FlyerTalk Forums

FlyerTalk Forums (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/index.php)
-   Japan (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/japan-509/)
-   -   Is there a thing called "Japanese claustrophobia"? (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/japan/1412951-there-thing-called-japanese-claustrophobia.html)

Taiwaned Dec 1, 12 4:26 pm

Is there a thing called "Japanese claustrophobia"?
 
I'm not sure how to describe it but recently I feel really claustrophobic living in Japan.

Everything seems civil and orderly on the onset but discover so many unwritten procedures and non spoken yet readily accepted rules of conduct that I feel like I am in a very small closet, hand cuffed and smothered.

For example, our neighborhood is instituting clear garbage bags only and you must sign the outside of the garbage your name. This starts in January. This is on top of the wash your cans and jars before recycling and newspapers and advertising are supposed to be separated etc..... - SIGH -

Or went to purchase a simple wallet calendar. Saw the last one I wanted and picked it up, went to the cash register. Was informed, this is not the last one but need to go to a different area because where I was looking was only samples. The rest of the calendars were located on the other side of the store. Wouldn't have dreamed that the inventory was that far away.....

Went to 711 to pick up a snack. Told the cashier that I don't need a bag because I was going to eat it right away. She told me, please don't! This neighborhood doesn't like people eating and walking. Got home and my wife agreed with her and said "This is Japan, not Canada, not China."

I can't seem to do anything right (the Japanese way) and I am feeling really suffocated.

jib71 Dec 1, 12 4:46 pm

It's called culture shock. It comes and goes.

Worse still is reverse culture shock, when you find yourself back in your home country wondering why people don't conform to the unspoken rules that seem like second nature to you now. It took me a while to get reacclimated to the idea that people can sit wherever they like in meetings...

LosPenguinosII Dec 1, 12 6:28 pm

At least, garbage collection is not 'unwritten' rules, for example


http://www.city.yokohama.lg.jp/shige...mg/english.pdf

mjm Dec 1, 12 7:57 pm


Originally Posted by Taiwaned (Post 19778903)
I'm not sure how to describe it but recently I feel really claustrophobic living in Japan.

Everything seems civil and orderly on the onset but discover so many unwritten procedures and non spoken yet readily accepted rules of conduct that I feel like I am in a very small closet, hand cuffed and smothered.

For example, our neighborhood is instituting clear garbage bags only and you must sign the outside of the garbage your name. This starts in January. This is on top of the wash your cans and jars before recycling and newspapers and advertising are supposed to be separated etc..... - SIGH -

Or went to purchase a simple wallet calendar. Saw the last one I wanted and picked it up, went to the cash register. Was informed, this is not the last one but need to go to a different area because where I was looking was only samples. The rest of the calendars were located on the other side of the store. Wouldn't have dreamed that the inventory was that far away.....

Went to 711 to pick up a snack. Told the cashier that I don't need a bag because I was going to eat it right away. She told me, please don't! This neighborhood doesn't like people eating and walking. Got home and my wife agreed with her and said "This is Japan, not Canada, not China."

I can't seem to do anything right (the Japanese way) and I am feeling really suffocated.

What jib said. :)

Garbage separation and not walking and eating are as common here as are tipping and Christmas vacation in the West. Some days it seems odd, some days we are indifferent, some days it seems intriguing and appealing. Trying to be Japanese is a phrase I often hear from expats, but it is as silly to expect to be someone else than it is to actually be someone else. Be yourself, accept that there are differences and that whether they are good or bad are merely value judgements, Equally valid from person to person, but nonetheless quite consciousness dominating at times. The pendulum swings become less and less as time goes by. Come to Tokyo and have a meal with me if you get too frustrated, I will be glad to talk you through it.

Scifience Dec 1, 12 8:51 pm

As everyone else has said, it takes time to get used to the differences. Culture shock is a [insert expletive of choice].

My city now has seven (!) types of garbage, and there is at least one category up for collection every day of the week... different types of garbage go into different types of bags, paper is divided out into three different varities, and just yesterday I got a booklet explaining that yet another type of plastic garbage would need to be separated come February. :rolleyes:

The unwritten rules, such as "it's not nice to eat while walking" and so on, can feel even more stifling, as there is no handy "ハローごみ"-type booklet to consult, leaving one in constant fear of violating some societal norm. After a number of years, I think I finally understand most of these, but new mystifying customs and standards of behaviour still routinely crop up. Honestly, the trick (at least for me) was to simply come to terms with the fact that it is never really possible for a foreigner to completely assimilate into Japanese society, realise that I will always stand out as "different," and just stop caring so much. :)

As jib71 says, the reverse culture shock actually seems harder to deal with, but also helps put things into perspective. Currently, I split my time between Kansai and Shanghai, and when I'm in SH, I often find the apparent lack of order and politeness extremely tiring and angering for the first few days. When I return home to the Midwest US, I now find many parts of American culture a bit baffling, and am dismayed to have to worry again about things like "bad neighbourhoods" and "violent crime." When I get back to Japan, the restoration of order can actually seem a relief.

It'll get better over time and Japan will start to seem more normal and comfortable. :)

joejones Dec 1, 12 9:12 pm


Originally Posted by Taiwaned (Post 19778903)
For example, our neighborhood is instituting clear garbage bags only and you must sign the outside of the garbage your name.

I am pretty sure there is no way for this to work unless your neighborhood is full of old people who have nothing better to do but police the garbage rules. Which, granted, includes about 95% of the territory of Japan...

I have lived in the 23 wards for the last few years and have never had to put my name on my trash, unless I was throwing out a large item that required a surcharge, and even in that case they let you use your phone number if you don't want to use your name. Indeed I am surprised that autographing your trash is a rule in today's Japan, where people are pretty crazy about their privacy.


Originally Posted by Taiwaned (Post 19778903)
Went to 711 to pick up a snack. Told the cashier that I don't need a bag because I was going to eat it right away. She told me, please don't!

You said too much. Just say "sono mama" and leave it at that.

And some wonder why Japanese people don't like talking to strangers...

hailstorm Dec 1, 12 9:27 pm


Originally Posted by joejones (Post 19779901)
You said too much. Just say "sono mama" and leave it at that.

That's it in a nutshell. Do as your told, and for everything else, "don't ask, don't tell". You don't need to get into the reasons why you don't need a bag.

In Japan, you have the freedom to do whatever you want, so long as you don't do it in front of others.

tcook052 Dec 1, 12 9:37 pm


Originally Posted by Taiwaned (Post 19778903)
Went to 711 to pick up a snack. Told the cashier that I don't need a bag because I was going to eat it right away. She told me, please don't! This neighborhood doesn't like people eating and walking. Got home and my wife agreed with her and said "This is Japan, not Canada, not China."

Out of curiosity what kind of snack?

joejones Dec 1, 12 9:52 pm

I must confess that I have eaten onigiri on occasion while walking down the street, solely for lack of time to sit down for a meal. Fortunately nobody ever scolded me, perhaps because I was moving too quickly.

acregal Dec 1, 12 10:13 pm


Originally Posted by Taiwaned (Post 19778903)
I can't seem to do anything right (the Japanese way) and I am feeling really suffocated.

You'd be surprised at the number of Japanese people who don't do things the Japanese way (note: this is pretty much everyone except housewives and old people, mostly women as old men just do whatever they want).

Actually, the person at 7/11 was really rude and I would have honestly told them to shut up. Tons of people walk around while eating stuff.

I've had some people try and tell me about the "Japanese way" (like the guy drinking a one cup Ozeki at 2 PM who was going on about me jaywalking) and I just ignore them or walk away. If you listened to what the "Japanese way" is you'd get the impression that Japan is some place where people sit around a campfire in the forest singing kumbaya all the time.

Taiwaned Dec 1, 12 11:27 pm


Originally Posted by tcook052 (Post 19779985)
Out of curiosity what kind of snack?

A couple of rice balls.


Originally Posted by joejones (Post 19779901)
I am pretty sure there is no way for this to work unless your neighborhood is full of old people who have nothing better to do but police the garbage rules. Which, granted, includes about 95% of the territory of Japan...

You just described our neighborhood. The garbage Nazi lives beside the garbage drop off point. First time I went to drop off my garbage, this 80 year old told me I had no right to drop off garbage at that spot. When I explained I married the daughter down the street, she apologized and said "we must protect the garbage spot from strangers..." - SIGH -

I may be Canadian but of Japanese heritage. I look Japanese therefore they expect me to live like a Japanese.

I have actually heard a young mother explaining to her child that "I am handicapped so have patience" because I was trying to read a sign in Japanese characters. (Sounding the characters out)

I wish I am naturally blond and Caucasian. Then there will be no chance of been mistaken as learning disabled but have some patience for being a gaijin.

I appreciate everybody's kind words. Just feel a bit Japan-ed out.

frankmu Dec 1, 12 11:59 pm


Originally Posted by Taiwaned (Post 19780302)

I may be Canadian but of Japanese heritage. I look Japanese therefore they expect me to live like a Japanese.

I have actually heard a young mother explaining to her child that "I am handicapped so have patience" because I was trying to read a sign in Japanese characters. (Sounding the characters out)

I wish I am naturally blond and Caucasian. Then there will be no chance of been mistaken as learning disabled but have some patience for being a gaijin.

I appreciate everybody's kind words. Just feel a bit Japan-ed out.

I totally understand what you are feeling! I think it's harder in your situation because you look Japanese. When I visit relatives in Japan, I am exhausted because my "Japaneseness" had atrophied so much. Relearning those habits and manners can be physically demanding. The Japanese will give the gaijin a lot of leeway, while those of us who look Japanese but are essentially gaijin can confuse and sometimes anger them. My wife has a Chinese friend who had a hard time when she did a college semester in Japan, while her black and white classmates had a great time.

I hope things will get easier for you. Good luck!

joejones Dec 2, 12 12:34 am


Originally Posted by Taiwaned (Post 19780302)
I wish I am naturally blond and Caucasian. Then there will be no chance of been mistaken as learning disabled but have some patience for being a gaijin.

I have a friend in Tokyo who is Chinese-American from a small town in the Midwest. When I asked him how he likes Japan, he said "It's so great -- nobody thinks I'm weird just because I'm Asian!"

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

hailstorm Dec 2, 12 12:43 am

The worst part of life in Japan is that KFC never has Popcorn Chicken. :(

Steve M Dec 2, 12 1:59 am


Originally Posted by hailstorm (Post 19780474)
The worst part of life in Japan is that KFC never has Popcorn Chicken. :(

Yea, but at least they're open on Christmas Day!


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 8:01 am.


This site is owned, operated, and maintained by MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. Copyright 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Designated trademarks are the property of their respective owners.