too much. Toilets in Japan know you're coming. They warm (or cool) themselves according to the temperature in the room. Some make flushing sounds when you sit down to hide your more embarrassing bowl movement noises. They NEVER flush too quickly or too slowly. Some even produce amusing jingles while you're sitting down and leaving. Some actually talk. There is always toilet paper, and ALMOST always an extra back-up roll in case of emergencies.

I've been to bathrooms where I never touched a single surface. The washroom door has a motion sensor, as does the stall door. The toilet does a song and dance for you, and thanks you in Japanese for "depositing your waste." The soap and water are all motion sensored-- and the hand dryer can see you coming a mile away. This highly automated experience can leave you expecting more from the world of toilets. And can devastate you when you visit, say, Thailand, where they're idea of a toilet is a hole in the ground with a murky bucket of water next to it.

...Temporary loss of awareness that you might be saying a double entendre;
This point may only resonate with my fellow gaijin living here. As a foreigner, you come to expect that people don't understand what you're saying. Especially if you're talking at the normal speed (and with all the slang) of a native speaker. I have had many instances where I've been sitting in a coffee shop with a fellow foreigner having a fast-paced conversation...and I blurt out something that can only be described as a Tobias Funke. (See here and here and here if you don't know what I'm talking about). Most people back home would immediately point out the obvious awkward moment, but here it gets unnoticed. And so, I get sloppy. I'm probably going to get eaten alive by my fellow cunning linguists when I go home...

...Partial loss of basic grammar in your first language;
Dealing with people that usually don't understand you unless you carefully pace your words with well thought-out sentences leaves you a bit between a rock and a hard place. As an English teacher, you want to only express yourself in the Queen's English, to give your students the best English experience possible. But sometimes it's just better to cut to the chase. Pronouns go first. Then functional words, or the "in-betweenies", like 'a', 'to', 'in', and 'the'. ESPECIALLY if you're in a bar late at night and you don't give a sh*t. Then functional grammar goes out the window (which is an idiom that no one understands here by the way), and you're left trying to convey that "yes, you DO understand what he/she said, and yes, you'll have another beer."
The fact that the Japanese language doesn't usually use pronouns AT ALL totally doesn't help. Japanese people that kind of understand English actually tend to understand it better if you use it more in the style of Yoda (WHO ACTUALLY SPOKE GRAMMATICALLY CORRECTLY- IF YOU'RE JAPANESE). Nouns first, Verbs second. But I digress.

...Hypersensitivity to body language and vocal tones;
If you've ever been in the presence of a group of people that aren't speaking your language, you'll notice that you can still pick up on their body language and their tone of voice. And if they're talking about you, you might even get that tingling sensation around your ears.
Living in a country where you can't understand anyone at first, you develop a sixth sense for what people are talking about. It's actually a brilliant life lesson. It took a total culture shock experience for me to REALLY understand how people were feeling around me. The uncomfortable shift of the lady sitting next to you. The twitch of a smile at the edge of someones mouth as they tell you a story. I never really realized the true importance of these little gestures until I came to Japan. To say that I was completely unaware of them would be an overstatement. I was oblivious. Now I'd like to think that I've gained some understanding in this unspoken form of communication. And it's a lesson I'll never forget.

...Uncontrollable urges to cover your mouth when you laugh;
This is just a ridiculous habit I've picked up while living here. I kind of hate myself for doing it, because I think it implies a shyness that I don't actually possess. But I do it anyways. It's just how things are done here.

On a completely unrelated note (cause that's how we do)... Christmas has invaded Japan. And it's not really Christmas. It's the twilight-zone version of Christmas. It's as if an ad-rep from Coke-a-f*cking-cola came to Japan and told them what Christmas should look like, and Japan complied as best they could. Because another opportunity to exploit commercialism doesn't go wasted here. If you give people the excuse to buy unnecessary sh*t, they will.

So there's Christmas lights, but no snow. There's Santa, but he's dressed in like Kolnel Sanders. And oh yes, they eat KFC AND CAKE for Christmas. So needless to say, I've been feeling mighty homesick for an actual Christmas. Despite what the other gaijin are saying;

I went to a beautiful park a week ago, and all the fall leaves were still on the trees. It's the first time in my life I've seen daffodils in December, so I'm going to post them. Mom, this is for you;

 I'd just like to point out that someone took the time and incredible effort to outline these puddles with white tape so that people wouldn't get their feet wet. I may critique Japan sometimes, but it's little things like this that makes me love this country more than anything.
Hey look, kids! It's Santa! Or Kolnel Sanders! Or just some white guy in a funny suit!

Lots of love, and goodnight :)

1 comment:

  1. i stumbled upon ur blog through various blog hopping and clicking
    looking fwd to reading more!
    hope u can visit my blog too!

    happy new year 2012!