Can Embracing Japanese Culture Make You Forget Your Own? (Part 2)


This has been a big one for me. A prime example of how living abroad has affected , is in the genres of music that I listen to. For example, one genre of music that I really enjoy is the hip-hop/rap genre. I live in Tsukuba, and I remember during my first year, wondering if there were any people around that listened to hip hop music. When I would go to karaoke with my co-workers and friends, it’s the type of music that would rarely get any attention. Honestly, I don’t do much rap/hip-hop at karaoke, because I sound pretty bad even if I know the lyrics! But I really enjoy listening to it. When I would ask adult students what types of music they liked and didn’t like, so many grouped rap and hip-hop into the music they didn’t like. Now I’m sure in Tokyo, it’s a different story, but here, it seems like rock, soft-rock, pop, and r & b, are most popular.

Because I wanted to find things in common with other people and wanted to be open to making all kinds of new friends. I started listening to more and more of the music that I didn’t give as much attention back home. I started to listen to more and more of the Beatles, David Bowie, Oasis, even some of J-Pop (“Japanese Pop”) music that’s so popular here. I thought doing so would make me more open-minded and help me to learn more about the people around me. Truthfully, I think it has.

But I remember my co-workers buying me tickets (a birthday present) to go to the Summer Sonic concert. After seeing Stevie Wonder and Tribe Called Quest live, I realized just how much I missed being around the music I used to listen to and the accompanying culture. It’s one thing to go through my ipod and listen to music that I used to like, but it’s another thing entirely to be around people who feel the music the same way you do.

Forgetting Your Native Language

This one DEFINITELY happens. If you’ve been in Japan for a while, I know you’ve probably experienced it. Sometimes having those English brain farts, where you forget an English word or expression that you’re trying to say. I would imagine that if you work at a school where you’re the only foreigner, your Japanese will significantly improve. But if you have no English-speaking friends whatsoever, you will assuredly experience some English loss. Luckily there are some ways to overcome, or at least reduce, English attrition.

Have I Forgotten My Culture?

Absolutely not. There are times when I get stuck in my own little world, and get a little foggy on things from home…because I do live so far away. But every time I go home, although it’s not often, I have a chance to reconnect with my family and my friends. Every year I have a chance to be reminded of how proud I am to come from where I come from and to have the people in my life that I do.

It’s extremely important to be open-minded and accepting of other people’s lifestyles: drinking culture, music, food, and the like. However, if you really like the foreign country you’re living in, there is the danger that you could lose yourself in the culture. But if you’re honest with yourself about who you are, and as long as you have family and friends (in your hometown and in Japan) that help you stay grounded, I truly don’t think you’ll forget. This will help you to strike the delicate balance between embracing Japanese culture and becoming consumed by it. I think everybody has to find the balance that works best for them. I know I’m still adjusting my scales.

QUESTION TO THE READERS: Do you think living abroad can make you lose sight of your home country’s culture? Have you experienced that before? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to use the comments section below


See you tomorrow,

Donald Ash

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  • Dude!

    Awesome post. I don’t think that you lose your home country’s culture but because you are adopting a new culture you put your home culture on the back-burner. It’s like you said…once you return home…all those all cultural norms come back (albeit mixed in with the new ones). It’s awesome.

    Keep posting these great articles…I am currently plotting my one year stint in Japan and your posts have been extremely helpful in painting a picture of what life is like over there.

    • Donald Ash

      Thanks for posting, Ronald! I totally agree. No matter how long I’ve been away from home, that stuff is, and always will be, a part of me. Because I have been in Japan for a while, the stuff I’m picking up here will stay with me, too.
      I appreciate your feedback, too.

      P.S.- I hope you get to do your one-year stint. It’s definitely worth it!
      P.P.S.-Your name is cool because it rhymes with mine

  • Ugh. I have lost all my SAT words! Having to speak “stupid” English 95% of the time really kills your vocab, slang, and colloquialisms. It also changes your accent and spelling (Especially for Brits and Aussies).

    • Donald Ash

      Sigh…my vocabulary is starting to dull, too. But reading more helps alot.

  • Lazzaris

    The culture of my home country doesn’t fit on me. I never felt comfortable with that. When I lived in UK, I really felt better. The way that people deal with problems, their point of view about all the things matched with mine.
    Then I came to Japan, and here I felt that I could adapt to some things( the easiest was FOOD, lol).
    But some things I cannot change, like saying FUCK OFF to rude smokers that insist smoking around me. lol

    About language, I am not native English speaker, then is harder to keep a descent pronunciation, avoiding Japanese accent, specially when your wife is one of them.
    I need more friends to speak ENGRRRRISH!

    • Donald Ash

      Hey L!! Thanks for stopping by, bro. I suspect there are a lot of people with your same dilemma. Maybe they feel like their hometown culture doesn’t really match who they are. But it’s a good thing that you found out where you fit. That’s the most important thing I think. Well you got one friend to speak English with…his name rhymes with Ronald :)

  • Fernanda

    When I lived in Italy I also experienced the same as Lazzaris, because actually the brazilian culture (or some parts of it) just don´t belong to me… When in Italy I found myself at home, comfortable with their way of thinking over food, life,politics, books, culture… So much I didn´t want to come back! It was actually quite easy adapting to the italian culture for me because they are very warm and expansive towards people, much like we are, so I often said to my friends I felt like I were in Brazil…
    But in the end I came back, and there are also many things I love about Brazil, it just took me a while adjusting… Maybe I should say it´s still taking…

  • Ms. Hoshino

    I feel about the town in the U.S.A. where I live the way Fernanda does about Italy. There are many things I love about home and family, however I can talk so freely in this small, beautiful city.

  • Tori

    Honestly, I think living in a place like Japan would make you loose your taste for American food. Food in the United States is terrible for you, and if you eat healthy food all the time in Japan, you may not have an interest in the bad stuff anymore. But maybe I’m wrong, I’ve never been there.

Read previous post:
Can Embracing Japanese Culture Make You Forget Your Own? (Part 1)

Being transplanted into Japanese society, adhering to Japanese customs and being able to hold your own, thousands of miles away...