Despite being in an international marriage, culture shock is something that rarely comes up in our house.
On top of that, I’ve pretty much become so adapted to life in Japan that I no longer feel culture shock.
Reverse culture shock, on the other hand, is REAL, Y’all. Real real.
I visit home once a year and try to keep with US pop culture by watching fake news CBS Evening News every morning, binge-watching TV shows on Netflix and reading celebrity gossip.
Still, reverse culture shock manages to get me when I’m Stateside. I’d like to share with you ten things that confused me during this visit.
(It’s quite funny because as I type this, I am watching the episode of Chrisley Knows Best where they family goes to England and crave the American way of life during their stay.)
PS: This post is intended as something light and fun and not meant to be a political or cultural critique of the US.
1. Eating With Forks
To be clear, I don’t use chopsticks with everything, but chopsticks certainly make eating certain foods much easier. Rice, salads, and fish, in particular, are much easier to eat when using chopsticks.
I can’t be the only one who thinks this!
I mean, my rice falls off the fork, and it’s so hard stabbing lettuce and beans. And don’t get me started on picking out fish bones.
How do you eat those foods with forks??? Maybe I need to take an etiquette class instead?
2. Daylight Savings Time
We don’t have Daylight Savings Time in Japan, so for me, it’s surreal to see the sun setting at 8:30pm.
While I appreciate the extra daylight, it caused a bit of trouble for the monster’s sleep time, which is normally at 7:30om.
If I try to put baby to bed at her regular time the light that filters through the closed curtains and blinds distracts her.
I should mention that when I first came to Japan, in the fall, not having Daylight Savings Time was tough. Getting out of my university classes at 5pm to a pitch black winter sky was creepy when I first experienced it.
3. Attitudes Towards Breastfeeding
Every so often breastfeeding photos appear on my Instagram feed with the hashtags #normalizeit or even #blackwomemdobreastfeed.
I get why it’s a thing but it’s just so sad.
I wish I could say that I choose to breastfeed for some altruistic reason, that strengthening the mother-daughter bond from the get-go was important, that providing my baby with antibodies, etc.
But, the truth is, the convenience and low cost of breastfeeding was all I needed to convince me that it was right for me.
I find it so strange that with all the revealing clothes being sold nowdays and all the sexy scenes on tv, people get worked up over nursing in public. Or, just being against the idea that someone out there is breastfeeding their own child.
I'm getting bashed on people.com for extended breastfeeding and accused of alienating a father….again. I'm posting this and I'm saying -mamas out there in similar situations DON'T HIDE. It is one hundred percent natural to still nurse your child -your body was made for it. And if you are going thru a pregnancy or motherhood alone-LOAD UP on good people to support you. I labored for 13+ hours and my best friend is pictured on the right rubbing my shoulders and my doula on the left. Note, no supportive, excited father and that's okay, but any woman who goes through this moment alone and then gets accused of "alienating" -May the Dear Lord grant you grace and patience. And people actually state -pump your milk and put it in a sippy cup ! What ? What ? What ?????? Yeah, hey it's a natural body function -would you tell someone to wear a catheter ? So whacked out. #normalizebreastfeeding #babyledweaning Please note-people.com posted and I'm getting bashed in the comments not directly by people.com -although, it would be nice to see an article cheering on moms that are in these situations
I rarely hear about this kind of “mommy shaming” here.
4. No Baby Wearing
I’ll say it again; baby wearing is extremely common here in Japan. It’s much easier than navigating public transportation with a stroller.
Whenever I went out, I always felt like the odd one out using my carrier. I always saw babies (in the car seat!) in the shopping cart.
Isn’t it harder to take out the car seat and put it in the shopping cart?
And if the car seat is in the shopping cart, then where do you put your groceries? I. Don’t. Get. It.
5. Commercials For Everything
My two favorite types of commercials in America:
- “Ambulance chaser” lawyers. I admit, I felt a sense of relief that Bill Green and Akim Anastapoulo are still out there making sure that the injured get the money they deserve.
- Prescription medication. I like to watch these just for the side effects, which are often more dangerous than the symptoms being treated.
6. Tons Of TV Channels And Weirdly Specific TV Shows
Yes, Japanese TV is weird, low budget prank/variety shows that almost always feature oishii (delicious) food. With the exception of a few shows I rarely watch it.
But American TV is something completely different. As my body adjusts to a new time zone, it’s late night TV that gives me the most comfort. There’s a TV show for nearly everything.
Want to buy a house in Hawaii? Or curious to hear stories of women who just “snapped” and killed their partners? Want to hear about rage inducing con artists and their scams? These are TV shows that exist!
Granted, it’s all (scripted/guided) reality TV but it’s great entertainment.
My favorite shows to binge watch when I’m home are (in no particular order): Law &Order (especially episodes with Briscoe and Green), Ridiculousness, Catfish, and Ancient Aliens.
7. Spanish Everywhere
It’s amazing how seamlessly the Spanish lanague is intergrated into US society. Of course, some people probably think, “You’re in America, speak American.”
But considering how Japan is trying to boost English skills among its citizens in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, seeing/hearing Spanish everywhere is weird.
Can a country really be bilingual?! It gets me every time.
8. Camouflage & Guns
I am not here to get political. I’m just stating that seeing military people in uniform is weird because we don’t see Self-Defense soldiers much.
At the airport I was immediately greeted with an advertisement for guns manufactured in town as well as a banner stating Welcome To America’s Most Friendly Military Community.
On top of that, there’s camouflage everything, even home decor and kitchen goods. My favorite is camouflage with pink trim — how girly!
9. American Flags All Over the Place
Memorial Day weekend and warmer temperatures are coming up, so it’s the perfect time to put out red, white, and blue decorations. Of course the US flag takes center stage, just in case you forgot what country you’re in!
It’s so wonderfully patriotic (and tacky). I love the national pride that Americans have.
But, I know that China and Korea would never let us hear the end of it if Japanese people embraced the Japanese flag and put it all over their clothes.
10. No Trash Rules
In Japan, there is category for practically every type of trash. On top of that, a different type of trash is collected on a different day of the week.
The trash schedule varies by municipality, and even adjoining neighborhoods may have a different trash schedule.
Just off the top off my head, trash is separated into the following categories:
- burnable, non-burnable, household appliances, aerosol cans and batteries, dangerous items like broken glass and knives, clothing and textiles.
Oversized items and large household appliances can only be collected by advance reservation, and this service is not free.
Recyclables are further divided into cardboard, cans, glass, PET bottles, and newspapers.
Like I said, this is just off the top of my head. Sometimes I have to refer to the town reference guide or website for help when throwing out the trash.
So, I guess you can imagine my surprise when I see that trash is NOT separated and goes out once a week.
How do people survive?!
That’s all for my OMG WTF I can’t even moments.
Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock?
10 OMG, WTF I Can’t Even Moments I Had In The US