After 3 days in Japan without any noticeable culture shock I had my first….culture schock? Well I think it is rather a common psychological phenomenon that occurs for people in the same situation. Today I felt lonely. For the first time in a few years I felt really lonely. Not necessarily in the sense that I miss my friends or family but rather in being singled out by society. Last time I had this feeling was during puberty when it seems that the whole wide world does not understand ones thoughts. This time it was a mixture of low blood sugar and not being able to communicate the simplest intentions to the people around you. I am in one of the biggest cities and probably one with the highest population density in subway stations during rush hour and yet today I felt incredibly lonely.
I had not eaten all day because finding food I like in Japan is more difficult than I thought. Not because there is none but because I don’t know what to order. Therefore I ate nothing the whole day until I left work. After work I went to the subway station and thought “I will get myself some sushi because it’s Japan – there has to be sushi everywhere”. There is probably sushi everywhere but I seem to be unable to find it. The problem is english menus are very rare. If you go into a restaurant and ask for one chances are high they might have one. However from the outside it is often hard to judge on whether they even have the food you are looking for. Of course this may be my ignorance for not knowing the right spots or Japanese language in general. However to me this is a real problem. It is only one problem in a chain of complications that occur in a country that is refusing to talk in english.
I am neither homesick nor do I think this was a culture schock, I rather think it was a very natural reaction to my problems. It was a powerful feeling that I did not think was possible given the fact that there are literally millions of people around you. As I believe one is responsible for his own luck there is no crying, no pouting, no sadness. People grow when they are confronted with problems. The easy road would be to just accept it and feel miserable for the next 6 months. However that is not the path that I think should be taken. If there is a Problem, find its cause. Analyse the cause and work on strategies to resolve the problem. I think this is sometimes called personal growth in retrospect to personal problems. So what is there to do? How can you not feel lonely in a country where nobody understands you or talks to you in a language that you understand. In a country where even finding food you like is hard?
I decided I would just go into restaurants and ask people what they had on the menu. After I had eaten and my mental state improved I just went into a bar and asked them for their menu. It is surprising how far you get with not giving a damn about how stupid you will look when you conversation consists of pointing somewhere. To have these language barriers and issues can be even viewed as positive. It forces you to grow and it forces you to learn. I guess people should embrace problems, there is nothing more empowering than solving challenges.
To all my friends that might read this: I do enjoy my stay so far. Even if buying a SIM card takes about 3-4 hours or being at city hall to register your apartment takes 2-3 hours as well. Filling out a form on an A5 sheet of paper, another 30 minutes….but no problem. Japanese people are *very* kind and polite. So it is even fun sometimes because the Japanese people I have encountered so far are eager to help you. Even if it means that they run around in their store for 10 minutes looking for someone who is able to speak a little english.
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