When I interviewed Laura, our beginner traveller, recently, her fears about possible culture shock in going to Asia reminded me that I was not so different. Before I moved to Japan to teach English, I had very little experience of Asia - a few days each in Hong Kong and Singapore as a nine-year-old was it. And although I dearly wanted to move overseas, and the opportunity to teach in Osaka was a fantastic one, the anticipation of the move was certainly not without some anxieties.
|Deer danger at Nara Park - one of my first Japanese excursions|
|My tiny local train station in Japan|
There were other elements of life in Japan that did give me some culture shock, things I hadn't anticipated. The humidity of my early days there - I arrived at the hottest, stickiest time of year, coming from a mild Perth winter - took me by surprise and in the first week, anxious to explore some of the tourist sights before full-time work started, I ended up sitting close to tears on a stone wall in Nara park dazed by something approaching heatstroke. Trying to figure out what foods to buy in the supermarket confused me in the first few days, too, as I had expected everything to have pictures on the labels - they didn't, and there were so many things I wanted to buy but couldn't, and didn't know how to ask for - I wondered if I would ever eat something approaching normal food again. It wasn't a surprise to me to hear at the orientation session that a number of new teachers wouldn't make it through the first week or two before deciding to fly home.
|My local supermarket in Japan|