Tag Archives: England

Reverse Culture Shock

I couldn’t tell you what it was precisely that I found strangest. I guess it was a combination of things that seemed utterly alien to me. I could read signs, I understood the pointless announcements bellowing out over tannoy systems and people weren’t even glancing at me from across crowded train carriages.

How had it happened that the very place I call home could affect me like that? Nothing was really a surprise as such, yet there was a distinct feeling of separation to begin with, as if someone had turned down all the settings on a TV. I felt more like I was watching my life in analog than living it in glorious real life HD.

I remember when I first arrived in Japan often feeling like I’d spent half my day working through an economics paper, so taxing was the strain on my mind as it attempted to muddle through the inordinate number of signs and symbols that make up the very basics of modern life. In an English speaking country, or even one that makes use of the Roman alphabet the way the mind is able to distinguish between the important and the utterly useless is a skill you already possess and as such your mind makes attempts to streamline its workload by dismissing quickly on an unconscious level what is relevant and what isn’t. Yet, here in Japan that simply isn’t possible and so your mind attempts to grapple daily with doors to which it does not hold the key. It can be a tiring, though ultimately rewarding process when one gets even just a toe in that door. In comparison, England and the sights, smells and sounds of home, while a welcome experience seemed to come all too easily.

Over the course of a couple days it began to fade, this feeling of detachment and life at home took on a semblance of the old sense of regularity. Though even that was fleeting as in my limited time at home I made an attempt to see as many friends and family as I could realistically squeeze in and so most days I found myself living a perpetual stream of Saturdays where I would grab coffee, lunch, dinner or far too many beers with friends and family. My body did not thank me for all this self-abuse of caffeine, fat, salt and alcohol but my mind did. The chance to really switch off, to give my brain some real downtime has been welcome and so I find myself now back in Japan with a real desire to push on, to keep studying and traveling in an attempt to grasp a little more of this distant land that for now I still call my home.

That I can do so is largely down to my wonderful friends and family who managed to find the time to help me distil a frankly ridiculous number of experiences into my time home.

I attended the fairytale wedding of two of my friends, slept two nights on a boat in Southampton while attending the ‘Passage to India’ themed regatta in the village one of my dearest friends now calls home, I got to see my two adorable little second cousins who grow bigger by the day, ate curry and drank ale in the company of my favourite physicists, computer scientist and med student (now Doctor), had a night or two in the ‘udd, found myself proving to a drunk in a bar that I really do live in Japan by having him google this very blog (when he saw the picture at the top of the previous post he said, ‘Woah! Is that your house?!’ ‘No.’ I said, ‘that’s Kiyomizu Temple.’) and even found time to graduate from last years Masters degree in all its pomp and hilarious irony (a video clip of a student had her noting that, ‘the university isn’t the least bit pretentious’, cue brass band announcing the entrants in all their academic finery). Oh and Pad Kee Mao… how I had missed you.

I could easily get a blog post out of every one of the wonderful days spent in the company of the people I love, but I would feel like I am intruding and frankly I couldn’t do you all justice.

You mean more to me than words on a screen could ever convey.

P.S. Sorry to anyone who I skipped in my description of what I got up to. This post is soppy enough without a never ending paragraph.

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Going Dutch in Japan: England v. USA

The ambassadors to the Court of St. James (Great Britain) and the United States of America had wagered a steak dinner on the outcome. The British had even made a vague and possibly ill-advised attempt at smack talk. Sledging, in the cricketing sense, we can do. American style smack talk, god no. It’s just not cricket.  My American friend and I aimed a little lower to be honest. The largest plate of fries available in the somewhat grotty late night bar that would be showing the game at three thirty a.m. Japan time was our bet.

Yet, thanks to Rob Green’s charitable howler in goal, we, much like the ambassadors, were forced to split the bill on our fries as they intend to do on their steak dinners. A goal keeping error forcing those of us who wagered on the result to go Dutch, when the Oranje had nothing to do with the game no less.

Starving, the wagered fries were bought before the game even began, in what turned out to be a stroke of luck, as they were finished long before Green could tarnish them.

By three a.m. the bar had pretty much emptied out. Only myself, my American friend and a long term British ex pat in Japan who happened to stroll in looking for a place to watch the game were in residence. A group of young Japanese men with annoyingly large hair were around for the first half, blocking sections of the screen with their tenderly coiffed locks. Yet again though, this was good fortune as this merely spared me from seeing Aaron Lennon’s excuse for a cross.

Soon after these guys left, the bar gained a few late night regulars, some of the hostesses from the local snack bars came for a drink and something to eat after their shift. Paying little attention to the football unless the lone yank or myself rose to our feet and then collapsed back down onto the sofa lamenting the poor efforts of our respective teams. Though this being Japan they did become markedly more interested when David Beckham made fleeting appearances on screen, decked out in Marks and Spencer’s grey, looking, ‘Kakouii desu ne!’ or, ‘Good looking isn’t he!’ Compared to what was on the pitch, I was forced to agree. Unless of course it was Rooney in all his potato headed glory.

All the while, one of the bartenders, clearly exhausted after a long shift, had curled up on the sofas like a cat next to the hostess girls. Sleeping quite soundly through the cacophony of English swearing and accusations of pre-marital birth aimed at Shaun Wright Phillips.

As the match finished and I walked outside to begin my wander home I was once again confronted with reality’s harsh light; it was morning and England still aren’t up to much.

At least the fries were good.