So recently I have found myself comparing varying aspects of Japanese and American culture. It’s kind of amazing how many American/Western customs that I’ve never taken a second to think about until now. I’ve had to check myself on a few occasions and often find myself being a lot more self aware than I was back at home. I think its incredibly important to be conscious of your actions as a foreigner. On the other hand, its also important to not beat yourself up about mistakes you make along the way and accept that you’re still learning and growing!
Some general differences I’ve noted (Note that these are generalizations and there are instances where these don’t apply/not everyone follows these)
- Slight bow when you see your teachers in the hallway instead of waving, there have a been a few times where I’ve waved and I’m like oh my gosh did I really just wave.
- I feel like this communicates a higher level of respect to all of your teachers, whereas at my college, its fine to wave at your teachers AND not to mention, teachers are referred to by their first name. I guess the first name basis is to establish a more equal dynamic within the classroom.
- The train/subway is incredibly clean, on time, and quiet! Being from NYC this is something that I appreciate like no other. Especially it being on time. I remember a friend telling me when she was in Japan that she couldn’t use train delays as her excuse for being late lol same. It is quite common for the entire train to be silent, especially during a morning commute. Not only are the views beautiful but riding the train has been very meditative.
- Hand motions such as pointing to yourself: people point to their nose instead of towards their chest. It’s a bit impolite to point directly to things with your index finger, instead people gesture with their whole hand.
Also, in learning Japanese grammar and vocabulary, I’m finding myself analyzing the English language. Thinking about things I haven’t thought about since high school like sentence structure. I’m still trying to get the hang of it because English and Japanese sentence structure are so different.
For example, to say
“Where is the train?”
You would say
Which basically translates to
As for the train, where is it?
So it’s definitely going to take some getting used to when forming sentences. I often find myself thinking about which language makes “more sense”. But honestly what does making sense/being grammatically correct even mean when the whole grammar structure changes within each language? I tried to think about it in a practical sense like would I rather know what the noun we’re talking about first OR the question you’re about to ask? I talked to my friend about it who basically said “Who cares, you’re going to know the question within 3 seconds either way.” True.