Three more days to go, and then I’m flying back home. Let me tell you some things I didn’t say before.
Firstly, I’ve bought so many souvenirs that I was afraid that I would have to buy a second suitcase (and pay a lot of money for taking a second suitcase onto the plane) or throw away as many things as I can: Contact lens fluids, soap, pens, paper, maybe even the book I brought for the exam I had to do here. I even considered tossing out my toothbrush, deodorant and the two towels I brought, if it means that I would up with one suitcase that weighs less than 20kg. However, after weighing my suitcase, I’m still well under the limit. Whew.
Let me tell you what I’m going to miss about Japanese culture and what things from this culture I’m more than happy to leave behind. Let’s start with the latter.
I think I won’t miss:
- Roaches in the student house… 🙁
- Being asked the same questions over and over again and just people showing too much interest in me in general. Where are you from? How long are you staying? How long have you been here? Do you like Kyoto? Why did you choose Japan? …
- ATM’s that are closed from 7PM to 9AM and on Sundays.
- Staring at some Japanese guy’s back pocket where his wallet is sticking out and having the desire to rob him just to teach him a lesson.
- The fact that Japanese don’t automatically switch to English when there’s someone around who doesn’t speak Japanese.
- The cars in the street at $#%&! eight o’clock in the morning that remind you to put your old paper outside. When you are outside, the speaker sounds really muffled, but for some reason the sound really penetrates the walls and in your room it’s quite loud. Hurray for Japanese technology…
- Having to pay 400-500 yen for a cola (the way the Euro is now, that’s 4 or 5 euro’s :O)
- Being unable to read books, newspapers, names of items in shops and supermarkets
- Having to constantly choose between doing what I want to do and disappointing and/or offending people in the process (and knowing it!) or doing what the group expects you to do (and not wanting to).
- Paying double rent 8)
- Riding my bike. Oh my god I really won’t miss riding my bike in this chaos.
I think I will miss:
- Being able to go outside without a coat all summer long.
- Automatic water taps and hand soap 8)
- Heated toilet seats XD
- Being tall
- Bento lunch boxes (even though I’ve totally had it with eating rice all day, I think I’ll miss having the bento for lunch)
- Children staring at me
- Sharing stories and experiences with fellow foreigners. Also, walking somewhere, seeing a fellow foreigner, seeing the look on their face and knowing the look on your face exactly matches his/hers: “OMG you’re foreigner too! Awesome! :D”
- Asking for a bill without having to utter awkward phrases such as “may I pay”, “how much is it” or “can we have the bill”. Here, you just make the little cross with your forefingers and they know it means that you’re going to leave. (We have a gesture in Nederland, where you rub your thumb and index finger to indicate to want to pay, but apparently it is rude. Which is weird, because it couldn’t possibly mean anything other than “I don’t really want to pay but I have to, so I might as well get it over with, but I don’t want to say anything that has to do with money, paying or bills, which is why I’m using this gesture”. I think we should just start doing the cross in Nederland, because it just means “we’re finished” and doesn’t really make any statement about money.)
- Convenience stores that are opened 24/7
- Feeling safe in the streets, even at night
I have no coherent story, so let’s just go directly to the next list.
Some other things:
- I’ve got mixed feelings about the weather. On one hand the torrential downpour and overwhelming heat are sometimes too much, but in between the rain and after the 19th of July when the rain season ended, it was a marvelous sunshine-only, 30 degrees and up summer. (I remember listening to the Dutch radio once and the dude doing the weather forecast said: “Rain, rain and more rain. Hurray, it’s summer!” haha)
- I’ve experienced two earthquakes while I was here, both during the night. The first one was way in the beginning of my internship. You can guess why I didn’t blog about it: It wasn’t that interesting and I forgot to mention it. The second was in my last week of the internship and this one, too, was not that special. I’m guessing that most Japanese didn’t even wake up from these two.
- I have to correct myself on eating with chopsticks: Although the method works, it is apparently very rude to stick your chopsticks into the food. So if you get a hamburger that you can’t cut with chopsticks, you can still use the trick I told you about, but at least you will know that it’s not good manners. Oh well.
- I run out of toothpaste a lot quicker here. I noticed, but I didn’t realize why. I know now: The surface of electrical toothbrushes is smaller, and I didn’t bring my electrical toothbrush.
Soviet RussiaJapan cleaning lady thanks you! The office cleaning ladies would always first ask if it was okay if they cleaned our office while we were working there. Afterwards, they would say thank you …
- At night, if you hear people walking through the streets beating rectangular box shaped wooden sticks together, they are fire attendants and they are there to “remind people to be safe” or, in normal English, to make sure to put out heat sources before going to bed.
- When we point at ourselves, we point at our chest. When Japanese point at themselves, they point at their nose. (Which, by the way, looks really childish to me, to be honest…)
- The red and blue lollipops that I saw on my second day, they’re barber shops!
- If you’ve payed attention to the Kamo river in my pictures, you’ll see that it has transformed from an idyllic scene into a mudslide.
- Traffic lights are said to have a ‘red’ light and a ‘blue’ light, instead of green as we call it. This stems from the fact that originally, in Japanese colors had other meanings as well. For red, they used the word ‘hot’, for blue ‘cold’ and for green ‘fresh’. When the traffic light was introduced, apparently they wanted two opposites, so they chose ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, meaning ‘red’ and ‘blue’.
- When counting in Japanese, the objects that you are counting determine how to count: Depending on the object, you have a different suffix. There are exceptions to this rule. For example, when counting rabbits, the suffix for birds is used, not the suffix for small animals. The explanation for this can be found on Wikipedia’s Japanese counter word page:
Japanese Buddhist monks were not allowed to eat any meat other than birds, but liked rabbit meat so much they came up with the contrived “explanation” that rabbits are actually birds, and that their ears are unusable wings. The rationale was that while moving, ther rabbits touched ground only with two feet at a time. Nowadays, hiki is the usual counter for rabbits.
- The only people who drive their kids around in carriages, are the foreigners. Japanese people carry their children, either on their back or chest or in their arms.