10 February, 2010

Reverse culture shock again?

A missionary friend of mine wrote recently on her blog that culture shock can have a fresh wave at the six month mark and guessed that reverse-culture shock could work the same way. Maybe that explains why I've had a few step-back-and-think-about-it moments recently. Yesterday when I went to the haematologist, his office was on the first floor of a multi storey building. I went looking on the ground floor and ended up in a cancer outpatients department! In Australia, for those of you overseas, floors are numbered like this Ground, 1st, 2nd and so on. In Japan and in many other countries, floors start at the 1st floor. No ground floor! I eventually found my way in. During our 'chat' he asked my some questions about my medical history. I couldn't remember the English word for a problem I'd been having. Just the English equivalent of a Japanese word that has been borrowed from English, but not any longer in regular use in English! He figured out what I meant and I just explained that it was 'one of those days'. And then today I went to fill up the car with petrol. It is something I've been doing since we came home (I had to learn to do it again after four years away, for various reasons I don't do it in Japan). First 'problem' I struck was a large line-up at all the pumps except the one closest to the entrance, which no one was using. In Japan, because I very often can't read important signs, I read a lot into what other people do. If there is a crowd at the place you are going, then you are probably in the right place. If it is deserted, then you are probably in the wrong place (this theory doesn't work so well in Australia, we are so much less populated). But today this instinct rolled in automatically and I wondered what was wrong with the bowser (petrol pump)! Because I was high alert due to the "there's no line-up at this bowser, therefore there is probably something wrong with it" worry. I suddenly found myself panicked by a choice. I had to choose between Unleaded fuel and Unleaded fuel with 10% ethanol. The latter was cheaper and won out, but I was plagued with doubts and envisaging all the bad things I could be doing to our car. My husband assures me it is fine but how come I haven't seen this before? I do wonder if yesterday's bout with Japanese confusion was brought on by the train journey I took to get to the doctor. Trains are irrevocably connected with Japan for me now. A temporary ill, I'm sure. Just a little disconcerting as you never know when it is going to strike!


Hippomanic Jen said...

It must be so hard when you just can't win like this. You'll be fine just in time to go back. I guess we're all supposed to be in transition here on earth.

Ken Rolph said...

If your car is relatively new it will have something printed on the inside of the petrol cover telling you that 10% ethanol is okay. Not usually something you notice if you are not looking for it.

Buildings used to be built as ground floor and first floor ABOVE the ground floor. Newer buildings are usually labelled 1, 2, 3, etc from the ground up. This can prove disorienting.

Macquarie University was built as one giant plan inside a valley. All floors on the same level have the same number regardless of their relationship to the actual ground. So some levels lower in the valley are actually 0. Higher up the ridge you can enter a building on level 2 or 3. This can really throw you out if you only think in terms of single buildings. You need to understand that the whole valley is labelled according to a plan to be able to find your way around.

I think that's an attempt to make it easier to navigate, but I've seen many students who found it more difficult.

Wendy said...

Jen, It isn't hard most of the time, really. We've coped fairly well, just occasionally you're hit for a six.

Ken, our car is NOT new, therefore it only says Unleaded is okay. What gets me is why it's taken 6 months to get to this. I'm glad I didn't go to uni at Macquarie!