As much as I love Japan there are times when I hit a wall and I just want to be normal.
I don’t know if I can rightly explain what it is like living in a foreign country.
Not as a JET English teacher, not as a temporary employee somewhere, not as the American spouse of an American husband who was transferred to Japan but as a foreign woman married into the Japanese culture. It is a whole different ball game as many of us know.
It may sound like I am about to go on a negative rant about Japan-I am not. I do need to blow off steam once in a while though.
Normal….gosh, it’s so hard to explain. I guess I’d like to walk into a store and not have to use my google translate app to read the labels. To be able to just converse freely with the staff anyplace-the market, salon, restaurant-without having to juggle between my translator, drawing pictures and playing charades just to get a simple point across.
Not long ago I was at the pool in the locker room and a woman that I’ve seen often in the gym and pool walked up to me and said in Japanese-
“You are really trying your best to learn English”!
I blinked and stuttered…”Ego”? (English?) I wasn’t sure if I had heard her correctly. So I asked “did you mean Japanese”?
Standing there thoroughly confused I asked her to repeat what she just said and she looked at me very crossly and said “ENGLISH, ENGLISH”!
“What”? I asked…”My native language IS English”.
HUMPH-she retorted and turned on her heel and walked away leaving me totally confused. I repeated what she said to my husband and he verified that I had heard correctly. I have no idea what that was all about but to this day she won’t even look at me or acknowledge me.
Normal….I just want to have a normal conversation. The above seems very petty but imagine living like that every single day. Often you deal with issues like this-a simple conversation becomes this huge stressful issue. It’s really exhausting.
And yes-I try to learn Japanese. One of the biggest issues I have is my incessant tinnitus for which there is no cure. Sometimes the ringing in my ears is so bad that trying to distinguish words in Japanese is near impossible. It’s hard enough trying to understand English. I have to ask people to repeat things several times so I can discern the sounds they are making and then try and figure out the words. Hearing aids do not help tinnitus. They just make you hear the ringing in your ears better.
Then there is all the pressure of being expected to conform to family values. We interact often with my husband’s very large family. Don’t get me wrong-I love them! However…because of cultural restrictions and having to conform I have never really felt that I can just be myself. I must be what everyone expects because everyone does that. No matter what I want or feel-it is what is best for the group that matters.
Many times, even though I conform, it’s not good enough. It’s never stated but it is subtly implied.
Or you are asked to remain outside and “wait” while everyone else has a meeting because “tango wakaran” literal translation “word don’t know” or– you don’t understand anyhow so just stay here…
You know what? I’d really like to dry my clothes in a dryer instead of having to hang them all over the house because it is so humid during certain times of the year they will not dry outside. And no-no clothes dryers here. Well..actually I knew one person that had a dryer but it takes around 7-8 hours for the clothing to dry. The machine spins it dry…they don’t have “American” type dryers for home use. You can go to a laundromat if you have time. I don’t.
I think one of the most difficult things is having to endure either being stared at(yes openly stared at) as if I had egg on my face or the opposite-being totally overlooked.
My husband and I were at the mall once and I wanted to stop by the fabric shop. I found what I wanted and went to the counter to pay-hubby was standing a little bit to the side contemplating his toes. I asked the clerk a question in Japanese and she proceeded to answer by looking at my husband and answering him…not me. I was shocked, stunned, angry, hurt. I wanted to scream.
This is the sort of stuff we foreign wives deal with daily. Most of the time I just cruise right thru the day and I’m fine. The abnormality has become the norm-but it wears on you subconsciously.
I don’t even know what set off my frustration today-doesn’t matter really because it is something I carry with me daily to some degree.
Maybe it was thinking about how the doctor laughed at me for saying that I was going to start drinking Cranberry juice to help with my reoccurring bladder infections. As a friend stated-everyone in the states knows the benefits of drinking cranberry juice! Just because the Japanese haven’t heard of it does not make it wrong!
I had to special order it because cranberry juice is not readily available in the stores here- Around 2,700 yen for 2 Kirkland bottles of cranberry juice. That’s around USD $27.00…
Anyhow-tomorrow will be a better day……