culture shock: america and japan are different

4:26 PM

Every different country has its own identity. The second you step off an airplane you can feel that you're in someplace new. You know that it's different before you even see anything.

I remember setting foot on Tahiti soil for the first time. The second my foot hit the ground I knew that I wasn't in Kansas anymore - that soft mist in the air has never been anywhere near Utah's atmosphere.

When I got to Japan, I was also quickly made aware that Toto and I had skipped town. Well, actually, after a day of traveling, I had a minor mental breakdown in the Tokyo airport. First thing I noticed: the glare of the window made it appear that there were two suns staring me point blank outside. My initial thought:

"Oh gosh. Where are we? Are we on another planet? Is this Tattooine??? Guys, I think we traveled too far. This is bad news!"

Soon after that, I took my first trip to a Japanese restroom.


Two things were going through my head. First of all, a SQUATTER? Second, what are all these buttons doing here?! Yes, true story. You can wash your butt. You can play music. You can get a little massage. The toilets are freaking computers!

Do you see why I thought I was on a different planet?

Man, I got crap for that for a long time. I was really tired, okay? Confused American girl freaks out and starts shouting in Japanese bathroom. Real classy.

And Japanese signs/diagrams are the best.


Some people term this culture shock. After this experience in the airport, though, culture adaptation just came one day at a time. No more shocks, no more knuckles to the nose. It was just one new discovery after another. It layered on and sunk into being a part of me. There's something beautiful about experiencing other cultures and having it change who you are.

But culture shock is still totally real. Subtle, all at once, over time, smack you in the face, whatever form it takes it's there. But the thing that I - and many others before me - have discovered is that there is WAY more culture shock coming home than there is going out.

America is way different than Japan. I mean, it's Amurrica!

  • The streets are huge
  • The buildings are huge
  • The people are huge. The people are tall.
  • The people say hi to you in the grocery store. And small talk is actually a thing.
  • Everyone has a lawn
  • Chocolate chip cookies taste delicious
  • You don't bow to people here. You don't. I might have.
  • Okay for realz, the streets are HUGE. It's like 5 times the size!
  • People actually say what's on their mind here. Direct communication.
  • I can... read everything.
  • Everything is huge. Did I mention that?
  • The grocery stores don't look like they're dressed for a party.
  • I don't have to take my shoes off when I enter my house.
  • There aren't vending machines on every corner right when I need a coke.
  • I... want to speak Japanese all the time.
  • Mexican food is amazing.

First time eating Cafe Rio, such a sweet reunion. Some adjustments are easier than others. This was an easy one.

There is also, of course, the culture shock that comes from the eminent post-mission change of lifestyle. But that's another post for tomorrow. Anyway, with every new experience there comes a certain amount of transition. And culture shock. But somehow I think that culture shock is hardest when you return to an old environment, trying to remember what your place was in it.

Part 1 in a series about adjusting to normal life. Stay tuned!

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  1. Hahahahaha! When you wrote me about the toilets I was so delighted. :D

  2. I am so glad to hear that. Haha, you are the best.

  3. Hahaha! My brother is in Japan right now and I think about this stuff all the time. Hopefully he'll be able to re-assimilate when he gets home in June!

    1. Oh yeah! Elder Budge! He came into the mission right as I was leaving, so we never met. That's crazy!


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