Expatriation? Beware of the Culture Shock! Oh, and the Tentacles
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers
by Mike (in Tokyo) 'I
Went to an Islamic and a Fascist†Country...'
been lots of talk, and rightfully so, about Americans escaping the
USA to live in other countries. If you already have escaped and
are already adjusted to your new home, I say, "Bravo!"
If you havenít yet done so, but are thinking about escaping, then
all I can say is that you need to be prepared! This article is for
I canít write about specifics for every country in the world, but
I can write about generalities concerning expatriation. And that
is what this article is about: Culture Shock. It is a common denominator
concerning expatriation to any country of the world. It doesnít
matter if we are speaking about another developed western nation
that speaks your language or some backwards dive in the sticks of
Boroguay; Even those of stalwart mind and body, like Clark Kent,
can be reduced to a pile of incoherent useless and drooling wet
noodles by Culture Shock.
I have a friend
whose son is moving to Japan. We've been having some correspondence
and I really want to help my friend's son get acclimated and become
successful in the Land of the Rising Sun. (Gee, does that mean I
have to immediately take him out every night getting so drunk we
can barely walk and also have him start smoking two packs of cigarettes
everyday within the first two days? No! That can wait at least a
week or two!)
I want to help any way I can so I thought I should bring up a nasty
subject and that is about Culture Shock. I also thought since weíre
here, you, dear reader, might find this information useful too!
I wrote to my friend:
can really screw people up. Years ago, I was the liaison between
foreigners and the Japanese management for a big company in Tokyo.
We had about 480 foreign staff. From that experience, I've seen
people just totally and completely fall apart. Really.
hits people when they become ill with the flu or something. It
happened to me!
I got the
flu one time and was sick as a dog. All I wanted was to have for
breakfast two eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice. That's not
asking a lot, is it? Well, in Japan, it is...
I got the
two eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice, but it's not the same
in Japan as it is in the United States. I know that this is difficult
to understand, but trust me; there is no restaurant or person
in this country that can make bacon and eggs like mom can. For
one, mom isn't here in Japan and for two; even the bacon and the
eggs, toast and juice are different.
are. You have a very hard time finding a restaurant in Japan (that's
not inside a major hotel) that makes bacon and eggs like you get
in the states (even inside a major hotel, I think you have trouble.)
In Japan, they don't know how to cook an egg over-easy or over-medium;
In Japan, the toast is sliced massively thick (or too thin) and
they often cut the crusts off. Sure, Wonder Bread sucks, but when
you're sick and longing for home-style cooked food; it sounds
"Wonder-ful" (Sorry for the pun!); and the bacon? Nope. No way.
There is no such thing as a slice of crispy bacon in all of Japan.
I know. I checked.
bacon is different so it's even hard to make bacon at your Japanese
apartment that is like the bacon mom makes!
Are you kiddin' me? My episode was in the late 1970s so it is
much better now. Back in the late 1970s there was no such thing
in Japan like what Americans call "juice" - meaning something
like 100% fresh squeezed or even concentrate - back then in Japan,
"juice", meant something carbonated like Orange Soda Pop.
I WANTED WAS A SIMPLE GLASS OF JUICE AND THEY BROUGHT ME SOMETHING
LIKE FANTA ORANGE! THAT'S NOT JUICE! I wanted to scream! "Argh!
Fudge frank melon monkey feathers!" How hard could it be
to get a simple glass of juice?
1979 Japan, completely and totally impossible!
Poor baby! You want eggs and bacon just like mom made for breakfast?
Well, we don't have that, but how about some nice tentacles, instead?"
benign episode of the flu, with no eggs and bacon like mom makes,
set me off on a deep Culture Shock experience too! I was such
a wreck that I thought I was going to explode!
in Japan, if Culture Shock sets in then if the person doesn't
come out of it relatively quickly, I've seen them fall into serious
clinical depression. If that happens, they are finished. I've
seen that happen more times than I can count.
there was a guy who came here from Iowa (or was it Illinois?)
and within 3 weeks, he was in serious depression, and we had to
send him back to the USA. Why? When he got here to Japan, he thought
he was going to see a Japan that had samurai and geisha running
around (no joke). So, after arrival, when he saw a big modern
city and business people in suits (nothing like what he was expecting)
it freaked him out.
make this stuff up. I remember seeing my face in his one morning
when he was bursting at the seams and complaining about not being
able to get a decent steak and eggs breakfast in Tokyo. He was
demanding that I take him to a McDonald's (there were only a few
around in those days) so that he could at least get some pancakes.
He told me that he wanted a, "Home cooked meal!" I wondered what
kind of home he was from if McDonald's pancakes were his idea
was the lady from Nebraska (or was it Nevada?) who insisted to
me that because we were in Asia, her wristwatch had started running
in reverse. After telling me this a few times I decided to investigate
and soon realized that she had started wearing her wristwatch
I used to
joke to foreigners that dogs in America lift up their left rear
leg when doing their business but, since Japan is the other way
around, dogs lift up the opposite leg, their right rear leg, when
doing so. After that episode with the upside down watch, I stopped
making that joke to people.
were taking me seriously.
won't be that bad, of course (I trust). But I highly recommend
that he familiarize himself with Culture
Shock, what it is and its symptoms, so he can expect it and
know what's happening when it comes and be more able to deal with
it. I knew about it beforehand so I think that helped me from
not becoming more of a psychotic than I already am.
Heck, I have
a friend whose younger brother came here and he had lived with
Japanese people all his life. He even had a Japanese mom! Even
so, he had seriously bad Culture Shock for at least three months.
And I know he was so incapacitated and depressed that he missed
work for several weeks.
You son (and
dear reader) will be better off if he understands that he will
have Culture Shock like everyone else does. In fact, if he
understands it and expects it, it might bounce off him like rain
on a duck!
And that was
basically the letter.
I hope my friend's
son comes to Japan and that he does well. I love this place and
have never regretted moving here even once.
If you decide
to come to Japan to live, or move anywhere else outside your native
country, please do yourself a favor and at least get a cursory understanding
of Culture Shock and be ready for it when it comes. That way, you'll
understand what is happening and it will just be another part of
Oh, and I also
suggest that you start liking tentacles for breakfast.
For a humorous
article on this same subject, may I recommend this? Five
Things They Never Tell You About Living in Japan
to my friends, Mark Davis and Shea Davis
(in Tokyo) Rogers [send
him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to
Japan in 1984. He is the president of an Internet & Cross Media
advertising/marketing agency and a media production company named
He writes about marketing, the Internet and Social Media at the
Marketing Japan blog. His book, Schizophrenic
in Japan, went on sale in 2005.
© 2013 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
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