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Cultural shock - Is it very scary? 2007/10/19 22:06
Hi, next week i am going to Tokyo for 6 months. i heard and read about differences and cultural shock a bit.

And I am so scared I won't be able to cope there. i won't know where to go, nobody will understand me, sometimes you use some japanese words in your answers like it's something obvious and i have no ides what it means:(

I am scared I won't find myself in Tokyo. I really want to go but the closer to my departure the more scared I am.

Please tell me how to deal with all the problems at first or how you dealt with this culture shock...

I am scared that I won;t know the streets so I won't know where to go... it'll be pretty much "Lost In Translation" for me....
by Panicking Katie  

shock, scary? 2007/10/20 19:34
Well i am shocked, if you are going to tokyo for 6 months and have not done some home work on Japan . Now that is scarey
do you know if you are F or M you have accommodation arranged? and i am sure there is more questions to be ask
by bigbob rate this post as useful

Trains Stations 2007/10/20 20:04
The only thing that could be possibly shocking is taking and using the trains in Japan. All of the major stations have signs in English and Japanese and announcements in the train are in English and Japanese. Annoucements include the next station, which transfers you can make, and information about the green seats and using mobile phones.

The only thing I still find shocking about train stations in Japan are how crowded they can become. One of the most busist station is Shinjuku and after a long trip and making at transfer here, it can be a little overwhelming. It's very common to read about Japan being a crowded place, but once you experience it for yuorself it can be a little much.

Also, culture shock usually does not set in until about 1-2 months after being in a foreign country. I never recall being nervous when arriving in Japan, to be honest I wanted to get off that 14 hour flight ASAP and start enjoying Japan, so I was very excited. The first few weeks are called the "Honeymoon Stage," and then after that period of experiencing many things for the first time, culture shock may set it depending where you are. If you are living in Japan, it may take some time to explore the area you live in or start going to the restuarants in the area. Whenever I'm in Tokyo, I always see other foreigners (mostly tourists), so you will not be the only foreigner at any one time in Tokyo. Japanese people are very friendly and keep to themselves, Japanese children are also this way, but you might get some stares from younger children. Anyway, have fun and don't worry about being nervous or uncomfortable in Japan, just enjoy the places you travel to and the new experiences.
by Joe rate this post as useful

ok 2007/10/21 00:11
Thank you for your comforting words. I read a lot about Japan and Tokyo and though I am still confused and a bit scared of completely different culture I hope I'll be ok:)

I am very excited but also anxious because as soon as I get off that flight I will have no idea where to go, I won't know any streets, shops...
by me agaian rate this post as useful

Don't panic! 2007/10/21 01:18
I do not know where you come from, but I hope I can help you. I have some general things to say that might be useful.

I totally understand your state of mind. I did not have much time to prepare to move to Tokyo; however, I lived in a major city in the USA, so moving to Tokyo, in principle, wasn't too much of a big deal for me, because big metropolitan areas do share common traits.

Since I have been here, I have found that to be true. I arrived in Tokyo in August, and I couldn't speak a work of Japanese, and really I can't say more than few phrases now. I came here because I had a job, but I didn't have a place to live. I was fortunate in that a colleague helped me to find a good place to live; I wasn't picky and found what I wanted in one day.

Many things I can offer in a hope to calm you...my situation is that I have a research position at the University, so I didn't come here a cultural exchange program. This does not mean that I am not interested in learning about Japanese culture, it's just that my employers expect me to be working full time.

You are going to have some 'up's' and 'down's'. In the first month here, I had a lot of 'down's.' A big deal for me was to find a place to live where I can walk to my work, so if I am not doing so well, I can always walk home in a few minutes and then get back to work without missing so much time. You might want to think about living close to your work.

The trains/subway will seem intimidating; it's not, you'll find it easy to get around after a few trips. It is really crowded at times, as Joe already said in his post.

Patience: Just be prepared to take longer to do stuff than you normally would. Walk around your neighborhood a lot and get a feel for the shops there. Visit all the markets to see what they offer. If you are travelling somewhere by train/subway, leave early, so you can take your time. It will be easier on you, stress wise.

Communication: I actually have not had a problem communicating with anyone. In my experience, it seems that the Japanese understand English very well; they actually speak it well too, but they do not think so and will be reluctant to speak in English. With patience, and a lot of 'please' and 'thank you', you will not have a problem communicating.

Bank: Try to find a colleague to help you open an bank account. There is a **lot** of paperwork in this city, and getting a bank account isn't something you will want to do on your own.

At my job, there wasn't anyone in charge of acclimating the foreigner.

My new Japanese colleagues were helpful, a lot, they helped me find a place to live, buy a futon to sleep on, and got me started with the trains/subway. But there's going to be a point where you have to do stuff on your own. This web site, for me, has been extremely useful. There is a ton of information here.

So, don't panic!

by Bob rate this post as useful

. 2007/10/21 02:46
First off it depends what you will be doing in those 6 months.

If you are just a tourist for 6 months milling about, yeah it might be more difficult to adjust.

But if you are there with a real purpose (eg, going to school or work) then you can make contacts etc in the school or workplace and most likely you'll meet other people in the same situation as you are.

Culture shock really depends on the person and how well or adapt you are to diversity. People who live in big cities tend to be less impacted by culture shock (it is still there) but less then from someone who say lives in the country side or has less experience with dealing with people of different backrounds.

by John rate this post as useful

Japan adventure 2007/10/21 09:13
It will happen to you, but whether it is a positive or negative thing is mostly up to you. I know people who have come to Japan planning to stay a year and then actually turned around at the airport and flown straight out, or left after just 2 or 3 days. The ones who left after a few days felt homesick straight away and hated everything they saw, even their non-Japanese roommates.

I have also heard from frineds here that relatives of theirs have come to Japan and then basically refused to leave the hotel room most of the time because they couldn't stand to go outside.

Most people though are pleased to be here, treat new experiences as positive- even things like being crushed in crowded trains- and keep their minds open.

As you can see it has mostly to do with the person and very little to do with Japan itself how culutre shock will affect you, and so we can't really tell you what your reaction will be.

Coming from quiet New Zealand I remember being blown away by the number of people going through Shinjuku station, but I don't remember it scaring me, just amazing me.

An open mind and some courage is the most important thing. Have you been to bg cities before? New York, London. Sydney? Basically Tokyo is just another big city, on a large scale. There are plenty of English signs and announcements, just take it easy and you shuld be fine.

As for Japanese words you don't understand, well, there will be plenty of those when you get here, but you will gradually start to pick up some Japanese and it won't be so daunting. Although I studied Japanese at school, when I arrived back in Japan after 2 years away my friend who had been here a while kept saying "keitai" which I didn't understand, so I asked her what it meant- it means "cell phone". If you don't understand a word used here, by all means ask- help people to help you.

Incidentally when I first arrived here, I didn't know a single person in this whole country, and I am actually kind of a shy person, but I coped and made friends no problem.

Try to come with a positive attitude- as I mentioned before the people I met who turned around and went home in a short time basically arrived with a negative attitude and projected it on everything they saw.

Look at coming to Japan as an adventure, not an ordeal, and you'll be fine.
by Sira rate this post as useful

Alternative? 2007/10/21 12:26
If you are really that worried about the culture shock, why dont you try going over to Japan for a week or two and get a feel for it. Of course it will be nothing like it will be when your actually living there but at least it will give you a better idea of what your in for? Just an idea :) But im sure that no matter what happens as long as you go in with a positive attitude and saying to yourself "This might be scary, but this is going to be one hell of an experience!" then im sure you'll be fine :).
by Tom rate this post as useful

handy guide 2007/10/21 16:16
search for the JET Japan program, go to their general publications section, download the 2007 JET applicant guide. Read up on the chapter in this nice PDF guide on Culture Shock. It'll help.

Otherwise, you'll be fine - a little screaming at the 'craziness' of it all a few months in, but you'll be out of Japan fast enough that it won't matter much.

ha ha, and trying to figure out who would ever put squid and mayo on a pizza!?!
by d =) rate this post as useful

i;m excited 2007/10/21 18:56
Thanks a lot for your help. I come form a big city in Germany and I have lived in London for a couple of years now. I love big cities.

Tokyo seems a bit different, because of the language that I won't understand at all (signs on shops, clothes, stations, maps, etc) - you know when I came to London I could speak English pretty well so it wasn't that difficult and it was still Europe.

The other thing is that I heard Japanese people stare at foreigners a lot, and I am 6 foot tall blonde girl... I can't avoid people staring at me anywhere but I heard that Japanese people do it even more. But hey, if being foreigner gives you a celebrity status over there then it couldn't be any more cool, right?

Anyway, don't get me wrong, I am excited to go and can't wait to fly out. I guess I just wanted to hear some comforting, helpful words. Thanks for your help.

Will let you know, how I am doing once I get there.
by me rate this post as useful

actually... 2007/10/21 19:15
My very blonde friend who is also German and is quite tall (183cm ish) hated standing out in the crowd because of her height and hair. She didn't quite feel like a celebrity since she was being stared at not because she's famous but because she looked different. To her, that made her feel like a freak show.

Otherwise, she adjusted well. I think it helped quite a bit that she spoke Japense fluently and read the language at near native level.

You just never know how you feel once you get here. Living abroad is like education; you get back what you put into it.
by tama rate this post as useful

typo 2007/10/21 19:17
Japense = Japanese

I need to go to sleep...
by tama rate this post as useful

Another note about signs 2007/10/22 06:47
Actually, the signs in the stations, both train and subway, aren't that difficult to figure out. The station signs are in English and the names of the station on the line are in English. On most trains/subways, the stops will light up on the map near the door in both Japanese and English. And, the maps that list the exits in the stations are in both languages. Like I said before, give yourself plenty of time when traveling, so you won't feel rushed or harried.

In terms of shops, I still have problem figuring out what shop sells what, but as I recommended, walk around your neighborhood a lot. Go in the shops and see what they sell. I found that there are plenty of shops near me (pharmacy, hardware store, etc.)

Unfortunately, I do think you will be stared at. A few school kids have stared at me because I don't think they've seen a white guy before. I just smiled and waved. There's really not much you can do about it. I hope it won't ruin your experience in living here.

I've also lived in a big cities, London included. You'll find many similarities with Tokyo and other big cities where you've lived. The sheer amount of people I think might be a shock. These forums have been great for information about living here.
by Bob rate this post as useful

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