If my experience with culture shock has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll just have to sit it out. Still, my head can’t tell my heart to be happy.
Albert Meijer | firstname.lastname@example.org
I take my coffee to a table that looks out over the university campus. In many ways, this square could be anywhere in the world: straight-forward brick buildings designed in the seventies, empty design chairs scattered around, patches of grass with tall trees proudly showing their autumn colours. It’s only the people that make it clear that we are, in fact, in Japan.
On the stairs of ‘Building A’, are students who are practicing their dance-moves, like they do every day. In their head, they’re in a J-pop video. Their arm movements are perfectly coordinated. They’re not practicing for a night out though: it is forbidden to dance after a certain time at night. Sometimes, policemen come into clubs to arrest all those who are dancing. I’m not kidding. True story.
In front of the dancers are the jugglers. In deep concentration, they throw their balls, cones and diabolos in the air, for hours every day. It doesn’t seem fun at all, but I find it intriguing to watch them from behind the windows of the cafeteria. Their faces when they drop a ball; their robotic arm movements; the determination to be really good at something, if only at juggling: it’s fascinating.
Living in Osaka is not always easy. The amazement at the sight of something weird on every street corner has been replaced by a dull sense of culture shock. It’s not Japan’s fault: Japan is pretty amazing. It’s me.
I see a pattern. The feeling I have at this moment is related to emotions I’ve had in earlier periods of my life, those past semesters spent in foreign countries: the trouble I had with fitting in with the locals on a Swedish island, the frustration over the grumpiness of waiters in Vienna and the deep hatred for Scandinavian winters. ‘Culture shock’ is my middle name.
If my experience with culture shock has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll just have to sit it out: the frustrations about small things will pass, and I can go back to being grateful again of being able to live in a wonderful, new foreign country. Still, my head can’t tell my heart to be happy. Bitching about the peculiarities of a strange country won’t solve anything, but it’s good to let off steam once in a while.
I might never understand the Japanese mindset, but I do know that I won’t care as much about these differences next week. It’s not these frustrations that will stick in my memories. Thinking about Sweden and Vienna mainly brings back good memories: loving friends, sweet romances and crazy adventures. Japan won’t be much different, I think. In three years’ time, I won’t care about those incomprehensible jugglers, or the fact that I can’t shake my badonkadonk in clubs. I’ll think about the people and places I fell in love with. I love you Japan. But it’s a complicated relationship.
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Albert Meijer, People’s Editor
Hailing from Osaka, Japan, Albert writes about the student body of the Euroculture programme. His academic interests lie in the fields of (sub)cultural studies, music science, sociology, and gender and queer studies. In his spare time, Albert likes writing and singing mediocre songs, walking through typhoons, making video blogs and getting stuck in difficult yoga positions.