The trials and tribulations of an Austrian-American in Japan

(This article was written originally as an email and has been modified only slightly for publication here. It is written in a somewhat hyperbolic, jesting tone and is meant to both amuse and inform).

So I have been living in Japan for about a week now, and am sort of starting to figure some things out. There have definitely been some moments of absolute confusion in which I just stare blankly at whomever is trying to explain something to me, but overall it has been ok. I don’t have internet yet, which is inconvenient, but I can use internet at the school where I’m teaching so it’s not too bad. I also got a cell phone which is totally sweet and does a bunch of absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary things that I haven’t quite figured out yet since the manual is all in Japanese. From what I’ve been able to figure out, there’s a camera, a radio, and a GPS system on it. Yaaaay for technology that I don’t understand!

Alright, as we all know, Japan is famous for its kooky game shows and wacky fashions so it should come as no surprise that things have been a little crazy. Here are a few of my initial observations:

1. EVERYTHING in this country is backwards. Water faucets turn on in the wrong direction; people drive on the wrong side of the road, which has already resulted in quite a few near-death experiences due to the fact that my little Austrian-American mind is seemingly incapable of comprehending the dynamics of left-side driving and the corresponding road-crossing survival techniques; people take off their shoes backwards, meaning they turn around and slip backwards out of their shoes thereby facilitating a quick get-away when putting their shoes back on (apparently this is important in a country where shoes get taken off and put on approximately 64 times a day); people back into parking spaces rather than pulling in from the front because it supposedly makes leaving easier and faster…is anyone else sensing a pattern of behavior geared toward making a quick a get-away as possible? Hmm, sehr interessant…

2. Roads don`t have names, which is the most irritating thing on earth. It results in a lot of confused directions, and having to draw maps for people so that they know where to go. Also, giving directions is always done in the form of “you’ll see a big tree, turn right there and then there’s a big building with a pink sign where you will need to turn left…”. Yeah, this does not really make for the clearest of directions… I’m sure I will get lost many a time because, shockingly, there will presumably be more than one big tree at which I could turn right.