“This is the first stage in acceptance. Sometimes called the emergence stage when you start to come out of the ‘fog’ and finally begin to feel like yourself again. You start to accept the differences and feel like you can begin to live with them. You feel more confident and better able to cope with any problems that may arise based on your growing experience. You no longer feel isolated and instead you’re able to look at the world around you and appreciate where you are.” – Dr. Deborah Swallow
After 7 months in Japan I can finally say that maybe, just maybe I feel autonomous in this country. It’s been a slow and difficult process at times but here it is, autonomy and appreciation for my host country of Japan.
I have written quite a bit about the positive aspects of this journey John and I are currently on, but I think it’s time to dedicate a blog post to the reality that is expat life. To be honest friends, family, and loyal blog readers, expat life isn’t always what it appears to be. It’s hard. You get home sick, frustrated, you feel like you don’t belong, the language barrier is a struggle, and honestly your world is turned completely upside down.
I think for the majority of the past 7 months I may have been in denial about the reality of culture shock. I keep myself busy, I joined clubs, I travel, I stay active, however, the thing that I don’t talk about are the days that sometimes the only interaction I have is with my laptop, the TV, or our two cats. Yes, I truly hate to admit this, but it’s real. I think the worry is that friends and family will think that I’m not ok if I happen to stay in the apartment all day. But the reality is I’m fine, it’s just the outside world in Japan, at times can be just a little too much.
The bottom line is although this has been an amazing opportunity that will hopefully help John career wise and also provide me an environment to nurture my wanderlust, it doesn’t minimize some of the difficult times that are attached to an experience like this.
With that being said, I think that our recent influx of visitors have made me truly realize that I legit went through the stages of culture shock, and now am finally coming out on the other side. To date I can actually feel ok going out into the world and not have to worry about whether or not I’m able to order food or if they ask me a question how will I respond. I’ve accepted that when going out to eat I may order something thinking it’s one thing and it turns out to be something completely different. The white noise of people speaking Japanese is just normal to me now. I don’t walk out my front door and expect to hear English. Life in Japan just feels normal. From the bowing, to the constant apologies (for literally everything), to the waiting in line, the strange food, to John’s nomikai’s (work drinking parties), to his super long work hours, to even walking on the left side of the street.
Sure there are still things I miss from home, but I find as more days go on I miss them less and less, and honestly some of those things have become less important to me (except for the constant craving of Jimmy Johns…I really miss Jimmy Johns). I think one defining moment for me with this journey is realizing that I can only learn to live among the Japanese. Obviously, I will never become one of them, but I can learn to appreciate the world I’m living in and the uniqueness of their culture. In the beginning I would find myself frustrated with Japan and some of their culture, but now I’ve found a new appreciation for the world I’m living in. This life changes you, and not all change is bad.
It’s amazing the journey you go through without really realizing it. As hard as this experience has been (and I’m sure we are still in for difficult days), I am eternally grateful to have been given the opportunity. It’s a unique experience that I don’t believe everyone could do. We have sacrificed a lot for this and even though it may appear charmed, life on the other side of the world is not for the weak.
I just have one last reflection I want to get out before I end this post. Having managed to make it 7 months on this strange island I am so proud of my husband and I. We’ve encountered some difficult days and still manage to make it out on the other side. This has been such a journey for the two of us, one that has made me appreciate the man I married even more. I’ve realized that we truly can conquer what’s in front of us with the right mind set and the right attitude if we just “keep on keepin’ on”.
Phew…ok that was a lot of deep thoughts there. I’m glad you stuck with me and read it. It was important to me to get that out! Any who, we can get back to the positive side of life now. Here are some photos for you to enjoy of our recently travels to Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, and Hakone (where we got an unbelievable view of Mt. Fuji…seriously we didn’t even have these kind of views when we hiked the thing!)
Thanks for keeping up with our life on the other side of the world. So far it truly has been one hell of a journey!
Until next time!