18 August, 2014

Culture shock on trains

I caught a train to the women's conference on Saturday. It was a shocking experience.
  1. First shock: no signs at our local station. I'm so used to thousands of signs at every train station in Tokyo (yes, I exaggerate, but only a little).
  2. Second shock: announcements. I was a few minutes early so I sat and read a book. With no warning a freight train rumbled past. No warning at all! Then a tiny little voice came over the loud speaker. I presume it announced my train, because it came soon afterwards, but no words could have been understood by anyone.
  3. Third shock: the doors didn't open. All the doors on the train open in Tokyo, always. In Brisbane you have to press a button to get on or off. It took me a moment to figure that out.
  4. Fourth shock: very few people on a train. It's not that this doesn't happen in Tokyo, especially if you're riding in the middle of the day, but it was still a little too quiet.
  5. Fifth shock: understanding almost all the interactions going on around me (English!). I heard this little snippet as I walked past a mum and her young adult son: "Dale, you can't drink with those tablets you're on!" Hmmm. Not sure I've missed out on much...
    Couldn't help but think these seats waste
    a lot of space! They must be a nightmare
    to keep clean too, especially if people
    regularly put their feet on them.
  6. Sixth shock: no doors between carriages. In Japan there are doors between carriages, here you just walk straight through. 
  7. Seventh shock: shod feet on seats. This is taboo in Japan, anywhere, including trains. Seeing kids with their feet propped on seats with shoes on brought my Japanese side out!
  8. Eighth shock: loud voices. A mum was on the train at the other end of the carriage with her four young children and I could hear almost everything she said. Her parenting style was frightening in itself, but the bigger shock was that they pretty much acted as if they were at home (except when the youngest announced she wanted to go to the toilet and the mum loudly ordered the older sister to put a nappy on her sister because there was no toilet on the train).
  9. Ninth shock: seats that took up most of the carriage. In Japan most carriages have seats only along the side facing in. Here, most seats face forward or back. You can fit many less people in the train when seats are configured that way.
The above all happened within the first ten minutes of my re-encounter with Brisbane trains. This last one happened on my way home in the afternoon:

Tenth shock
We'd stopped at a station and, as I was reading, I only vaguely remembering one person from our carriage getting off. Next thing I know I there's a lady standing in the open door of the carriage asking urgently if she'd left a bag on her seat. She wasn't talking to anyone in particular, just appealing for community help. After she repeated the question I jumped up and checked and yes, she had left a plastic bag on a seat. I retrieved it for her, but by the time I'd gotten back to her the doors had closed. She still stood in the doorway and was fighting with the doors as they pressed against her! 

Obviously she believed that the train wouldn't take off with her standing in the doorway, I can't think of what might have happened if it had. Eventually someone outside helped her disentangle herself from the closing doors and she walked away. Crazy! 

In Japan you'd get back on the train and get off at the next station. Or, if the doors had already closed, you'd report it and your bag would be returned on the next train. The first option wasn't very appealing, I'm sure, because trains were probably only running once every 30 minutes (or longer).

But I wasn't the only one shocked by this behaviour. The three other people in my vicinity all expressed their amazement at her craziness.

All in all, I'm happy, though, that I could use the train to get to the conference. It would have been difficult if that avenue of transport wasn't available. I keep repeating: "Different, not wrong."

For those of you who are wondering, yes, trains are more expensive here than in Japan. The trip for me on Saturday cost $6.28. A comparable journey in Tokyo would cost about $4.92.


Sarah said...

I'm finding your 'culture shock' posts fascinating. It's good to hear what migrants must experience and gain a better understanding.

Wendy said...

Thanks for the encouragement Sarah. I guess migrants would have a much more severe experience, we at least have a background of growing up in Australia. So much of what is "shock" is actually recalling an old memory (for example the button on the train wasn't new, but I'd forgotten from last time we were here). That being said, I've got at last one more of these up my sleeve to post, with probably more as time goes on.