shinjuku

When moving overseas, especially when moving between countries with as cultures as different as the United States and Japan have, adjusting to your new life abroad can take a bit of time. But once you’ve settled in to your life in your new home, the customs you had to be so mindful of in the beginning become second nature, to the point you may even find yourself having a bit of reverse culture shock when you go back to your home country.

Amie, an American who lived for some time in Japan, shared some of the “American habits” she lost, or conversely, some of the “Japanese habits” she picked up from her time living abroad, as shared by blogger of all things Japan-and-foreigner related, Madame Riri. Continue reading to see the list!

Any time living or traveling abroad can change one’s outlook on life and the world around them. These are just some personal habits that Amie noticed had changed from her time in Japan.

genkanImage: Kimono Mania

1. She stopped wearing shoes indoors

If this isn’t a custom you’re familiar with, it is one you will quickly learn when coming to Japan. For many American families, it is normal to wear your outdoor footwear into the house, but at the same time, every family is different. I have been to plenty of homes in the US where everyone takes their shoes off just inside the entrance, but Amie states that after living in Japan for a while she just can’t bear to keep her shoes on while inside her home.

2. She stopped worrying about being naked in front of others

This one I can personally agree with. Bathing together is not a custom that carries on past childhood in the US. Even changing in the P.E. locker room in high school can be a bit uncomfortable for some. For years I turned down opportunities to go to Japanese hot springs because the thought of stripping down to my birthday suit and sitting around in the bath with close friends, classmates, teachers, and all the other naked people was too awkward to even want to think about. But then one day I finally gave in, took the literal plunge, and realized there’s really nothing weird or awkward to it at all. Now I’m wishing I had all those missed hot-spring opportunities back!

ID-100183975Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

3. She stopped being “late”

Amie relates a story of how she got lost and ended up being only five minutes early to work, to which she was scolded by her superiors for being “late” since she was not at least 15 minutes early. It is true that the Japanese have a reputation for punctuality, and it is generally expected of you to show up to work early in order to be considered “on time”. For personal affairs, however, such as meeting up with friends, you may not always see the same punctuality. (Or at least that’s the case in my personal experience, but I could also just have very flaky friends!)

4. She stopped sitting in chairs at the table

Traditionally, Japanese use tables low to the floor and sit on zabuton cushions. There are zaisu as well, which are essentially legless chairs used for sitting at low tables or those heavenly kotatsu you hear residents of Japan going on about each winter. However, regular tall tables and chairs are just as common in Japanese homes too, so it’s not like you’ll never sit in a chair again when you go to Japan.

5. She stopped talking to strangers

The author talks about her experience of being a friendly, approachable person in a town where people would walk across to the other side of the street when she would come by. Again, I think everything is relevant, and everyone’s experiences will be different. True, I don’t feel I’m approached as much by friendly strangers wanting to chat to the extent I was when I lived in the States, but to say it doesn’t happen in Japan would be a big lie.

bikesImage: Japan-Guide

6. She stopped driving a car

Japan has excellent public transportation, that is for sure, and with limited land available, the cities on this island nation tend to be built more compacted than cities in the US, which makes getting to places on foot or by bike much more feasible. Owning a car in the city can actually be more of a nuisance than anything, what with the narrow roads, traffic congestion, and the limited and expensive parking. However, if you move out to the inaka (countryside) you’ll probably be wanting that car, unless you don’t mind walking for miles through the mountains and rice paddies to get anywhere. And by the same token, depending on where you live in the US, you can get along pretty well without a car too.

Everyone’s experiences are different, depending on how they were raised, their personalities, and what sort of environment they moved in to. So we ask you, American expats in Japan, can you relate to anything on this list? Are there any other customs you picked up or lost since coming here? We’d love to hear from expats in Japan from other countries as well!

Source: Matador Network via Madame Riri
Featured Image: Wikipedia (Sasanoha)