Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Adjusting from Japan back to the US

I've been back for a few days now, and still haven't gotten my sleep schedule back to US time. Today I woke up at 3:00am and couldn't get back to sleep. I finally decided to get out of bed at 6:00am and start my day, but by 11:00 I was dozing at my desk. I figured it might be good to take a short nap, and to my unpleasant surprise I woke up at 4:30 in the afternoon! So much for a short nap.

One of the most noticeable adjustments coming back from the US was the reverse culture shock. After spending a couple weeks in a society where courtesy and thoughtfulness seem to be a way of life, it was a totally jarring experience to encounter American culture again. It started as soon as we got on the plane in Osaka heading back to Detriot. The flight attendants were all American and at first I was wondering if they were all just grumpy that morning. After a while I realized they where just acting like normal American flight attendants. It was such a noticeable difference from the Japanese flight crew going from Okinawa to Osaka. No longer did the flight attendants actually seem care about helping anyone - they were just doing their job and seemed visibly annoyed whenever they had to actually help anyone.

This came as a sharp contrast to Japanese workers encountered both on the plane and in shops. As another example, in Okinawa I was attempting to purchase something with a credit card at a department store. I went up to a cashier, showed her my credit card and asked if I could use it (credit cards usage isn't anywhere near as common in Japan as it is in the US). She signaled that I couldn't use it at this cash point, but then explained I could at a different one across the store. I proceeded to pick up my pending purchases and bring them to the other checkout location, but the clerk insisted on walking me over to the proper register, and also insisted on carrying all my items for me! I don't think that would ever happen at a store in the US.

Even at the McDonald's in Okinawa, they actually deliver your food to your table if it's not going to be available immediately. And they RUN to help you.

I'm also having a little trouble adjusting to the driving back home. Driving on the right hand side is not a problem (thankfully!) but I keep turning on my windshield wipers every time I intend to use my turn signals. In Japan they drive on the left and the wipers and turn signals are swapped in comparison to the US cars. I actually didn't have this problem very often driving in Japan, but for some reason now I've gotten in the habit of the Japanese layout for turn signal and wipers and keep turning on the wipers when I make a turn.