My good friend Peta will shortly be touching down in Sapporo to stay in Japan for about a year. She has a pretty cool blog that you should check out – beautifulsilliness.wordpress.com – which will explain who she is much better than I could.
She also has the most crazy fashion-sense in the universe. This is her being restrained.
Anyway, so here’s the 5 things that I’m praying for her.
A Sharp Mind
Forget Godzilla. The language is the toughest thing in Japan. Understanding it requires a sharp mind.
And it’s not just vocab and grammar that tax your brain. Understanding and remembering all the non-verbal cues, working out when to use which level of politeness, the crazed mumblings of old Japanese men… communicating in Japan is like eating wasabi: it blows your mind!
And that’s without touching on acclimatizing to a whole new culture.
Now Peta is a world-class nerd and she has already notched up probably 1,000 hours of language study, has read a fair few books on Japan, and has visited Japan before. But I was about the same when I went out. Nothing prepares you for real life in Japan. Not even anime.
A Soft Heart
The Japanese are famously hospitable and kind. In my experience, especially so if you’re a foreigner who can string more than 4 words of Japanese together. I have never been praised so much for doing so little as when I’ve been in Japan.
On top of that Peta is a fellow ginger (don’t try to pretend like you’re not!) and so will be treated with respect bordering on reverence for having naturally what some Japanese spend whatever-hair-dye-costs to achieve.
I’ve talked about this before, but the temptation to believe the hype is huge. Remaining a humble, servant-hearted attitude is tough. Or at least it is for me. But just to be safe, I’ll be praying this for Peta too.
A Thick Skin
Unless you come back with at least 1 story of when you made a complete fool of yourself, you probably haven’t actually been to Japan. Whether it’s the classic ‘forgetting to take off the toilet slippers’ gaff, or something less common like my banking fail, eventually public humiliation is inevitable.
And sometimes those embarrassing moments also become occasions when you offend, upset or even anger people. A sharp mind and a soft heart help prevent those, but if you still fail it’s good to be able to let such incidents be, as the Japanese say, “Like urine off a frog’s face.” (OK I’m yet to actually hear someone say that, but it’s in my Japanese dictionary.)
A Strong Gut
Peta will get lots of invites to lunch and dinner. And whilst Japanese food is very tasty, if you’re not used to eating raw food…well…
A Still Soul
I have indeed saved the best (or at least the most important) till last.
Spending time living in Japan was a shake-up experience for me. I had to work out who I was, where I fitted, if I fitted in. The struggles of learning the language and understanding the culture can be disorientating. Having a still soul – being able to rest in God – is vital.
So, go on! Have a read of Peta’s blog. And if you’re the praying kind, pray those 5 things for her. And for anyone else that you might know who’s going out to Japan soon…