How Living In Japan Has Changed My Life

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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Change #1: I have become less fearful of earthquakes and tremors on the ground

I come from Singapore, an island nation located smack right near the equator. Unlike Japan, another island country, Singapore does not have earthquakes at all. From a young age, I have heard numerous horror stories about the sheer number of earthquakes that Japan has yearly, if not daily. This is because Japan is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire (on the edges of several tectonic plates that contain high volcanic and seismic activity) and is highly susceptible to earthquakes.

Change #2: I now have a “different” concept of “time”

Punctuality is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. For many Japanese, being “on time” or “punctual” for a meeting or appointment with someone does not mean arriving “right on the dot” but rather, arriving a good “5–10 minutes earlier” than the scheduled time. It is considered good manners to be punctual in business situations and even when meeting friends for a drink. Even Japanese train companies apologise to commuters when trains are 5 minutes late.

Change #3: I find myself apologizing more often than before

Japan has a culture of apologizing. The Japanese language has various ways to express apologies, ranging from the commonly heard sumimasen (すみません), gomennasai (ごめんなさい) to the more formal moushi wake gozaimasen (申し訳ございません) used in business settings. All these forms of apology point out to the reality of the importance of being polite and harmonious in Japan, so much so that the slightest tinge of discord or mistake is often made up with at least a single sumimasen (translated as “sorry” or “excuse me”). It seems that apologizing is the way to go about things in this country. When in doubt, apologize first.

Change #4: Eating “natto” (納豆) (Japanese fermented soybeans ) has become part of my diet

There are two types of people on this planet: those who love natto and those who hate it. I belong to the former group. For some reason, I was instantly hooked onto natto the first time I tried it. The rest is history.

“To serve the Queen of Heaven is already to reign there, and to live under her commands is more than to govern.” — St. Jean-Marie Vianney

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