Friday, October 17, 2008

Top 10 list of little differences

Of course you already know that there are a lot of differences between Japan and America (as well as several similarities, too -- but that's for another time).

I've written about some of the major differences -- the language, the food and the toilets! But there are other aspects of the culture that make living here a unique experience. Just for fun, I've made a list of the top ten little things about life in Japan that came as surprises to me.

#10. The "Shoes off" policy. I knew before moving to Kuji that I would have to bring a pair of "indoor shoes" with me to each school. Otherwise, I must wear the guest slippers. (The shoes I've been wearing outside are forbidden to go further than the lockers at the front door; this keeps the school cleaner since outside dirt isn't tracked in.) However, I did not know that this rule would apply in my apartment, too. So like everyone else, I never, ever wear shoes inside my place. Fine by me since I don't usually wear shoes inside anway....besides, it keeps things cleaner!

At most of the schools, I have my very own locker for my "outside shoes." (bottom right)

#9. The trash situation. Two mornings a week -- Monday and Thursday for my area -- I carry my trash bags out to the main street and put them under a big, green tarp where everyone else has their trash bags hidden. And if I'm a minute after 8, I'm too late.

#8. The teachers' room. In Japan, the teachers move classrooms, and the students don't. So there's a teachers' room that serves as the "headquarters," where each teacher has a desk. I also have my own desk in the teacher's room at each school. :)

#7. The "Attention, Kuji!" announcements. Every once in a while, the loud speakers that are all over Kuji give the entire city a message. I never understand the Japanese announcements, and no one ever bothers to tell me what's going on, so I don't worry about them. However, one time I was in the office when there was a city announcement, and when I asked Yamadate to translate, he said, "It will rain soon." Great. So yeah, no need to worry about those!

#6. The way I pay my bills. First of all, I can't even read my bills since they're in Japanese! So I always take my bills to the office and ask Yamadate what they say...and where to pay them! You see, my electric and water bills are paid at the local convenience store. (Interesting, huh?) And other bills are paid at City Hall.

# 5. The "sick masks" that people wear. It's apparent when people have a contagious cold beause they wear a mask.(think surgeon mask that covers your nose and mouth). I've been told that during flu season in the winter, people will also wear masks to prevent getting sick.

#4. The common usage of "family names" and the absence of middle names. I'm getting to know people on a last-name basis here. (haha) I sometimes mention my boss, Yamadate. (See #7 & #6 as proof.) Yamadate is actually his "family name," or last name. I don't even know what his first name is since it's never used. Neither is anyone else's! And I just learned on Monday that Japanese people don't have middle names. Tomoki (the boy I tutor) was amazed to learn that I have a middle name! He kept saying it over and over.

#3 The "lunch time is still education time" rule. That's what I was told when I had chips to eat as part of my school lunch at Misaki Jr. High. (As a side note, the chips came from Tomoki and were shrimp flavor.) Ever so politely, the English teacher explained to me that I wouldn't be allowed to eat my chips for lunch because it sets a bad example for the students. I need to teach them to eat nutritional meals! Chips are a snack food. And besides, it's not good for me to eat something that they can't have right in front of them. Fair enough. I couldn't help but think back to my own junior high school lunch experience and the kids who would eat junk food every single day! No wonder America has an obesity problem and Japan doesn't!

I wasn't so sure about Tomoki's shrimp chips at first, but they're actually pretty good! Too bad they're prohibited at school.

#2. The lack of swimming. Where are the swimmers around here? That's what I want to know. I can't believe there is only one swimming pool in all of Kuji. It's an indoor public pool at the top of a mountain, and I plan to go there soon. And I have yet to see someone riding the ocean waves....or even just standing in the ocean. This truly blows me away!
And finally...

#1. The oh-so-generous and polite people! I'd been told by my predecessor how nice the people in Kuji are, but their generosity and politeness have surpassed my expectations. The teachers like to give me things (I recently received apples, which made me very happy); Tomoki likes to bring me things (like the forbidden shrimp chips); and the people at the office give me things, too. (other than direction on where to pay my bills!) Kuji is a nice place to live, and I'm glad I've chosen to make it my "home away from home" for a while. :)


Lauren:) said...

Wow! There are a lot of differences! I am glad that Kuji is a good "home away from home" that is always conforting to know that you are being taken care of!!!
Love you Amiga

Wendy City said...

Great list Dana! I can relate to you on pretty much every single one (except the chips thing and the teacher's desk thing). Crazy!

It sounds like you're having an amazing time!! :D

Stacie Ruth said...

I love your blog! Your pictures help so much, too. You are such a pretty gal!

Miss you, sister!