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7 Things That Will Happen to You When You Are in Japan
1) Where are you from?
You will get asked the same questions, repeatedly, every time you meet someone new. Without fail, you will be asked where you are from, what your age is, what your blood type is, why you are in Japan, and if you teach English/study at university.
At first these questions were fun to answer, but after so many times, it is just tiring. It’s good to switch up some of these answers just to get a little more variance in the conversation. Apparently in Japan, they seem to think your blood type tells them everything they need to know about what kind of person you are.
Even if you have no knowledge of Japanese, you will inevitably learn how to answer these questions like a professional.
2) You will be an ambassador of your country
They will somehow think you know every famous person in your country. You might get asked who you have met, because apparently, we are always walking around with celebrities. So go ahead and name any famous person that comes to mind. Have you met Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga? Nope, but they don’t know that. It’s pretty funny to see their response.
You will also be asked if you like Obama and about the huge table sized hamburgers that you can eat at every restaurant. The image of America is that we barbecue every day. Most people that ask me about this are surprised when I tell them that I rarely barbecue. I feel like I shattered their idea of America.
You will be asked anything from geography, to politics, to the latest trends. It is best to brush up on what is happening in your country before coming. Also, whatever you say or do, that will be how you represent the everyone else in your country.
3) They will speak to you like you are fluent, even when you ask them not to
While it’s a good thing that you are spoken to in Japanese, for the average learner it is quite difficult to follow a conversation at full speed. So naturally it would be best to ask for them to speak slower to you. They will tell you okay, they will speak slower, but the next sentence out of their mouths seem even faster than before.
It’s not their fault, they are used to speaking Japanese the same way, their whole lives, and do not usually get asked to speak slower. For the sake of comprehending what is being told to you however, this can be a hassle.
On the other hand, you can understand what is being told 100%, acknowledge them, and move on with the conversation, but then they will try to explain themselves using English, even though you already understood what was being told.
4) You will hear kids say hello to you repeatedly
While walking down any road, if there are a group of kids, at least one will say hello. Just by replying back, it will brighten those kids day. For them, saying hello to a foreigner is kind of like a dare. The one who says hello first is usually the outgoing one, wanting to show how he/she is not afraid to talk to foreigners.
Also, you might get interviewed by a group of high school kids who might be required to ask questions to foreigners for a school project. They will usually read off their question from a list and listen for your response, often having no clue what you are saying.
For extra fun, ask simple questions back to them in English and see what kind of answers they come up with. Sometimes, it can be quite amusing. Alternatively, just say that you do not speak English and wait for their reaction. I find it funny how they automatically assume that all foreigners speak English.
5) Sitting by yourself
I used to not like this. I would think that they were just being rude or did not like foreigners, but that is far from the truth, and I actually started to like sitting by myself. If you look at it from the Japanese persons point of view, they are probably just not wanting to inconvenience you, but often they are afraid that you might try to talk to them in English, or ask a question, which can be pretty stressful for them.
Buses and trains are often crowded anyways, so it is really nice to sit alone sometimes, especially in Japan when it is hard to find some alone time.
6) Your chopstick skills are amazing, and you said konnichiwa, your Japanese must be perfect!
You will inevitably be told how amazing your use of chopsticks are. Every new person you eat with will commend you on your ability to master the hardest eating utensil of all time. When you tell them you learned after only five minutes or so while eating Chinese take-out, they find it hard to believe.
I have a theory as to why they believe it to be so hard to learn how to use chopsticks, but that might be a story for another day.
Also, the moment you utter one phrase in Japanese, they will say how jouzu you are, then proceed to speak to you at a million words per minute. Don’t be put off by this though, this is their way of showing excitement in your ability to try and understand Japanese culture.
7) You will lose weight
Even if you are at a healthy weight, you will still lose some. I like to think of Japan as its own workout routine. Even if you think you are eating more than usual, somehow the weight will drop. Japan is a very healthy place. There are always people walking, riding bikes, or exercising. They do not drive their cars when they can walk 10 minutes to the grocery store or post office. I found myself walking or biking 4-10 miles a day. I would walk to the conbini, grocery store, or Don Quijote (awesome store that is cheap with anything you can think of inside). On top of that, portion sizes are just smaller. Plates are smaller, food is smaller, and the idea of taking leftovers is unheard of. Cups are even smaller than you would think. There larges are like an American small or medium, and restaurants almost never offer free refills for drinks.
Some of these might seem negative, but in actuality, Japan is a very fun place to go to. Every experience will be new and exciting, you will learn about how another culture is that is completely different from your own, and hopefully, learn more about yourself too!