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Foreigners reveal when they felt they really 'got this whole Japan thing'

By Michelle Lynn Dinh

Expats in Japan, you know the feeling: After years of working towards your goal of somehow, someday living in Japan, you finally made it to the land of mochi and Harajuku. But you’re not really living in Japan, no, you’re drowning in it. It wasn’t what you expected it to be (how dare your years of research, whether in school or from anime, deceive you!). And you cry and you curse your naivety for ever thinking you could just pick up and move to such a strange land.

But then one day, you have a clear, identifiable moment when everything seems to come together and you just have to stop and smile to yourself, thinking, “I’m doing it. I’m really doing it.” It’s these little moments that eventually trickle together and without realizing it, you’re walking on water, swapping "oyaji-gyagu" with the best of them and craving sashimi for dinner.

Let’s take a look at what 20 foreigners on Japanese website, Niconico News, identified as a time they really felt like they had gotten the hang of living in Japan.

Unsurprisingly, starting to actually like Japanese foods that at first they hated was a common response from foreigners. When homesick expats hoard peanut butter like its gold and bring back suitcases full of maple syrup and cheese, its no wonder a change in tastes was such a big moment for them.

“When I became able to eat raw fish (sushi, sashimi, etc)” (Greece, early 30s, male)

“When I was finally able to eat sushi.” (Syria, early 30s, male)

“When I understood manzai comedy, when I was able to eat sashimi, when I was able to feel comfortable at the onsen…” (Tunisia, late 40s, male)

“When I became able to eat a considerable amount of Japanese food, was able to understand television news programs, and when riding the train was a piece of cake for me.” (Netherlands, early 30s, male)

“I can eat natto, I can also speak in both the Kansai dialect and standard Japanese, and I often eat different kinds of seaweed like 'mozuku' and 'mekabu.'” (Germany, late 30s, male)

“The beef imported to Japan isn’t very good, so recently I’ve only been eating domestically raised beef. I absolutely hated natto, but now I love it and eat it every other day. I also react to things in Japanese now. I’ll say things like 'uso!' (no way!) and 'machigaeta!' (I messed up!).” (Mali, late 30s, male)

“I have come to know the deliciousness of 'onigiri' and soba that at first I didn’t appreciate” (South Korea, late 30s, female)

From learning to bow to a change in utensil preferences, getting used to Japanese culture was also a common answer:

“There’s a ton of stuff. When I speak Japanese, when I use onomatopes (words for sounds) and gestures, when I bid someone farewell and bow many times. There’s a lot more…” (Iran, early 20s, female)

“When I bow.” (USA, late 30s, male)

“When Japanese words naturally creep into my conversations with other Filipino people.” (Philippines, late 40s, female)

“When I started feeling that chopsticks are more useful than a spoon and fork.” (Thailand, late 30s, female)

“Whenever I talk about cleanliness and hygiene with a Japanese person and I share the same opinion.” (Indonesia, early 40s, female)

“Whenever I get along well with a Japanese person I meet abroad” (Peru, early 40s, female)

Other smaller moments were noted by expats in Japan:

“When I get drinks with a Japanese person at an izakaya [Japanese-style pub].” (Turkey, late 20s, male)

“When I’m moved by the blossoming of cherry trees.” (Brazil, late 30s, male)

If you’re new to Japan and you have yet to experience any moments like these, don’t lose heart, you’ll get there. Living in Japan, or any foreign country for that matter, is filled with the highest highs, but also the lowest lows. So hang in there. Japan is a wonderfully confusing, awesomely crazy, brilliantly baffling place. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Source: NicoNico News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Foreigners in Japan must grow accustomed to distinctive Japanese designs -- 7 things you should know before moving abroad -- Adventures in talking to foreigners: Anecdotes from Japanese Twitter users

© RocketNews24

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For me it was when I found it hard to control the urge to climb onto the roof during typhoons.

34 ( +37 / -4 )

For me, it was when I stopped caring that the punctuation in an English-language article is all over the place and just plain wrong.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

When I stopped trying and just quit bad food (like natto.). I told people, "tried it, hated it, it sucks!" That's when I was "in." Most of the time they readily agreed.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

For me, it was when I learned that the bars stay open until 6 AM, basically, the first week. Still don't eat fish though.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Realising the cutlery I'd bought years before was still brand new?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Good one, Jimzo. LOL!

My version: when I stopped wearing serious rain gear during powerful typhoons and instead went outside in a wool suit and carrying a plastic umbrella from the 100 yen shop.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I really respect and I am fascinated with Japan but after 12 years of being a japan-otaku I still cant say 'I get it.' But that's cool. That's why I loved japan in the first place...

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I will never get this place, and I like that. In fact I wish I could go back to that first time in Japan feeling, that was fantastic.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Coming to the realisation that the entire country is run by the Yakuza would be my defining moment

0 ( +11 / -11 )

When Typhoon is twisting among everybodies mind. After that drop of rain shows the power of the typhoon :)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Funniest moment was not long after I arrived. Heard some guy "chanting" and thought it was a ceremony at a local temple. Rushed over to find nobody there. Walking back, I realized the sound was coming from a small truck...

Monohoshi... Saodake...

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I knew nothing about Japan before coming here, so I didn't ever feel like I didn't get it. Or at least, there weren't any particular expectations that I was fighting that made me feel that I was not getting it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's when you see your first blue butt. (shiri ga aoi)

2 ( +4 / -2 )

....What 'Japan thing'?

10 ( +14 / -4 )

My eureka moment didn't come in Japan. I went back to visit the US after about two continuous years living in Japan. I landed in Atlanta, GA, and had to use the toilet at the airport. I walked in, pushed the dirty stall door... and it fell right off the hinges, smashing against a disgusting, well, I'm sure you can imagine so I'll save the details, toilet. I immediately missed Japan so much. Not just because I was afraid of mutating from the toxic sludge in that bathroom, but also because I thought of all the stupid things in the US I don't have to deal with in Japan. I don't mean to diss the US, I love my native country, but I'm happy I live here.

13 ( +15 / -3 )

For me it was when I became okay with being naked with 30 men around me in a the furo. Which was like 3 days after I got here.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

There's not anything special to get. It's just a nice country to live in with good points and bad points, same as anywhere else. Most of the food's lovely (including natto, can't understand why so many of you hate it), plenty to see and do, easy to get around, and people are easy going (when it's not rush hour).

I get homesick when I leave for a while and I am super unhappy when I go back to the country of my birth, so I guess this is home. Does that mean I "get it"?

7 ( +12 / -5 )

I 'got' Japan a couple of months after the tsunami and through what I observed and experienced in that period.

Then I decided to leave.

-2 ( +9 / -10 )

I guess I "cheated"... Already loved sashimi and sushi before ever getting here - (I guess that's what happens when one has a Japanese boyfriend in France...) I've been here so long now that "Gaikoku" seems strange when I go back...

6 ( +7 / -1 )

When I didn't cross the road against the red light even though the next car was 2 kilometres away. And accepting that 10 quid for a pint was about right for this sort of place.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

When I realized that I was looking forward to all of the seasonal events and food. Just celebrated setsubun with my family yesterday, will celebrate "girl's festival" next month, then enjoy walking under the cherry blossoms, followed by the sanja festival, fireworks in the summer, etc. Currently enjoying various kinds of nabe and oden in the winter, soon to be followed by all of the spring vegetables. Of course the best is autumn, with all of the grilled fish, mushrooms, and fruit.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

When you're able to bag J-birds one after another?

-11 ( +13 / -22 )

Maple syrup is like $1.49 for a huge bottle back home and ¥600 for a tiny bottle here. Simple economics considering that Japanese eat pancakes and French toast, too.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

When I realized that it is fact true that only Japan has four seasons. But seriously, as cleo states, what Japan thing?

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I never really had a "eureka" moment in Japan. I knew I liked the country before I came, and I knew more or less what to expect. Finally becoming proficient in Japanese, turning that corner when you can actually function in Japanese, was a powerful moment.

I did have significant reverse culture shock, and became pretty disgusted by a lot of the nonsense that goes on back in the U.S. Of course, Japan also has its downsides.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

And you cry and you curse your naivety for ever thinking you could just pick up and move to such a strange land.

Yeah, never felt like this.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When I realized that no matter how well we understand the Japanese, they still believe they're such a big mystery to us.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

When I began subconsciously bowing when on the phone, on my bicycle after cars gave way to me, basically doing it everywhere.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

What a lame article. "Japan thing" indeed. what's to "get" - yes, culturally different but so is everywhere. Just scale of some of the differences is greater. Eating sushi? Its expensive? Hygiene? Getting on with Japanese people? just lame lame lame.

-13 ( +3 / -16 )

I will never get this place, and I like that. In fact I wish I could go back to that first time in Japan feeling, that was fantastic


How true! When I look back the first couple years when I was a nama-gaijin were the most exciting, topsy turvy. I think many who arrived before the internet & mobile phones would agree.

Back then all we had was books, bit of word of mouth, maybe some Japanese in our home countries that we met before we ever flew over.

Now with so much on the net, youtube you can get a much better idea of whats what, not sure whether that's better or not, depends on the individual.

The only downer for me is the overall decline, still love Japan but ........... ah hindsight!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Coming to the realisation that the entire country is run by the Yakuza would be my defining moment

Yep, totally agree with this one. I'm amazed that more people can't/don't want to see the obvious truth.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Careful bilderburg, I think they're watching you...

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Because eating sushi is something only a Japanese can do!

2 ( +4 / -1 )

What a completely stupid article. apart from the actual comments, the whole concept is daft.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I got it when I finally realized there is no getting it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Two Moments

The time I flew back to Japan after a vacation "home" and I looked forward to getting back to Japan, like it was home, and I had missed it.

Realizing that I often passed money or accepted drinks with two hands (one at wrist), the polite Jpns way, although no one ever told me to and I'd never thought about it, or even really consciously realized that it was a "J thing".


Everyone Changing Into the Same Slippers in the Bathroom, Slippers That Just Stay There In the Bathroom For All Time, Slippers That Witness Everyone's xyz, and Collect Everyone's Sweat and Foot-Cooties. It doesn't actually gross me out anymore, but that will never be "right" for me. Even after nigh on 2 decades.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Mine is from the time I no longer wanted to drink other beers than Kirin and Sapporo, (Asahi and Suntory = no thanks). And I look forward to go to the local yakitori house for some nice rebaa, momo, tan, kashira, etc. And sometimes I end up saying like an oyaji, "Yoissho", when moving or lifting things.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I certainly do remember the time in Japan when I first thought to myself... "I'm doing it. I'm really doing it."

A very vivid memory.

And indeed, very shortly after that everything did seem to come together.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I don't think that I 'get' this article.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

When I started playing Final Fantasy X on my PSVita in Japanese the other day and OMG! I can totally understand what they're saying.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Waiting for the signal to turn blue. Hurrying to get the videos back by 25:00. Asking a student to speak in a big voice. When these events no longer made me feel "other."

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I don't know if I've ever gotten anything about Japan but in one of my worst moments, when I'm thinking "Fk this place" my normally taciturn neighbor, who never spoke to me or said hello in 5 years, came up to me and said, "You have really become Japanese." WTF?!

9 ( +10 / -1 )

That is classic, Puff !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Being treated as one of the family during my first meal at my friends' home, with him and his wife, their two young boys and his elderly parents. The Japanese-English communication was hilarious. I get so melancholy every time I have to get on the Narita Express to fly away, and it's worse, once on the plane.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Can only speak for my time in Okinawa--- when I realized that these were the loveliest people in the world and I was happy to be among them.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

When my Japanese wife and I both realized if I want a cashier to answer my questions to me rather than turn to my wife, my wife will have to drop back 10 paces and pretend to be looking at a magazine.

14 ( +14 / -1 )

Coming back to Japan from the states, after a late arrival, I felt 'relieved' to be landing in a country where things like flight schedules and customer service could be counted on. As Martha would say, "That was a good thing."

7 ( +9 / -2 )

When I realised that it is of absolutely paramount importance to me that everyone tell me that I am unique and wonderful because I eat fish with sticks.

Nobody else can do this because they were born further away than where I am standing. It's unique, isn't it? Do you think it is unique? Do you like this food?Is it delicious? Is it the best food you have ever eaten, better even than the food your own mother prepared for you? Is it? Is it? Look, it is on TV seven nights a week, it must be unique. Do you love it, and think of little else?

No? Why do you hate Japan?

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

How can I get something I don't "COMPLETELY" understand!! The logic baffles me!!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I got it when I was finally treated like a human being and not some wacky foreigner.. oh wait, that never happened and I never felt like "I'm getting this.."

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I don't get what's there to get? It is what it is.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Probably when I started heading to the local Sento for my evening bath as opposed to using the shower in my apartment.

A nice leisurely stroll through the streets to share a bath with a bunch of old dudes. Completely normal.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I got it when I finally realised it doesn't matter how little I do, or how badly I do it, if I can sit at my desk for much longer than I need to, and look earnest, I become indispensable.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

When I noticed that these Japanese young women reported to me at work had normally dressed so formal and acted so polite in the office turned into “party animals” at the private parties. :)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This article made my day, I love Japan so much .

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

"ben4shortFEB. 04, 2014 - 05:00PM JST I got it when I finally realized there is no getting it."

That's it in a nutshell, Ben. Just like everywhere, once you realize the infinite complexity, then you got it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It was when all of the above was completely irrelevant, and I was able to just live my life without it...day no.2 or 3...........?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Arriving at Narita and thinking "Tadaima" instead of "Youkoso"

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Right on, Matthew !

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm kinda with John Occupythemoon Daly

I got it when I first sat on the toilet here and pressed 'the button'.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It was much more interesting to read the comments than the poor article. YAY - you eat sushi!!!! Wooohooooo....

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The point is: lots of Japanese people don't get it either. Many time they are as confused as I am.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I only really got Japan after I left.

People kept saying to me "Grow up, and come back home to the real world, and away from that fantasy land" ...and when I did, I realised something. The real world can be a sucky place without multiple levels of feigned politeness, and Japan was more mature than the rest of the world gave it credit for.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

When cute j-girls return my smile to them on the subway, then its showtime! Thats when i usually get japan! G-playa.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

i got it when I started reverse parking even in places where driving in forward was easier, DOH!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I got the whole about Japan especially in Tokyo when I seen guys grabbing on random girls trying to talk to them but they were to polite to say go away and when they finally did it was the guy who got angry. How does this make any sense??

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't think it was actually a feeling of "getting it".... more like small triumphs and succumbing to the norm. As a foreigner the only time I ever felt "I got it", is when I understood, I'll never get it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I think when I left Japan thinking " Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" and I am Doing so Great!!!!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Doesn't matter what you think or if you get it. I'm an ozzy and I live here and I like living here just as I liked living in Oz. I will always be different no matter how much the same I become so just live and let live. Theres nothing to get, just live on.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When I went to Tsukiji fish market and did not buy any fish or visit the tuna sell-off. Bought other things...egg rolls, kameboko, red and white kabu, Izu wasabi roots, bag of katsuobushi shavings, and planned to buy the shaving box and rock hard katsuo sticks next visit.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

recherche88 in my case they just whip out the loud speaker and shout so she can hear. i like it tho cause i don't ever have to talk to anyone or do any chores that involve talking to people, which works because the slenderman doesn't much like people.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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