My First Taste of Culture Shock

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I have quickly become preoccupied with schoolwork since classes have begun at Temple University. I’m taking four studio art classes and one Japanese class. The workload is large, but much of my time is taken up with buying basic amenities.

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I need to buy the ingredients for my meals from Japanese supermarkets. It’s a little difficult sometimes.

In Tokyo, I don’t know what or where the best places to buy shoes, clothes, trash bags, or stomach medicine are. What would be an easy trip to Target in America often becomes a wild adventure in Tokyo with overlooked subway entrances, wrong trains boarded, and cursing at the inefficiency of Google Maps. Sometimes the trip to buy something as simple as shoes becomes excessively frustrating. My friends and I attempted to go to the ABC market in Ikebukuro, so I could buy a pair of boots. We knew the store was near the train station so we walked the entire circumference of the station to no avail. We re-entered the train depot, walking from the north exit to the south exit and back again before realizing that the store was in a mall inside the station. The outing took an hour longer than we had planned, though I did manage to secure some nice-looking, well-made shoes.

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Well-earned shoes

Before I left for Japan, both my home institution and Temple University required that I sit through an orientation on culture shock. I was told that I would find many new and exciting things in Japan, but would also become deeply frustrated with the differences between my abroad site and my home country. There are apparently three stages to culture shock: honeymoon, irritation, and integration.

During my honeymoon phase, which lasted about three days, I was enthralled with my new location. However, the irritation phase quickly set in when I started school and household chores.

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I need to go out to my local Takadanobaba area to shop for groceries, clothes, toiletries, etc.

I didn’t understand the Japanese system for throwing away trash, I didn’t realize how expensive clothing would be, and I became excessively nervous at any interaction with a native Japanese speaker, whose face would quickly become puzzled when I couldn’t understand their fast-paced conversation. My irritation phase lasted about a week, and I’m not sure if I’ve weathered it fully yet. However, with every grocery store employee interaction, I become more at ease. I can now quickly guesstimate the costs of food items and clothes, and I’ve gone an entire week without stopping the line through the train ticket turnstile.

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My future is bright, much like this sunset

I am now (probably) working on my integration phase, a slow, uphill climb towards understanding and navigating Japanese society. I will continue to do my best at understanding and learning more about Japanese society and culture. がんばりましょう!(*^o^*)

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Friends definitely help the transition to a new country!

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About sarahwongtakesjapan

Hello, my name is Sarah Wong. I'm a Media Studies major and Art minor at Scripps College in Claremont, California. Though I attend Scripps College, I have decided to study abroad for a semester through the Temple University Japan program. I spend most of my spare time editing photos, making graphics, and drawing; partially for fun and partially because I hope it will prepare me for a career in graphic design. I love hanging out with my friends, eating Asian food, and watching cartoons (especially anime). I'm hoping to meet new friends, eat new kinds of food, and watch new television programs during my time in Japan! 行きましょう!(Let's go!)

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