Culture Shock: The Unavoidable Evil of Expat Life

Two weeks.  It’s been two weeks since we’ve moved to Japan and honestly it feels like an eternity since we made our journey over here.  I mean that in a good way, I haven’t been unhappy here by any means, but adjustment is a word that I would use to describe my current day to day life.  Since it has only been a short period of time since we’ve arrived most things are still new and exciting and I will admit that the allure of stating that I’m an expat has yet to wear off.  With that being said the culture shock has started to sink in.

Before we moved to Japan we had to go through a cross cultural class.  It was a very long day with a lot of useful information, but also a lot of unnecessary information.  Part of that John and I got a lesson in culture shock.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve been experiencing this but am totally in denial about it.  There are just things about living in another country, so different from your own, that are annoying and I’ve developed some new pet peeves.  I want to avoid this blog post being negative, but I also think that for those of you who are consistently following know the reality of expat life.  I’ll start with a few pet peeves I’ve acquired.

BICYCLISTS: I literally cannot stand bicyclists in Japan.  I’m sorry I hate to admit it, I hate to even put it out on the internet, but for the sake of honesty, my sanity, and just getting it out there, they suck.  Let me explain.  In Japan bicyclists are allowed to ride their bikes on the side walk.  Most of the time there is a designated bike lane, however, the majority of people do not use them.  It’s complete chaos and there is no rhyme or reason to how they ride down the street.  The worst is when they come up behind you and ring their bell because you are in their way.  I’m in YOUR way!?! This is a sidewalk and of course the American in me is thinking that in the U.S. bicyclists are not allowed on the sidewalk and that’s how it should be everywhere…clearly not the case here in Japan.  Also, for a country that basically functions on perfection and structure they are sure lacking it when it comes to sidewalk traffic laws and safety.  Maybe you all can feel my frustrations, but I’ve legit almost been nailed on more then one occasion during my short time here.  Therefore, I completely refuse to own a bike in this country…John thinks that I will cave but I’m standing my ground with this one 😉

DRIVING: um…yeah.  For those that know me well I have a pretty spotty driving record.  One that has been clean for almost a good decade, but spotty none the less.  Despite that I love to drive.  Driving often cleared my head and there is honestly nothing better then a warm sunny day, driving down the road, blasting country music, you can’t beat it.  In Japan driving is intense and not like what I just described at all.  First, let me state the obvious, they drive on the other side of the road which complicates things right off the bat.  Second, everything is in Japanese and the traffic signals and signs are a bit different, so this also complicates things.  Because John works for Toyota he has to pass a drivers test before his manager will clear him to drive to work and just drive in general.  On a side note, we are both legally able to drive in Japan with out international drivers licenses for one year.  After one year we will need to take the Japanese driver’s test (which I’ve heard horror stories about), that may be a blog post for the far out future.  Any who, Toyota takes driving very seriously and just, you know, one step further when it comes to safety.  Therefore, when we need to go long distances I’ve been the one taking the wheel, all of two times I was brave enough to do it.  Let me tell you, I need to re apply deodorant after every single trip…it’s just so damn nerve racking.  I also have a bad tendency to drive the car closer to the left side of the road, so when driving in the left lane you can see how that could become an issue.  Yes, I’ve nailed a few curbs (please pray I don’t bubble the tires or something).  Maybe more on the topic of driving in a later post…

BEING “GAIJIN”: I know this is a common feeling for a lot of expats, especially here in Japan, but getting stared at all the time is somewhat uncomfortable.  At first, I didn’t really notice but after about a week I noticed the stares, especially when I’m with John.  Two very out of place individuals, it’s not hard to pick us out of the crowd.  I will say that the worst is sometimes on the train there will be a ton of seats open around me and yet people will choose to stand or not sit next to me.  Also, pointing is common here.  There have been a few instances where I’ve been pointed at and literally have no idea what people are saying about me…talk about becoming self-conscious.  It’s a bit of a lesson learned on my end, because I’ve never really been exposed to being the minority and now all of a sudden I am.  I will definitely take this life lesson and be more mindful when I return to the U.S.  None the less there are also times I’ve taken being gaijin to my advantage, such as walking across streets, not knowing the language, driving, and just other general day to day activities.

Despite some of the culture shock I’ve experienced in my short time in Japan, there are also so many things that I really love about it.  The Japanese are so kind and so helpful that despite the difficult language barrier someone is always going to try and help you.  Also, maybe I should save this for an entire post, but Karaoke my friends is life changing.  We tried it with some friends over the weekend and I’m forever changed and maybe addicted.

To keep you occupied until my next post, here are a few photos from our weekend shenanigans!

This is how four Americans do all you can eat and drink for two hours…most other tables did not have near as much as ours. Gaijin.

There was a reggae festival downtown (random) and also I love seeing signs that say “american food”…it’s a little weird yet familiar!




3 Comments Add yours

  1. Serena Boldiszar says:

    I like reading these! Keep them coming 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. najeebh says:

    Love reading your posts. Sounds like an amazing adventure.


  3. Rachel Sales says:


    Your observations about life in Japan are fascinating! We’d love for you to share your travel experiences on Pink Pangea ( If you’re interested, get in touch at



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