16 October, 2016

Acute culture shock

Every week we put out at least this much
clean plastic, most of it wrappers off
food. It's great that this seems to be
"recyclable" rubbish, but prevention
would be better! Part of the problem is
that portion sizes are small, so we get
through so many small packages being
a family with big appetites.
A few days ago I came across a blog post by young American lady who has been in Japan only a couple of months. She's suffering from acute culture shock. Lots about Japan is strange and abhorrent to her (she's also promised a blog post about the things that she loves about Japan, I can't wait to see that). We still struggle with some of the things she mentions but generally we've gotten used to them or have found ways around them. 

But it's nearly 16 years since we first arrived in Japan and it's hard to remember how strong those feelings were at the beginning. Of course we as a missionary couple with a young child we had different stresses, but we also probably had more support around us than perhaps this lady has. My biggest impression of the first 2 ½ months of life in this country was cold and snow: we arrived in Sapporo in December! One of the snowiest cities in the world.

But part of me wishes I could get alongside this girl and help her with some of her concerns, like finding water fountains and trashcans. All are available, she's just not finding them. I'm not sure where she is shopping, because she's having trouble finding cheese and decently priced fruit and vegetables. She just needs a few pointers and a bit of encouragement.

Other things she's concerned about makes me want to shake her and say "get over it", like Stamping: in Japan you rarely sign, you use a personal ink stamp with your name on it. It's not worth getting worked up about. Squat toilets: I actually don't mind them, they're not as bad as she's suggesting, life could be a lot worse. Sorting "trash" also isn't so bad, just a little tedious at times. Actually now I'm so used to it that it is hard to throw it all into the same receptacle back in Australia.

I agree with others that she mentions, like smoking indoors, excess packaging, and carrying around a soggy towel in your bag because there often isn't anything to dry your hands on is pretty gross and I avoid it if at all possible. The cash society can be an issue, in fact we had a problem with it just this last week. But with some planning ahead to ensure that you have enough in your wallet and it doesn't have to be a big issue most of the time. In fact this is something that we wouldn't have noticed if we'd come 30/40 years ago, because that's what the West was like back then too.

In any case, it is good for us "old timers" to be reminded of what it feels like to be new to all this. It's easy to judge her but I think compassion is probably the better response. And if you know a new missionary, prayer is the best response. Because adjusting to a new country without all your old support structures is really hard. Even harder when you're considering committing yourself to this for longer than a year or two.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is a good refresher to remember that we too were new once, and hopefully that will give us more compassion on the new ones--- of which 20 or so will be arriving with my mission in the next years.