Culture Shock and Akita JETs
You will probably experience culture shock
If you are like many people who travel abroad, you may think that culture shock is something that happens only to the close-minded, but that isn't necessarily true. In fact, the more open minded you are and the more actively you pursue experiences outside your own culture, the more likely you are to experience culture shock.
Culture shock is a buzzword that's often used to scare people. But it shouldn't be that way. It's only natural that when we move to new places and change our lifestyle radically, we'll have some difficulties adjusting. Which is to say, experiencing some culture shock is just fine. It's when we have difficulty coping with our new surroundings that problems can arise.
Adjusting to a new culture is a learning process and however you feel right now is going to change as you gain more experience. This can be a difficult, knowing that everything you think you know could be wrong. The best way is to trust your own perceptions, even if you change your mind later.
It is important to be humble and recognize that you don't have the full picture. Trust others, listen, ask for advice, be actively curious, and take time to reflect on your experiences.
The more you know about the process of culture shock and the more time you take to reflect, the easier your life in Japan will be. At times life will be good, and at times life will be hard, so enjoy the good times and try your best to be prepared for the hard times.
Difficult times of the year
November, December, January
During these months, the weather turns cold and bleak and the lack of cultural activities (such as preparing for the holiday season) can make Culture Shock seem particularly unbearable. There are many things you can do to help with this:
- Plan a trip home.
- Remember, others are in the same situation, connect with them and make an effort to plan activities (get people together for Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Dinner, Hanaka, Fall Equinox, etc.)
- Get involved with local community events (take private Japanese lessons, pick up a new sport)
March, April, May
During these months, the cultural differences in the working place become very apparent. This is the time of the year when Japanese people are particularly busy being Japanese. In March: Students are preparing for entrance examinations, kohais are preparing to step into the role of being senpais, teachers are preparing to be moved at the whim of the Board of Education to a new school. In April: Students are taking exams, the school year is ending, and teachers are transferring. In May: Schools are coming together as finely tuned educational machines, students are finding their places and learning to work with others, and teachers are feeling out their new co-workers. There are many things you can do to help with this:
- Accept that you will have a lot of downtime at work during this time. Bring your own work for the days when you have class and consider taking paid leave during Spring Vacation.
- Try not to waste your private life complaining about your work life. Make a conscious effort to leave your work at work and enjoy the good weather during your free time.