Japan-aholic

A blog about culture and love in Japan

Strangeness And Familiarity (Reverse Culture Shock)

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After a few months living in Japan as an exchange student, I’ve grown accustomed to some of the things I forgot were not part of daily life in Canada. I was back in the family house in my home country during February and March 2015 before coming back to Japan. I thought about sharing those few things that I was a bit shocked about the first few days I was in Canada.

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In Canada with Hitomi during Summer 2014. Everything is bigger in Canada!

The weird thing is, I’m obviously used to my family house, as I’ve grown there all my life from when I was born until now. But now that I live in a house in Japan for a year, I also got used to that other environment. Which means that, when I got back in Canada, I had a feeling of familiarity while being completely weird at the same time, like something was out of place. Here are some examples.

1. The size of the milk container

While living in Japan, I got used to the one liter milk container. However, in Canada, my family uses the two liters milk, so when I took it with one hand absently, it was very weird to feel as if I can barely hold it with one hand, while a one liter is very small and easy to handle. As weird as it sounds, it was my first shock when I got back.

2. The toilet’s seat

In Japan, I also got used (very quickly, if I might add) to the heated toilet’s seat. You don’t realize how awesome it is until you go back to a country where it’s not the norm. I swear, for the first week in Canada, I would jump a bit everytime I would sit on the toilet seat, because we were right in the winter and the seat is made of wood, so it’s super cold. It was quite ridiculous — and uncomfortable.

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The technological toilets of Japan!

3. The kitchen’s counters height

I don’t know if it’s only the house I live in, but in Japan, the counters are really, and I mean really low. They are right below my pelvis bone. I must admit, I’m a relatively tall person (5″8, or 172 cm), so that might be why. It means that when I cook or wash the dishes, I’m always kind of crouched. It’s not really nice.

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The kitchen counter in my shared house in Japan

But in Canada, the counters are about as high as my lower belly, which is perfect for me.

4. The dryness of the air

I got so used to the humid temperature of Japan that when I got back to my home country, I instantely had dry patches on my skin in the most weirdest places — on my eyelid, for example. I had to put a lot of face cream day and also take care of my hands. It was horrible.

5. The customer service

I really got used to having my bag ready (handles fitting in hands nicely and all) when I finished paying for my stuff in Japan. The clerks always place the bag in a way that makes it easier for you to take it. Moreover, I love the politeness and on-point service that I get here in Japan. But the more I live here, the more I realized I took it for granted.

When I got back to Canada and shopped a little bit in H&M, and the clerk said “Have a nice day” and literally threw the bag on the counter, I was quickly reminded that I’m not in Japan anymore.

Every countries has its good and bad sides and unique quirks. Seeing those differences in a new light was a very interesting experience!

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Did you guys ever felt this way when you came back to your home country after traveling? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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Author: Jasmine

Jasmine is a 20-something years old French-Canadian student and part-time blogger who loves traveling, drawing, listening to (all kind of) music and eating (everything). To achieve one of her biggest dream, she went in Japan for two months and a half as a tourist in 2013. She was an exchange student at Daito Bunka University in Saitama (near Tokyo) during the year 2014 - 2015. She is now studying to eventually become a nurse back in Canada, so she lacks time to write about Japan. You can still read all her posts on her blog, since she'll let them there for you to enjoy :)

18 thoughts on “Strangeness And Familiarity (Reverse Culture Shock)

  1. Oh wow, heated toilets seats must be amazing! I too have suffered the pain of Canadian winters, and sometimes no matter how warm it is in the room, the toilet seat is still cold and unpleasant!

    I think I would like the counter height in Japan. I’m a short person, and I always find that counters in Canada are never at a comfortable height for me. It hurts my back to stand at one for too long, because the height isn’t that great for me to work with. Which is a shame, because I like to cook! I’ve wondered before if a lower counter would help.

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  2. Hey, there! ^^
    Yet another Jasmine writing about her reverse culture shock. ^^
    I just wrote about mine as well after living in Japan for almost a decade and then going back home to Germany.
    You can read about it here if you’re interested: http://zoomingjapan.com/life-in-japan/japan-reverse-culture-shock/

    For me it was really hard. It took about half a year to get over it.
    I guess the longer you stay, the harder it is to re-adjust in your home country. 😉

    I’m also not quite sure yet what I’ll do. I might as well move back to Japan in a year or so.

    Oh, and I’m totally with you about Japan’s great (customer) service. ^___^

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    • I can only imagine! I’m sure you’re right; the longer you stay, the harder it gets I guess!
      By the way, I don’t know if I already told you but I really love your blog 🙂

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  3. When my mom and grandma came to Japan, I had a kind of culture shock getting readjusted to the way they act and communicate. Japanese people rarely complain, especially in someone’s house, but my mom was really honest and did a lot of things that shocked me. They also wanted me to translate and explain every detail of Japanese life, and it was hard on me, since I spent most of the time trying to take them places on time. The first time I went home from Japan in high school, I found myself really depressed because I didn’t think I had reverse culture shock, and no one understood me. I think when I go back this year I’ll try to remember not to be so hard on myself or others as we learn how to communicate again.

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    • Oh I understand that. My family is coming to Japan in August and although they aren’t rude at all, there are probably some things that I forgot are very “Japanese” because I’ve integrated them in my daily life, and when my family won’t do it like me I’ll be surprised I guess. I don’t know if I’m making any sense?
      I already told them in advance that they should keep their voice down on the train when they’ll be here hahaha

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  4. Ha les différences culturelles, j’adore comparer ce genre de chose aussi! J’habite en Angleterre mais je suis française. Les retours en France pour les vacances sont toujours difficiles! Les français sont tellement grognons et mal polis c’est abusé! Dans les magasins (grandes surfaces surtout), à peine un bonjour, pas de sourire et si tu as de la chance peut être un au revoir. En Angleterre, c’est bonjour, sourire, ça va?, passez un bonne journée! C’est tellement plus agréable!
    Mais je dois avouer qu’entre le Canada et le Japon ça doit être quelque chose! Beaucoup plus choquant! 🙂 Il y a du bon et du mauvais partout ceci dit 😀

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    • Je ne suis qu’allée une fois en France, mais c’est vrai que certains sont très grognons, surtout à Paris je trouve. À l’extérieur des grandes villes c’est mieux non? Ça été mon impression en tout cas! Il y avait aussi deux clans: les gens qui détestaient l’accent québécois et ceux qui l’adoraient! Ça pouvait parfois être insultant quand on me disait que je ne parle pas vraiment le “vrai français”. Hahaha!

      J’aimerais beaucoup visiter l’Angleterre. Comment c’est la vie là-bas? Je crois que je devrais aller visiter ton blog 😀

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      • Paris c’est spéciale, personnellement je n’aime pas trop. Les gens sont pressés et plus stressés (c’est peut-être juste l’excuse que je leur donne :p ).
        Je suis de Lyon, qui est une relativement grande ville (la 3eme de France). Mais même là bas j’ai trouvé les français dures à vivre. J’ai du mal avec les gens impolis, et grognons qui ne sourient pas (c’est gratuit pourtant :p ).
        Hahaha oui je me doute que certains aient critiqué l’accent québecois (les français critiquent toujours, pas tous heureusement). Quelle blague le “vrai français” que disent-ils de tous les accents différents en France même? :p Haha.
        Heureusement je pense que les nouvelles générations sont plus ouvertes, on verra dans quelques années ce que ça donne 😀

        En Angleterre la vie est beaucoup plus cool je trouve, les gens sont plus facile à vivre. Je suis dans le nord, c’est peut-être un peu différent à Londres. Mais globalement on va dire que les anglais sont plus ma tasse de thé (bon ok c’était nul je sors!) 😉

        Je t’en prie vas-y 🙂

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  5. As both Germany and Finland or not so different I never had a big shock when moving back to Germany. However what I noticed is obviously to have more people around, to have more products around (there is not much diversity in Finland), and that people are so much more talkative in Germany (in Finland they might start talking after the first six pack of beers…)

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    • I want to visit those countries so badly *-* I’ve been living with Finnish and German people in my dormitory, so I now wish I could visit those countries which I had only mild interest before. Europe is generally very interesting I think!
      And I think it’s true that Finnish people are a bit more reserved. Those I know put a lot of importance on the privacy and physical distance (the “personal bubble”).

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  6. I have been shocked by how loud and confrontational Americans are when I go home to the U.S., and how some customer service workers make you feel dumb for asking a question…:'(

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    • Loud and confrontational, that’s so true! In Japan you can get away by saying “I can’t go” to a certain event, and nobody will question you. But in Canada, you’re supposed to say WHY you can’t go, even if you have to lie. Quite different!

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  7. Les bancs de toilettes …. a chaque fois c’est un grand shock. Les bancs de toilette chauffant devraient vraiment faire leur entre au Canada. Bon je crois que les bancs chauffant exhiste au Japon premierement parce que y’ont pas un super bon chuaffage/isolation … mais reste que les bancs de toilette froid c’est vraiment pas plaisant. C’est quand tu reviens du Japon que tu t’en rend compte lol.

    Sinone customer service…. Tellement. Il y a qu’un seul magasin que je suis alle au Japon et que la fille presque pas un regard et pas de ‘irrashaimase” et jetais comme “Wtf”. En general, au canada cest pas si mal. Je veux dire la pluspart du temps tu as un sourire et tout. Si je donner une note au service entre NY, CA et JP ca donnerait :

    JP : GOLD + + (Super service et des fois meme trop. Genre se promener dans le shibuya 109 presque vide et juste passer devant les magasins pour aller en haut et eviter le regard des vendeuses parce que tu te sent mal quelles te disent “Irrashaimase” meme si tu entres pas dans leur magasin lol)

    CA : Silver (En general bon service avec grande place a amelioration. Si au Canada le client est supposer etre Roi … au Japon le client est surement une divinitė)

    NY : Bronze ( a peine. Ca me tromatise a chaque fois comment le monde est bete. Ou cest les magasins que je suis allee. Pas de sourires at all. Seul le disney store rattrappait la donne)

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    • Ouais au Japon des fois j’trouve que c’est un peu trop, genre j’aimerais ça qu’ils me laissent tranquille quand je magasine haha. Donc au Canada j’trouve ça pas si mal non plus! Mais tout de même, le Japon surpasse largement, surtout au niveau du service (truc qu’ils sont pas obligés de faire mais qu’ils font pareil). NY ça fait trop longtemps que je suis allée, je me souviens pu :O Mais je te crois totalement haha

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  8. I’ve been living in Japan since 1990 and my most recent trip to America was eleven years ago.
    I wasn’t expecting it…but I experienced reverse culture shock:

    https://tokyo5.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/reverse-culture-shock/

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