As promised, here is an interview I did with my friend Natsuki. Natsuki is from Oita, Japan, and moved here to Nebraska in the fall semester of 2014. Here are some of her thoughts about living in America and Japan in general.
What has been the hardest thing about moving to America?
The food! In Japan, there is McDonald’s, but nobody goes there. Here, it’s so common! [Talking about all American food] The taste in America is either sweet or salty. I miss Japanese food! It is really hard to adapt to American food because even some ingredients taste different, like eggs and milk, since we’re on opposite side of the world.
What is the most different thing about America (in comparison to Japan?)
What is the hardest thing about English?
Grammer. There are too many exceptions! “er” is a sound that we don’t have in Japanese and also “th”, so those can be hard to pronounce.
What is something that is normal in America but rude/different/unheard of in Japan?
Walking in your house with shoes on. I was so surprised to visit homes in America where they just keep their shoes on, even on the carpet. Even in schools [in Japan], there’s a shoebox area where everyone places their street shoes and then put on a type of Japanese slippers that are only worn inside.
Another is blowing your nose in public. You don’t do that in Japan. You just keep sniffing, and here, that’s rude! (laughs)
[Here] they’re also very casual with teachers! Talking to college professors in Japan is very formal. Also eating with your hands, like with ribs and chicken legs. We don’t do that. Last thing, when Americans use chopsticks they often stab food with it instead of picking it up with the chopsticks. That’s rude in Japan!
What is something that is normal in Japan but rude/different/unheard of in America?
Homework over the summer. Also on certain days in summer you have to go back to school in Japan. We have week long seminars that we have to attend sometimes in the summer. Another one is slurping noodles is not rude, you’re supposed to.
Every teacher is dressed very professionally in Japan. Here teachers wear T-shirts or cardigans, but in Japan, teachers wear suits or very nice dresses. We wear face masks a lot. [When you’re sick in Japan, you wear a surgical face mask.]
Girls can walk alone at night. You just have to if you’re getting off work late, but it’s a lot less dangerous than here. There’s also swim class in schools and in the summer. Every high school in Japan has it whereas here you don’t have it very often.
What was something you had to change about yourself or adjust to once you got to America?
Clothing style. My clothes that I brought were too fancy, or too girly. Americans wear hoodies and sweats and a lot of sports brands. No cute headbands! Like, I can, but I’ll stand out. Everyone was staring at me on my first day because I was dressed all fancy.
What is something you would tell people who are going to going/moving to Japan?
People will stare, but that’s only because you’re a different race. It’s not bad, it’s only because they like your looks. They want to get to know you but they won’t talk to you first. Wear something other than jeans and T-shirts, there are a lot of formal occasions that will need nice dresses and suits. Americans have longer legs, so bring jeans that fit you! Shoes as well, ladies size of shoes only go up to 7 or 8 or so. Men’s are kind of like that, too.
[If you’re moving to Japan] Find landlord before you move. There’s a long process for finding a house or apartment and a lot of deposits to pay before rent even starts. Make sure to get a lot of Japanese yen [paper money and coins] at the airport or something, we don’t use credit cards and debit cards as often as Americans do.
Something to bring from America for Japanese friends?
Reese’s! and English paperbacks are very cool. Like if you have them on your desk, everyone will think you’re so cool. Helps with homesickness as well, having something from your home country.
What would you tell someone to bring from Japan if they are moving to America for the first time?
Comfy clothes, doesn’t have to be fashionable. Bring all seasons of clothes [for this area] Japanese snacks and books [for homesickness] Japanese games are cool here, people love looking at them. Lastly, make sure to get some American cash.