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Thursday, September 3, 2015

5 First Impressions About Being Back in America

Well, after traveling for an entire day I have made it back to the States. It's currently nearly 6am Thursday and I am laying in a very tall, very huge bed compared to the five or so futons I had laying on the floor of my Japanese apartment. I've been back for over 24 hours now, and it doesn't feel quite real yet. Got approved for my first credit card last night (travel rewards so I'll earn airline miles for purchases) and I have completely unpacked my suitcases.

I've noticed a few things since I have been back, and I thought I would share them. It's really interesting how my view of how things function in public has changed since I was in Japan.

1. Americans really do randomly talk to you.

In Japan I would get the occasional Japanese person who would come over to me and ask where I am from, I was given a tissue cover by an older lady while sitting in Starbucks once and told "thank you for coming to Japan", for example.

I had barely stepped outside the airport (and nearly fell over in shock at the humid heat of 11pm Florida) that a guy laughed and said, "Well this is Florida!" to me and my parents, my parents replied back that I had just gotten back from living overseas and he welcomed me home. I stood there silently not really used to a random person talking to me like that.

2. The random differences in public manners.

When I first moved to Japan a number of things surprised me, and once of them was how when checking out people don't talk outside of the few phrases needed to get the transaction done. In America the cashiers ask how you are and just seem really nice and polite and less like robots than they did in Japan. It makes me feel closer to people.

Also people really do always hold doors open. In Japan you'll just be in a line of commuters and when you all get to a door everyone just walks through it without touching it, the door closes and the people before you just skirt through it, turning to the side and slipping through just before it ends up closed in your face. It's such an infuriating thing because I was raised in a place where you make sure the door is open for the persons behind you. It's also nice to hold a door open for someone and just have them smile and say thank you rather than the frantic rush to get through and over the top, "Oh thank you I'm sorry" that Japanese people do when the door is held for them.

3. Servers talk a lot.

We went out to dinner last night and the server just talked a lot. It was weird. In Japan you don't really even have a specific server waiting on your group, but just people who work there. They are just background figures who take your order and disappear until you call them again or they bring you something.

Our waitress talked to us and shared things with us and I found myself thinking, "okay that's nice but I don't care just go away." It will definitely take some getting used to. I can see why foreigners think Americans overshare all of the time.

4. You can be who you want to be in America.

When I got off my plane in Chicago and made my way through the airport to my departing gate for Orlando I noticed just how many different types of people. Ethnicity aside, people just looks very different. There was a girl with a full upper chest tattoo standing ahead of a me a few people in line and I found myself constantly staring at her because I was so shocked to see it so plainly revealed, there was a family of two mothers and a young daughter waiting at my gate that just made me really happy to see.

In Japan you don't see these things. There is an acceptable range of social "different" that you'll see of course, younger people with colored hair, strange fashion choices, etc. But there is still a very strict line that they don't cross. You don't see gay couples at all, I don't think I ever saw a gay family with children whilst out in Japan. There's huge social stigmas around many lifestyle choices that just don't exist in America.

5. Everyone can understand me.

Living in a country where your native language isn't the main one leads to a feeling of isolation in positive and negative ways. I can have private conversations in public and it's likely that no one will understand what we're talking about. But it's also frustrating when I try and do simple things like cancel my cell phone and am met with a guy who just says, "I don't understand..." over and over again.

Yesterday I opened a bank account and talked to a cell phone company about my options until the new iPhone comes out and I had never felt so anxiety and stress free in my entire life. It's great to just be understood.

So those are my five first impressions about America. It's definitely going to be a huge adjustment going back, and I am already sort of over the reaction I get from people when they find out I have lived in Japan. I had a bank teller talk to me about how I ended up over there, and she said she is now going to Japan when she graduates.

Every other person I've met I have said, "So I have just gotten back in the States after living overseas and I am wondering how I can do..." to try and hide the fact that I lived in Japan for so long, because I am already tired of answering the same questions over and over. Sort of like how I got tired of answering the, "Where are you from?" "What are you doing in Japan?" questions while in Japan.

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