Category Archives: Essay

Reverse Culture Shock (2) Japanese people work so hard

When I went to a Japanese diner, Yoshinoya, one middle aged woman worked there. Though she was the only worker in the diner, there were almost 10 customers. I knew her salary wasn’t so high and she didn’t receive any tips, but she worked really hard and was very polite to us.  I thought that Japanese are so earnest in the workplace.
At the same time, I thought she was making herself less valued because she didn’t receive enough support from her company and I guessed shed didn’t ask for any support from her company. Japanese people sometimes work just for the sake of work itself, not for salary. It seems to be a virtue of Japanese, but now I can say that this virtue is one of the causes that lead to the recent depression in the Japanese economy.  I didn’t notice it before I go abroad. This is what I really want to write in my Journals. I’ll write about this topic more in another article.

Reverse Culture Shock (1) “lack of diversity”

I came back from NYC to Japan three week ago.  Although I recovered from jet lag, I’m still suffering from reverse culture shock. I want to write about it.
I was scared when I got to Tokyo Station, because there were many people and almost all of them were Japanese.  As you know, NYC has a variety of people.  People are very different from each other.  Tokyo is totally different from NYC in this respect.
I noticed people were standing only on one side – the left side – on the escalators at Tokyo Station.  If you were in a hurry to somewhere, you could run up along the right side of the escalators. This is an implicit rule in Tokyo.  I’ve never seen this kind of rule in NYC.  I remember people stood on both sides of the escalator at Grand Central Terminal. Can you imagine what I thought when I saw this scene in Japan?  I was just scared.  I felt weird even though I’m Japanese.
I want to say the word “diversity”.  I’m wondering why Japan lacks of this kind of “diversity”.  This diversity is the biggest difference between Japan and the U.S.

Reverse culture shock towards Japan

I was watching people in the Time Warner building, nearby Columbus circle last Friday.  There was a variety of people.  I like this diversity.  I like watching people in NYC.  I can’t see this scene in Tokyo.  I think most Japanese people don’t understand what I feel when I see this diversity. It’s comfortable for me to see different people in a same place.

At Central Park’s ice rink, I could see two gay couples and one lesbian couple.  I’ve never seen gay people in Japan.  This culture isn’t acceptable in Japan.  I thought what an open mind  Americans have.  On the other hand, if I do different things in Japan, normal Japanese people criticize me publically or secretly.

Of course, I know there is discrimination in the U.S., but Americans are trying to change this.  I like this attempt. Even though many problems exist in the U.S, now I prefer the U.S because of their open mind and willingness to change reality.  I really admire this open mind in the U.S.

My opinion seems too radical for normal Japanese who have never been to foreign countries.  Recently, I’ve been thinking it’s quite difficult for normal Japanese people understand diversity and the open-mindedness of the U.S.  I’m also thinking I shouldn’t say this kind of thing in Japanese.  What I feel now is a reverse culture shock to Japan.

Like iPhone’s applications

I have four-language exchange partners now.  All of them re Native English speakers, but three of them aren’t American.  One is a Canadian, another is a Singaporean, and the last person is a person with dual nationality, Hong Kong and the U.S.  Since I came here, I’ve met many immigrants.  I’m thinking what factors are attracting immigrants from all over the world.

Now, I think that the U.S. is like an iPhone of an iPod touch, and immigrants are like iPhone’s applications.  While a platform is always same on an iPhone, applications are always changeling.  An iPhone can continue to stay good because of this application’s improvement.  The coutry like the U.S. is equivalent to a platform in this thinking, and immigrants are applications.  The United States good because many immigrants always come to the U.S. ; the nationality of immigrants changes each time.

On the other hand, Japan doesn’t accept immigrants eagerly now. Almost twenty years ago, Japan was much better.  Japan hasn’t changed their demographic of workforce well to adjust to the changing world economy.  I think that the reason why Japan was good was just that they were lucky.  My theory is that Japan’s economy was suitable for the world economy from after Worl War Two to twenty years ago. Now, Japan isn’t suitable for the world economy.  Japanese people need to change themselves to keep up with the world economy.  While the U.S is always changing, Japan isn’t.  I’m thinking how Japan will change in the future.

Misunderstanding about learning English

My biggest misunderstanding about the TOEIC is that a 900+ score was not so difficult.  I thought very few people could achieve 900+; people who grew up in the U.S. or went to an American college could achieve this score.  I realize it’s completely wrong.

What I thought in the past is that if I achieve 900+, I can speak very fluently, I can understand any English, I can write good compositions, I can read difficult English books, and so on.  I can’t do these things well now…

I didn’t have a single notion of ESL, English as second language.  Usually, you can’t be a Native English Speaker no matter how hard you study English.  Few people can be perfectly bilingual, who come to the U.S. in their childhood or are 2nd generation immigrants, and so on.

These are my misunderstandings about learning English, which I had in the past.  I should have known it.

Studying not only language but also people

Though I focus on studying “English conversations” now, I would like to study how to write good English.  I live in NYC, so I should focus on conventional English because it’s hard to study it in Japan.

Conversational English includes understanding American people.  Everytime I meet them, I learn new things about them.  I learn American people’s way of thinking through their behavior. I’m learning not only English but also about the U.S.  I think that studying English with a text book is not enough: you need to know about people who speak English and the countries they live in. So, I focus on “Conversational English” to improve my English and to gain knowledge about them.

I can read English books in Japan.  I’ll improve my reading and writing skills in Japan.  It’s hard to see native English speakers in my home town which is located in the country side.  I think what I wrote in this article is an advantage of studying abroad.

Why do you always use big, fancy words?

I have been learning English with many books. Because of them, my English has become good enough to communicate with Native English speakers.  While I can communicate well in English, I still have some problems about language usage.  I’ve learned English with books, so my English seems more polite or formal than Americans.

English textbooks in Japan are usually very formal, I think we don’t always learn present-day English; we sometimes learn your grandparents’ English.  I remember some Japanese people eagerly discussing this sort of old, grandparent English.  I’ve never used it and never heard it in America.  Ironically, the people who discussed Grand-parents English couldn’t use easy and normal English well.  This isn’t unusual in Japan.  I think many Japanese people regard English as something to study.  So, they don’t use English in their life;  they only study English, that’s it!

I would strongly recommend you to use English as a tool.  With this tool, you can communicate with non-Japanese people.  Besides English teachers, have you ever talked with a person from another country in English?  Because of the internet, you can find foreign friends or learning partners easily only if you have a will.