This is part two of the blog festival hosted by the Whoa I’m in Japan blog. The question posed was What Have You Learned By Living Abroad?
I remember doing so many things by myself during my first year in Japan. Of course I would get together with my coworkers from time to time, but there can be a lonely side to this place. My financial situation was a little different than most, so part of the reason I wasn’t going out was because I was scraping a bit for money. But there was more…
I am definitely not one to play the race card, but it’s natural that people hang out with those who are most like them. During that first year, I would sometime feel that I was the afterthought, dare I say the token?
Sometimes I would hear about things late or not just not find out at all. Whether or not it was on purpose I can’t say, but I do remember having the feelings of isolation. It’s kind of hard not to feel like that when there’s nobody around that looks like you. Initially, I felt like people always did more of a feeling-out process with me before they even attempted to hang out. Once people got to know me, and found out that I actually am pretty good guy, it was cool. But it seemed like a process that not everybody had to go through. If you ask me in person, I probably won’t admit it, but I do remember a couple of nights crying by myself in my barren apartment. Those were some of my weakest moments in Japan.
I think that all strength begins with weakness. I came to the realization that the only person responsible for my happiness was me. If I was getting left out of things I could either sit and mope, or do something about it. Instead of moping, I starting training. I hit up the local gym quite often, and ended up losing about 25 pounds that first year. More people got to know me, I made friends and it all worked out in the end.
You know what gets on my nerves? When I talk to somebody from home and tell them I’m not totally fluent in Japanese yet, they respond with “You’re not fluent yet?!?” “If I were living in Japan for that long, I’d be fluent.” I try not to get upset at comments like this, but it’s not always easy. These are people who have never set foot in Japan, never learned a single kanji, dealt with a different type of sentence structure, worked with honorifics…nothing…just making “outside-looking-in” observations. They just assume that being here would mean being fluent. But it doesn’t work that way.
Learning a language is work, there’s no way to slice it. If you’re a child maybe the osmosis approach to learning a language does work. For most adults, though, you have to study and practice, study and practice until it comes. I may not be fluent yet, but I am confident that someday in the, hopefully near, future I will be.
I have nearly been in Japan for as long as I was in college, and it’s the education has been priceless…
Thanks for reading 🙂
Hi everybody! Today's article is part one of a two-part post for a special blog festival for the Whoa I'm...