5 Ways I Have Changed since Arriving in Japan

There is a saying in Japanese that, roughly translated, means “the nail that sticks out eventually gets hammered down”. I feel this expression best introduces this post: 5 Ways I Have Changed since Arriving in Japan.

It has been over two months now that I have been in this country, and I find things about myself beginning to change. For example, although I always considered myself somewhat of a rule abide-r, I am even more so now. When I first arrived in Japan, certain “laws” (or “guidelines” as I saw them then), seemed silly and not worth enforcing. Such guidelines were: never cross a street while the light says “don’t walk”; or, never ride on the back of someone’s bicycle. To me, and many of the other foreigners, these laws just didn’t make sense. I mean, if we are all going somewhere far away, and one person doesn’t have a bicycle, it’s only natural that said person would ride on the back of someone’s bike… harmlessly. Secondly, if there is no one around and it is safe to do so, I am ignoring that “don’t walk” light – because to wait would just be silly. Yet, a few nights ago I found myself sitting on my bike (with no one on the back of it), stopped at a “don’t walk” light… just a short distance from my apartment … at 11:30 at night … on a deserted road … and I really had to pee. Yet I didn’t cross. I waited until that light told me I could before I crossed that road. And it was only yesterday when I found myself being persuaded by a friend to cycle down a “no cycling road,” when only a few short months ago I would have needed no persuading. Who would catch us? No one! Who would even care? Not a soul! But I couldn’t … there was a sign that said not to! (For the record I did end up cycling down this “no cycling road” because we were in a hurry and no bad came of it.) The Japanese are pretty intense about their rule abiding. It is considered fairly badass to cycle past a no cycling sign. All the cool teenagers do it (and that’s pretty much the worst they do…). I felt pretty badass doing it, not going to lie.

Secondly, it is 23 degrees out today (and I just double checked the temperature to be sure that was true) … and I am freezing. I am wearing a long sleeve sweater and a blazer. Why? I am Canadian. This is disgraceful.

Thirdly: In one of my first posts, you may recall, I wrote about a woman who was shocked and appalled that I didn’t take my shoes off upon entering my own home. She gasped and was so startled that I had stepped out of the little shoe removing area and onto my floor with my OUTDOOR shoes on! How dare I!? In my own home!! Well sir, well sir … last week I came home, in a rush, and ran into my house without removing my shoes and I freaked out! I screamed to myself turned around, and ran back to take them off before I realized that I didn’t care! I have become so conditioned to think this is blasphemy that I did end up taking them off. It’s just become habit now…

Also, I bow at everyone. Next time you see me I will probably bow to you. I can’t help it; I do it like 15 times a day. It’s second nature now.

And last, but certainly not least, on my list of behavioral changes (this is perhaps the most profound): I AM ALWAYS EARLY! Yes! It’s true! One wouldn’t have thought this day would come! In fact today I arrived only 5 minutes early to work (at 755 and not 750 like usual) and I apologized profusely! I considered myself late! I stayed until 430 to make up for it!

I am sure I will immediately abandon all of these personality changes the second I step off the plane home (especially the “being early” one, and lets hope I forget the bowing one real quick), but just in case I don’t … you have been forewarned.

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