I’ve been here for 4 months and this is the first written documentation I have attempted to make about my life here. (bar poetry scribbles, instagram posts, facebook statuses)
I’ve been here for 4 months and you’d think I would make a huge post chronicling my progression since July until now. But this post may not be so long.
The truth is, I don’t have that many blogworthy things to say!
I have been to some cool restaurants. I have had some fun days at work. I buy a lot of cool clothes. I’m getting fat. I play Splatoon entirely too much for my own good.
(plug: if you *are* interested seeing what my day to day life is like, my instagram *is* a much more convenient way for you to do so: @bradlybee)
So in that case, I hope I can offer you something a little different here. Some perspectives. Some anecdotes. Some universal truths and earth-shattering revelations. Ready?
1. “Culture shock” is misleading.
Culture shock: the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
Sometimes you are taken by surprise at a particular cultural quirk, or maybe something is just a pain in the butt to get used to. But (I apologize if this sounds harsh) to be “shocked” or “disoriented” by another culture is to understate the very fact that they are another culture. How can you be shocked by differences you ought to expect? Anticipate a different way of life, because that is reality.
Even having said that, Japan is a first world developed nation. So, it’s not ~that~ different. I can (and do) order Domino’s almost every week. I can pay my rent online. Public transportation is world class. This is Tokyo. So sure, you’ll be surprised or even annoyed by little differences in behavior, mannerisms, customs, etc, but please don’t be shocked.
Call me an asshole, but in an age where we can learn about anything by Googling it, it’s hard to be shocked anymore. Actually, the hardest thing for me to adjust to about Japan isn’t even about Japan at all:
And I am at least partially to blame for this. I probably don’t put forth the effort to meet people. I probably have a negative view of people in general which deters me from the majority of social opportunities. Maybe I expect too much attention from the people I know.
In any case, I was not prepared to spend so much time alone. I have whole weeks where I will not see another person outside of work. Sometimes I try to make plans, but I’m not close enough (physically or emotionally) to the people I ask for me to expect them to follow through. So lately, I have been trying (mostly failing) to accept loneliness, and see the positives to it. It’s hard.
Back home, I cherished my alone time. It was awesome. So I thought it wouldn’t be so hard here. The fact is (in my case), I always had the *option* to not be alone, so I never felt truly isolated. Cool hangs were just a facebook message away. It was commonplace.
Now, social interactions are something of a treat. And solitude is the default setting. I have to make plans way in advance, and they have to be worth your while. It’s not enough to say “let’s hang.” My company isn’t sufficient.
Anyway, this is my experience so far. I’m certain this isn’t true for everyone. I hope I can make some changes.
3. Some students suck
Oh, man, this should be in red bold font in the General Information Handbook.
Just kidding. I really should have seen it coming, but I was too busy marveling over how great all of my students are and how much they all like me to see that some of them.. don’t. So, story time.
Maybe a month or two ago, three girls began running away from me whenever they saw me. (It wasn’t just like, moving to a different room, it was making a scene, screaming and darting up the stairs). Because they always made a scene out of it, I tried to ask them numerous times why they always do that, and to not do it so loudly. But they always ran away instead of speaking to me.
One day, two weeks ago, they came to my office and asked to see me. They said to come with them, so we went to the main entrance to the building. They joined hands and wanted me to repeat something that they said in Japanese (it was very loud, fast, and 3 voices, so I never understood what it was). Confused, I asked them to explain to me what they were wanting me to say, but instead, one girl pulled out her phone and began recording me, wanting me to say it again.
I was very put off by this (obviously), so I took the issue to my supervisor who said he would discuss it with them and discipline as necessary.
It turned out that they had expressed some grievances to my supervisor which they were unwilling to tell me earlier on. So, this week, we met in the counseling office for them to make an apology for recording me and for me to listen to what they had to say.
What they had to say was that I make them feel uncomfortable, they don’t like it when I am near them, and that I should stay away. I started crying in front of my students and my supervisor. It was the first time I really felt completely unwanted. I (still) don’t know why they feel that way. It could be as simple as teenage immaturity, or it could be Japanese racism, or maybe I’m just obnoxious. Maybe they have troubled home lives and feel the need to take it out on others. It doesn’t really matter. The lesson learned is that you’re not going to be liked by everyone, and in fact you may be actively avoided by some.
It was a learning experience that I hope no one else has to go through in such a blunt and upsetting way. I know it’s unrealistic to expect to be liked by everyone. But it just never occurred to me. I love my school. My students (minus those three) are all sweet and kind and funny. I honestly just had my head in the clouds.
Anyway, it might seem obvious. But if you are ever thinking about teaching, don’t be blindsided. You’re in a building of 800 different people. Surely some of them don’t want you there. But you are.
Sorry to end the post on such a down note. I just wanted to offer a story that’s a little different (and more realistic) than the typical “JET is great!”
JET IS great. But it’s a job like any other. And I still have a lot of learning to do.
Dunno when my next post will be, but if you’ve read this far, give me some feedback! I thrive on feedback.