Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reverse Culture Shock

So much cereal, so little time....
So, after 2 years and 8 months of residing (living) in Japan, I finally went back to the U.S. for a 2 week visit.
I had a wonderful time visiting with my family and friends in Florida and wish I could have spent a little more time with everybody. 

Of course, as we often say: "Time flies when you're having fun".

We say this when time appears to pass by very quickly ("flies") while you are enjoying some activity.

The time just flew by during my stay, but I noticed something strange while I was there, I experienced a mild culture shock while in my own native land!
Japan appears much more organized and structured in many ways. Maybe this is out of necessity because Japan is so densely populated. There is a natural respect for personal space. 
America, on the other hand, felt rather wild... The Wild West!

I didn't notice it much at first. Just the very laid-back (easy-going, unhurried) way of Floridians (people who reside in Florida) as are most people and places in the Southern states. 

Service did not seem a real priority, even though Florida's economy is dependent mainly on the travel & hospitality industry
The Japanese commitment to customer service and politeness is really remarkable from this view.

For example, having just landed at Orlando International Airport and while riding the tram from the terminal to the main building (around midnight Dec. 26th, the day after xmas) the tram suddenly jerked to a stop mid-way. 
(I've been at this airport many times and this was the first time this ever happened). There was no emergency button or call box in sight.
Now, among the people on the tram there was a service attendant on board in charge of pushing TWO guests in wheelchairs (!). We sat there and waited for the tram to start moving again for at least 5 minutes before he bothered to use his phone to call and report our problem! Another 5 mins. or so till service crew arrived to make the tram crawl at a snail's pace to the building.

I became a Japanese tourist while in Florida.
Sometimes I stumbled when speaking English. (Slaps cheek, "Use your words Sonny").
I found myself bowing at times out of sheer habit. 
I also took stupid pictures of things I never thought of taking pictures of before... like the cereal aisle in Target! There is such a variety of cereals in the US! I brought 3 boxes back with me. And the stores are big and wide! In the Winter Park Publix there's enough room for 3 American sized shopping carts to pass side-by-side!

So many wines, so little time... and enough space to do the Time Warp!
I felt anxious and uneasy when driving into and around Orlando after years of no driving at all. The population has certainly increased, as has the traffic. 
The growing number of displaced and homeless people was also painfully obvious; due, I'm sure, to the wrecked economy and housing / financial crisis of recent years. Everything about the city of Orlando itself felt familiar yet somehow changed... sometimes for better, often for worse. 

Japanese society, with it's social welfare and clean, convenient transportation systems stands in stark contrast. Of course, Japan is much smaller in size and more densely constructed, whereas the U.S. is vast with many wide open spaces. 

I know for sure now I could never drive a car in Japan. 
The streets are way too narrow and with too many bicycles and scooters zipping around, weaving in and out and through traffic. In Kansai (the region of Japan we live in) drivers also seem very aggressive compared with most American drivers. In the USA, only combative teenage boys seem to drive like the offensive Osakans! 

Also, In the U.S.A., we drive on the right-hand side and have our steering wheels (driver's seat) on the left. It is the opposite in Japan. Luckily, Japan has an amazing public transportation system. However, their infrastructure and city planning can't compare with the U.S. In Osaka you will find pedestrians, bicycles and even scooters on sidewalks... until the sidewalk vanishes and you find yourself walking inches away from traffic. 

After I said goodbye to my friends and my family and was flying back to Kansai, I had a strange feeling and I thought.... "where is home ???"

My mother and brothers and friends are in Florida. 
My wife and our two cats are in Osaka
After I landed and was on the bus to Hotarugaike station where I would meet Mia I listened to one of my favorite bands, The Cure, on my Ipod and started to feel a little better. More comfortable.
I was home again.

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