Saturday, November 3, 2012

Culture shock

Being immersed in a foreign culture always shocks all my systems: both the body (I've been battling with a nasty cold and jetlag for the past couple of days) and the mind (cognition overload when customs and languages are so different I don't exactly know how to act in so many situations).

So I am in Japan hanging out with a bunch of very interesting expats from various countries all over the world. I usually have no trouble handling this type of situations when I was in Canada, in Europe, and even in Taiwan. But here in Japan I must say it's kind of overwhelming. Japan's got such an interesting/strange simultaneous existence of extreme modernness and ultra-conservative demands on the society that it takes a certain type of personality for a foreigner to want to stay here for long term. I thought I was a master at handling complex and diverse cultural differences but I have to admit that I am in overload mode right now. No wonder Japanese invented zen gardens and zen meditation. I could use a huge dose of daily meditation from day 1 until the end of my stay.

I'm totally not saying I'm having a bad experience here; the experience is just so "foreign" to me that I'm having trouble putting my thoughts into coherent writing (although I generally have trouble with that anyways). People here are really nice. I can read kanji (Chinese characters) so even though I don't know Japanese at all I am not completely lost. Perhaps it's just been a really long week and I can only handle so many novel stimuli at once. One thing is for sure: a large western yoga studio/meditation center in the middle of Tokyo would probably make huge bucks because of the high level of stress people experience here. People here don't complain about their life style though; as a Japanese one must maintain an upbeat manner, politeness and friendliness at all times.

Let's see if I get over the initial cultural shock and can settle more into the Japanese working life style next week. Happy for this unexpected opportunity of learning experience but at the same time also glad it's only for a short term period.



  1. Interesting to read about your experience in Japan. I've only been there once, and that was many years ago as a teenager with my parents, so I didn't see it as anything more than a colorful, sprawling ultra-modern country. Interesting to hear your perspective.

    Have you read anything by Haruki Murakami, by the way? Reading his works gives you a very different perspective on the land of the ever-upbeat-salaryman :-)

    1. Hi Nobel, thanks for the comment. No I haven't read Murakami's recent work (can't remember if I have ever read his earlier work or not) and I definitely should read it. The foreigners here like very different things than I (the Asian girl) do so their recommendations are often a bit off. It's also interesting I don't have a single Chinese colleague. Maybe I haven't met all the people who work at this building yet. I'll find out on Monday.