Obviously, I expected that I might have some issues adjusting to life in Japan. I wrote two whole blog posts about a few of those differences.
What I didn’t expect (though perhaps I should have, since I work for a global company) was to run into differences that are completely unrelated to Japan.
Some of my fellow English teachers are from English-speaking countries other than the United States. Perhaps that’s just (stereo)typical American ethnocentrism, but I didn’t think about how they’re different from me.
I was met at the train station by someone from Australia. We were soon joined by a couple from the U.K.. Because I’ve been talking to my colleagues more than the locals (truly — my training days end at 9pm, so I haven’t had a lot of time to explore the city), most misunderstandings so far have been completely unrelated to Japanese language or culture.
Immediately (during that loud conversation on the train that I mentioned in my second post), we got lost in translation.
“It’s SO hot here! Did they tell you it was going to be this hot?”
To be honest, it felt pretty good after the blazing summers in Atlanta, so I said, “Yeah, it’s pretty warm, but not too bad. Back home, it regularly gets up into the 90s.”
Blank stares all around.
One of the English folks quickly figured out the miscommunication and recalculated (which, kudos, because I still haven’t got the hang of it): “Oh, that’s like in the 30s.”
But that peaked my interest. Beyond having strong accents (I miss about 25% of what one of them is saying) that remind me of One Direction (one of them sounds like Zayn–he says he doesn’t–and the other one like Louis), these two individuals had a whole set of vocabulary that I didn’t understand.
Another time, one of them was telling a story and used a word I had never heard before. From context, it was obviously an insult, but I still must have made a face or something.
“Oh, do you not say that in America?”
She then proceeded to explain herself with a series of the most British insults I had ever heard.
“It’s like…a wanker. A tosser. A git? He’s a bit knobby.”
Of course, we don’t use any of those insults regularly in the US, but it got the point across.
I won’t get into the whole healthcare argument here, but it is also interesting to note the different reactions to the benefits package. Coming from America, I was thrilled to see that I’ll only be paying 30% of my healthcare costs. This means that I can go to the dentist (cavities and all) for about $40, ambulances cost next to nothing, and I can get a broken arm taken care of for about $60.
Those 2 from the UK found it unreasonable that they would have to have to pay anything at all.
(On the other hand, as an American, it seems crazy that doctor’s offices are closed on the weekends. Sure, they have emergency services 24/7…but if you break your arm on Saturday, you won’t get anything more than painkillers until the bone doctor comes back in on Monday.)
I’m excited that there’s yet another difference that I can look forward to exploring. Sure, there a lot of foreigners in the United States (melting pot and all that), but I don’t have anything in common with them when I’m at home. Here, all foreigners are FELLOW foreigners. It should be fun to get some conversations and maybe even friends out of it.
P.S. Oops, I lied. I forgot that the first time we got mixed up was even earlier. At the airport, we mailed the majority of our luggage off to the schools where we’re going to be teaching. Anyone know how to convert kilograms to pounds? And what on Earth is a stone?