Friday, September 11, 2015

Reverse Culture Shock Moments

Today’s coffee: Trader Joe’s

For those of us who have lived overseas, “home” is a complicated subject. I’m back living at my parents’ house, and although in some ways it feels very much like home, in some ways it doesn’t. Having grown accustomed to my life in Japan, leaving our home there and coming back to the US for our “home assignment” of 10 months has been a mixed bag—joy of reunion with friends and family here in the US along with missing people and places we left behind.

Over the course of the last week, I’ve been writing down some of my reverse culture shock moments; like the overall experience of returning to my hometown, they’ve been a mix of joys and sorrows and surprises. Here are some of my experiences and observations.

This little guy (photographed at music camp last month) looks about like how I feel... 
My parents have almost the same Zojirushi (a Japanese brand) hot water pot and rice cooker as we do in Japan. The rice cooker even plays the same song when the rice is done. But the writing on the buttons is in English and the temperature on the hot water pot is in Fahrenheit. I found my eyes were drawn to the “押す” (push) labelled lever to open the water pot and I tried pressing that to get the hot water to come out rather than the English-labelled “dispense” button.

The milk comes in 2 and 4 liters… by which I mean half gallons and gallons. In Japan it comes in liters. But the American “whole milk” isn’t as creamy as the 2.5% we usually buy in Hokkaido.

Making eye contact: I’ve trained myself not to do that, since we often don’t in Japan. Now my lack of eye contact probably makes me look sketchy. (Sorry if I’ve weirded you out.)

Taking tea ceremony classes in Kirkland overlooking Lake Washington is pretty surreal. But outside of my circle of friends, no one knows what tea ceremony is. Or where Hokkaido is. Well, almost no one.

Spending $15 at Starbucks for 2 people: really? (To be fair, we have Starbucks in Japan, but we never went there, since it was far away from where we lived… and if I wanted a chain coffee shop, Doutor was just as good and a lot cheaper… and great sandwiches and cakes.)

Getting a cold: no one has asked me if I’ve been to the hospital yet.

Box springs: why do we even have them? They creak and make the bed too soft. Thankfully my resourceful dad and husband fixed our bed so it doesn’t sag in the middle any more.

No onsen. Sad face.

There is ramen in the Seattle area, but it’s not the same as Hokkaido ramen. (I’ll probably go eat it anyway, because I’m craving it like nothing else.) On the other hand, there’s a much larger selection of ethnic food to be enjoyed (MEXICAN FOOD), although we will miss our neighborhood Indian restaurant in Ishikari.

Free fruit! Cheap fruit! We have already harvested more apples and pears and plums than I could ever hope to eat right out of our yard. Some of them we have preserved in gigantic quart-sized canning jars, which we can’t get in Japan. We will make applesauce this year, and apple pie, which were prohibitively expensive in Japan (1 apple=$1). Also, I bought a melon for less than $3! (Cheap Hokkaido melon=$10)

Keith washes a sink full of apples
Pears and plums
I asked my mom to grow shiso in her garden. I forgot to tell her that shiso plants get quite large. She planted 5 rows.

Our shiso jungle
Seattle rush-hour (or not even rush-hour) is terrifying… especially when I went to make a quick lane change and turned on the wipers instead of the blinker.

We went to eat at Denny’s once and went home knowing more about our waitress’ family than we ever learned about Yasuda-san, who served us breakfast at the Royal Host almost every Monday for two years. Also, compared to booths at family restaurants in Japan, which are quite tall, I was surprised that I could have easily leaned over the back of the booth at Denny’s and started a conversation with the people at the next table. I guess that’s what we did on those late-night large-group Denny’s trips in high school. We ended up speaking Japanese so we could have a private conversation, whereas we spoke English at the Royal Host for the same reason. And the man at the next table over was speaking Chinese on the phone.

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