35 Observations (& Life Tips) From Japan

In my first week in Japan, I’d decided to make a note of a few things I realised while I was staying in a foreign country with a different culture. Over the next three weeks, that note evolved into a full list, so I wanted to share it on my blog as an insight into how Japan works. I’m not pretending like these observations are true across the entire country, and I’m definitely not pretending to be an expert after only a month, but these are just some things that I noticed during my time in Fukuoka…

  1. Everything you’ve heard about rail efficiency is true.
  2. Plastic, plastic everywhere.
  3. And good luck finding a bin to put it in.
  4. There’s music when you cross the road, and music when the train comes in. This is a good thing.
  5. Japanese people love flowers.
  6. Don’t buy the cheap Daiso soy sauce. It will taste like vinegar and you will cry.
  7. That being said, Daiso is a life saver.
  8. Same goes for Don Quijote.
  9. Fukuoka has a thing for K-Pop.
  10. And South Korea in general.
  11. Try to learn the waste disposal rules from day one. It’ll be less intimidating if you do.
  12. Sometimes when the pedestrian crossing is on green, cars will still drive round the corner. They usually stop before the road markings.
  13. There’s usually a tray to put your money on when paying at a cash register. I didn’t realise that for the first few days.
  14. My IC card was the most expensive thing I spent money on, but I used it all the time and it definitely ended up saving me valuable yen.
  15. Toilet slippers seem weird at first, and then they start to make a lot of sense.
  16. Lots of cars have TVs in them, and I mean lots.
  17. If you show off your shoulders, you’ll probably get asked if you’re cold. Strappy tops aren’t really a thing.
  18. It’s quite common to be handed tissues on the street because there’s adverts in the packets. Not a bad marketing strategy… if you can read Japanese.
  19. Tomatoes are, like, a legitimate fruit.
  20. I thought setting up foreigners with wealthy Japanese businessmen wasn’t a real thing. I was wrong.
  21. Brits look impolite when compared to the Japanese, and I’m British.
  22. Automatically getting free water if you don’t order a drink is brilliant.
  23. More cinemas should hand out blankets for screenings. It’s very cosy.
  24. If you’re not fashionable in high school, either wait a few years or go to a different country. You’ll find your people somehow.
  25. Japanese people are fascinated by what size you are, and whether you can fit into Japanese clothes.
  26. If you use another language enough, you sometimes forget which language people spoke to you in.
  27. It’s hard to speak to people in nightclubs as it is. It’s even more so when you’re speaking another language.
  28. Pressuring people to drink is a universal thing. “Osake (w)o nomimasen” is a helpful phrase if you’re trying to avoid too much alcohol, because people respect abstinence more than moderation. (This only works if they haven’t seen you drinking before.)
  29. Cold rice isn’t actually bad.
  30. Return train tickets aren’t a thing, it’s two singles or nothing.
  31. Stamps are done differently as well.
  32. Explicit English songs are uncensored in public… which feels really weird to someone with English as their first language.
  33. The little social exchanges that you don’t even think about in your native language (like being asked if you need a bag at the supermarket) take up a lot more mental energy in another language. It does get easier with practice, but it is tiring at first.
  34. Every international student has probably cried like a baby because they miss their home and family at least once, even if they really wanted to go abroad. It’s not a poor reflection on you if you do. No-one is indestructible.
  35. There are some times in life when you can consciously notice yourself changing and growing as a person. Living in a different country with a different culture by yourself is definitely one of those times.

For more about my trip to Fukuoka, click here.

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