Nomadic Life

I’ve just moved house for the 21st time. Yes, since leaving the comfort of my parents’ nest 18 years ago, I have moved 21 times…including five country moves. On my recent endeavour to donate blood, the nurse made the mistake of trying to write the list of countries I’ve travelled to in one small box. He caved after the first ten, when his hand started cramping, and went in search of another piece of paper. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my nomadic life…

As a nomad, I find myself constantly grasping for a word in conversation and claiming it from another language or culture…saying dollar instead of pound, duvet instead of doona and I still feel the urge to say itadakimasu every time I sit down to a meal. I won’t even get started on the arguments I have with hubby about vegetable names…or the great pants vs trousers debate. He practically applauded me the other day for saying flip flops instead of thongs…showing just how rarely I get the context of my vocabulary correct. These days, talking to me is like having a conversation with Google Translate on a slow internet connection.

Establishing yourself in a new place is tiring when you’re a nomad…you need to seek out a new doctor, dentist, gym and hair stylist in every location you decide to set down vague roots. The result? I cut my own hair, the Olympics come around more frequently than my dentist visits and I’m contemplating prerecording my medical history for all future doctor’s appointments.

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As a nomad, I’ve come to realise that not all clothing sizes are created equal. In Australia I am a size 10…in the UK a 10-12 (the Heathrow Injection)…and in Japan, a size 20,000. The only item of attire I managed to purchase successfully in the Land of the Rising Sun were (men’s) Converse shoes. I gave up on clothing after buying a pair of XXL stockings, only to try them on and find the crotch taking up residence somewhere around my knees.

I married a Scotsman…who I met in Japan. If that doesn’t scream nomad, then I don’t know what does. When we tied the knot, I signed up to an ongoing life of long haul flights, missed family Christmases and birthday wishes sent from afar…and a day (week?) early or late. Hubby and I have conversations about which country to raise our (distant) future children in…realising that our decisions will impact their education, their access to extended family and will even dictate their accent.

A skill my travelling life does afford me, is knowing exactly which seat to choose on a long haul flight for maximum space, minimal noise and avoidance of the ‘toilet waft’. And trust me when I say, order a special meal. It’s worth it for no other reason to see your hungry neighbour give you the evil eye while you happily munch away with all the kiddie meal recipients.

When you are a nomad, no one believes you are staying for long. Ever. I start having heart palpitations unless I have some kind of trip planned…the walls start closing in and I feel suffocated. I experience cabin fever, post holiday blues and the travel itch like other people come down with a common cold. Nomads like me are a strange breed that thrive on change and look forward to the unknown. Unless the unknown ends up being a snoring neighbour in a hostel or a missed flight home from Barcelona, that is.

As a 34 year old nomad, I don’t own a house. Or a car (the one time I briefly owned a car, it didn’t end well). Hubby and I just bought our first real piece of furniture…a bookcase to hold the mountain of books I’ve been squirrelling away in Mum and Dad’s spare room over the years (I’m starting the think a Kindle might not be such a bad idea). A while ago, I calculated that if I’d saved all the money I have spent on travel over the years, I would have had enough for a deposit on a house. That’s probably two deposits by now…

Instead of a house, I have travel journals full of concert tickets, flight itineraries and memories of adventures had. I have a collection of used passports and stashes of leftover currency from countries visited. I don’t need a house…pieces of my heart are scattered all over the globe with the people and places I love. My home is with them and I will always adore my nomadic life.

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Picture This…

Yes, I know…long time no post. I’ve been home in Australia for three and a half months now and paperdoll has taken a backseat to the adventures of resettling back into life here. I admit it…and I apologise. What can I say? I love being home and every time I sit down to write paperdoll I get distracted by…well…everything.

Having said that, lately the first signs I may be missing Japan have crept in (natsukashi)…it started with a craving for ramen…then there was an emotional reaction to a letter from one of my past students…and let’s not forget that living with my parents again has me pining for my 42m² Japanese apartment. Every. Single. Day.

Yes, I have begun to miss Japan and all of it’s crazy, quirky ways. But much like A Picture Says a Thousand Kanji, when I am missing Japan and need a fix, I can just picture this

Sleeping in Japan

Japanese student letter

English signage in Japan

Japanese dessert

Stretching

Dashboard

Takeout menu

Japanese antenna

Japanese fashion

Japanese Kit KatsEnglish sign in Japan

Japanese laundry

English in Japan

Japanese Hello Kitty Mask

Japanese shredder

Japanese Aquarium sign

Japanese glitter suits

Japanese Pepsi flavour

Japaese toilet paper

Japanese Clothing Engrish

Japanese fashion

Funny English in Japan

Japanese Architecture Osaka

Japanese Beauty Products

Japanese giant vegetables

Japanese sign

Train etiquette in Japan

Japanese gift explanation

Japanese fashion

Japanese trinkets

Japanese fashion

English textbook Japan

Japanese ice cream

Japanese toilet slippers

English in Japan

Japanese fashion

Japanese signage

Japanese cars

English in Japan

English in Japan

English in Japan

Japanese fashion

Japanese beauty products

Japanese toilets

The Good, The Bad and The Aussie…

In case you didn’t hear me shouting the news from the rooftops, I finally got off that island (Japan). I escaped from the bubble. I jumped ship. I got the truck out of dodge. After three years of life as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher), I hitched a flight home to Australia and those people who had begun to forget they’re my family. Some of you might be wondering what will happen to paperdoll now that I’m back? Surely without 400+ junior high school kids and the perils of culture shock to contend with every day, I mustn’t have much to write about now? I beg to differ…

I’ve only been back in Australia a month, but I’m already experiencing reverse culture shock after living abroad for six years (yes, there were another three years in the UK too…my addition skills aren’t that bad). So you see I’m home…but I feel like a foreigner in my own country. Even my family can’t believe I’m back for good and I swear my mother keeps pinching herself every time she sees me (which is a lot…since I’m living with my parents again…but that’ll be a whole other blog entry).

Right now, Japan and the UK are my most recent reference points for home and Australia is this strange land I am getting reacquainted with. As I get resettled, I will continue to write about my aventures in Japan (I still have so much to say about it all) and these new experiences of reverse culture shock…or as I’m now calling it…the good, the bad and the Aussie

The Good…

My family.

It’s the end of April…mid Autumn, with winter coming…and it’s around 25°C every day. Forget hellish Japanese winters!

NO MORE SQUAT TOILETS.

Squat_toilet_Japan_culture_shock

The Bad…

Green tea in Australia sucks. Period.

Red lights actually mean stop, not three-more-people-can-make-it-through-the-intersection-still.

No road cones to feed my weird addiction…

The Aussie…

People wave acknowledgements of kindness from their cars instead of bowing or flashing their hazard lights.

I can say spesh, noice, netty, chook, suss, arvo, sanga, Maccas, cuppa and all other manner of Aussie slang and be understood.

Meat pies.

The Good…

The earth doesn’t shake every day…or…well…ever.

I don’t have to eat rice.

I now work for myself and I love it (WARNING: imminent, shameless self promotion: threefold.com.au)

The Bad…

Australia stinks…literally. After living in Japan I can’t handle strong fragrances anymore.

The speed limit is actually the speed limit.

NO ORIGAMI PAPER.

koala2

The Aussie…

Everyone is up for a chat…the postman, the checkout chick and the pizza guy…

Men. With the ability to grow facial hair. With muscles. With height. With masculinity. Enough said.

Tim Tams, Vegemite, Caramello Koalas…nomnomnom…

The Good…

Anonymity. Sweet anonymity.

One word…organic.

I keep reaching for XL size clothing in stores…only to remember I’m not a giant in this country.

The Bad…

I can feel my Japanese ability leaching out of my brain with every English conversation I have.

Small showers.

No fan club of adoring teenage kids to stroke my ego every day.

The Aussie…

Competitive sport.

Fresh, un(less?)polluted air.

Thongs are things people wear on their feet and there aren’t many Kiwis, Americans or Brits around to refute the point.

The Good…

I can enjoy a restaurant meal without having cigarette smoke billowing in my face.

I don’t have to carry a wad of cash around in my wallet (though the card charges from my first night out in Australia might make this a moot point…).

I sleep on a bed…not the ground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Bad…

No rainbow of KitKat flavours…though this might in fact be a good thing…

My Converse addiction will cost me double than what it did in Japan.

No amusing Engrish.

kinkakuji toilet sign

The Aussie…

Triple J music.

The Hills Hoist in the back yard…which virtually snap dries my clothing immediately.

This…

Still, Only in Japan…

…are VPL (Visible Panty Lines) acceptable in public…or at all.

…are Lilo & Stitch actually popular.

…are snowmen made of only two parts and not three.

Japanese Snowman

…are people only considered sick if they have a fever.

…are you expected to fully wash yourself before getting into a bath.

…are aprons a fashion statement for housewives.

Still, only in Japan…

…does sock glue need to exist.

Girl's gotta have sock glue...

…do shop assistants yell ‘irashaimase’ (welcome) at you repeatedly throughout the duration of your time in their store.

…do elementary school children raise their hand in the air to cross the road.

…does using your hazard lights give you the ability to break any traffic law without penalty.

The hazards of driving in Japan

…do most houses not have an oven.

…do construction workers warm up before starting work with a stretching routine that resembles the YMCA.

…do people’s car dashboards look like a Disney Store shopfront.

Shoe horn?

Still, only in Japan…

…is playing the pokies/slot machines deemed an enjoyable pastime for people under retirement age.

…is it considered rude not to slurp your noodles/soup/tea/any edible substance.

…is Christmas celebrated with KFC and sponge cake.

KFC Christmas

is dancing illegal.

…is there an irrational fear of bugs.

…is a 2.4km race referred to as a ‘marathon’.

Still, only in Japan…

…can peanuts appear on the school lunch menu at least once a month without a student going into anaphylactic shock or their parents suing the school.

…can a person face jail time if a stranger drinking in the same bar as them gets behind the wheel of his car and breaks the law.

…can you make a sport out of sumo and geisha spotting.

Sumo spotting

Geisha stalking

…can I step out of my front door, walk 100 metres in any direction and find a vending machine.

…can trying to heat your apartment become a game of Russian roulette.

…can you find cleaning products sold in gift sets.

Cleaning gift pack? Oh, yes please!

Still, only in Japan…

…will people send New Years cards, as opposed to Christmas cards.

…will you find people own cars bigger than their apartments.

Giant car

…will the movie title ‘This Means War’ be changed to ‘Black & White’.

…will a cars be given names like ‘moco’…which means ‘booger’ in Spanish.

…will you see teenage boys being more openly affectionate with each other than dating couples.

Still, only in Japan are there so many cultural quirks that I could write this threequel to ‘Only in Japan’ and ‘Again, Only in Japan’

A Hard Pill to Swallow

Here in Japan, I avoid going to the doctor like I avoid dating J guys. Aside from my yearly compulsory medical check, I’ve only been twice since my arrival (my last experience during The Cold War is still fresh in my mind). I don’t think anyone likes going to the doctor, but with the additional cultural and language differences, the encounter can become a complete nightmare.

So you can imagine my delight when I realised my contraceptive pill was running low. Trying to avoid a visit to a J doctor, I tried (and failed at) all other possible methods of pill acquisition (save a flight back home, that is). Alas, since my doctor in Australia wouldn’t write a prescription for my sister to mail me (something about it being illegal to send prescription drugs overseas? Pfft), I knew I had to face the unwanted challenge of seeing a doctor here yet again.

I had been warned that getting the pill in Japan would not be as easy as back home (a once a year visit to my GP for a blood pressure check and the $20 repeat prescription) and sure enough, Japan did not disappoint. In fact, the whole experience was a hard pill to swallow

Pill 1. 8:35am, arrive at clinic full of people…forgot that 8:30am opening time in Japan means queuing from 7am.

Pill 2. Make self known to reception, where five staff members (and aforementioned full waiting room of people) stare at me. Whisper discreetly the need to see gynecologist (can’t just see GP for the pill in Japan).

Pill 3. Reception lady asks something in incomprehensible Japanese. Look at her with confused expression. Nicer lady comes to the rescue and am asked in easy Japanese if this is first visit to the clinic.

Pill 4. When answer yes (surely obvious as am quite distinct), am given complicated form to fill out asking kanji, kanji, kanji. Fill out the few questions possible: name, gender, smoke?, drink? (realise the 600+ kanji learned to be Tried and Tested are of absolutely no use).

Pill 5. Return form to five sets of beady eyes at reception, apologising for inability to read form. Nice Lady proceeds to ask loudly, in front of entire waiting room, as to the reason for need to see gynecologist (am teaching 434 kids in a town with a population of 48,000…at least one student’s uncle’s cousin’s father’s daughter was listening to exchange).  Am utterly mortified and no longer think of her as ‘Nice Lady’.

Pill 6. Told to wait for name to be called. Wait. Waiting room of people stare at me (glad others are entertained).

Pill 7. Hour later, name is called. Am ushered into doctor’s office by Short Nurse.

Pill 8. Dr.G (as he will be referred to…due to lack of self introduction) points to chair, proceeds to ask questions about medical history without eye contact or remote hint of friendliness.

Pill 9. Dr.G asks many personal questions. Married? Have kids? Want kids? Want the pill so don’t have kids? All the while scribbling notes. No actual medical examination carried out…not even blood pressure check. Find this mildly concerning.

Pill 10. Dr.G asks if one sheet of the pill is sufficient (month’s worth). Heard from Dr.Japanese Friend this is standard, but if pushed, three month prescription might be issued. Stare Dr.G down, not relishing thought of  repeating torture (and expense) every month for remaining time in Japan. He offers two sheets. Continue to stare him down. He relinquishes and offers three sheet prescription.

Pill 11. Manage to communicate to Dr.G that regular Japanese pill is not acceptable (have heard stories of side effects and lack of effectiveness). Request equivalent to current Australian pill. Dr.G approves of challenge…possibly only one in his week. He takes Australian pill packet and am told to wait in reception while investigation carried out.

Pill 12. Am approached by Short Nurse in the waiting area…assume to provide an escort back in to see Dr.G. No such luck. Short Nurse returns Australian pill packet in front of entire waiting room. Die a little inside.

Pill 13. Am then informed (loudly, in front of everyone) that equivalent pill was found, Dr.G had called pharmacy and is not in stock. Am directed by Short Nurse to pay for doctor’s visit and see pharmacy next door to resolve delivery.

Pill 14. Pay ¥3,500 for humiliating affliction (am not charged by doctor at home) and breath sigh of relief when leave clinic.

Pill 15. Am braced for more humiliation as enter pharmacy. Am surprised when greeted by lovely pharmacist who sits and (discretely) reads the a form of kanji, kanji, kanji questions to ascertain allergies etc. Decide to like pharmacy better than clinic.

Pill 16. Am told prescription will arrive in a week. Leave pharmacy completely drained from morning of exposure and repeated humiliation.

Pill 17. Return to pharmacy week later to pick up pill. Greeted by different pharmacist who thinks Japanese is easier to understand when yelled. Abhor being talked to like deaf person (have perfect hearing…last medical check proved it).

Pill 18. Deaf Talker pulls out pill packets in front of waiting room of people and proceeds to give five minute lecture on how to use the pill (feel like stupid teenager when in fact have been using the pill for ten years). Reevaluate previous estimation of pharmacy being happy place.

Pill 19. Pay ¥6,500 for three month pill prescription. Leave.

Pill 20. Weigh up stress and emotional pain of repeating procedure in three months versus a pill-less life.

Pill 21. Take a look at pill packet when arrive home. Contemplate hysterectomy.

You Know You’ve Been in Japan Too Long When…

…your body suffers withdrawal symptoms after a day without rice.

…you accidentally write ‘r’ instead of ‘l’.

…you’ve become obsessed with ridding your home of ninja insects.

…you own more chopsticks than cutlery.

You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

…you have permanent RSI from filling out forms.

…you choose green tea over black.

…you get excited about curry rice for school lunch.

…you deem a trip to Starbucks or McDonald’s a ‘Western fix’.

You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

…you’ve taught three kids…from the same family.

…you know the names of any Arashi members.

…you fold your rubbish.

…you’ve collected so many key rings you prefer to use your spare key instead.

You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

…’Oh, Japan’ has become common vernacular.

…you forget that aprons should not be worn in public.

…you’ve begun to curse Ibaraki drivers.

…your list of hobbies include purikura, origami and misanga.

You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

…sleeping on a bed has become a novelty.

…studying for the next JLPT is a way of life.

…you have in your possession an umbrella (or many) of unknown origin.

…you contemplate climbing Mt.Fuji for a second time. Or worse, a third time.

You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

…eating Chinese food feels like a variation in diet.

…you’ve tried at least some of the buttons on the NASA toilets.

…your Japanese speaking ability begins to surpass your English one.

…you feel the compulsion to produce bunny ears in every photo.

You know you’ve been in Japan too long when…

natto and/or umeboshi become palatable.

…you can read katakana easily.

…you’ve contemplated buying (or have bought) a matching Adidas tracksuit.

…you lock your bike, but leave your wallet/phone/valuables in the basket.

You know you’ve been in Japan too long when most of your conversations end in ‘I need off this island’.

Sh#t Gaijin Say

‘Talk about culture shock…’

‘I live in a bubble’

‘I’ve been here too long’

‘I need off this island’

‘Just pretend you don’t understand’

‘I don’t understand’

‘I don’t know’

‘I don’t get it’

‘No idea’

‘Wakanaaaaaiiiiii’

‘Are you staying another year?’

‘What are you doing this summer?’

‘Did you get a single or multiple re-entry permit?’

‘Have you climbed Fuji?’

‘You’re climbing Fuji again?!’

‘How good is your Japanese?’

‘Are you taking the JLPT?’

‘What does ~ mean?’

‘Can you read this?’

‘I need a drink’

‘I need some onigiri’

‘I need to hit up a combini’

‘Hamazushi?’

‘Can we stop at a vending machine?’

‘I miss Mexican food’

‘I miss Italian food’

‘I miss normal food’

‘I miss my mum’s cooking’

‘I’m SO over rice’

‘I’ve gotten fat’

‘This tastes weird’

‘Whadda ya reckon this is?’

‘What the hell IS this?!’

‘I hate driving in this country’

‘Man, Japanese drivers…’

‘Did you see that?!’

‘I just got out of a speeding ticket’

‘I have to do some J study’

‘Is he dating a J girl?’

‘J pop sucks’

‘I can’t, I’ve got no money’

‘I can’t, I’m saving money’

‘I’m broke’

‘Ask me again after pay day’

‘When is pay day?’

‘Why are there so many forms?!’

‘How do you flush the toilet?!’

‘What are all those buttons for?’

‘What’s with all the free tissues?’

‘Why do they always ask my blood type?’

‘Is it safe to plug this in here?’

‘Why did they make me pee in a cup?

‘I can’t get shoes here’

‘What shoe size are you?’

‘Good luck getting shoes here’

‘Size 30? Forget it’

‘Do you know how to get there?’

‘I need to go to Tokyo’

‘Let’s ikimasu’

‘You wanna meet at Starbucks?’

‘Meet you at the station?’

‘I’m gonna Shink it’

‘Why Japan? Why?’

‘Seriously Japan?’

‘Oh, Japan’

‘WHY?!’

‘F#cking Japan’

‘It’s freezing!’

‘My apartment is freezing

‘Why is there no central heating/double glazing/insulation here?’

‘Samuiiiiiiii!!!’

‘English is hard’

‘I can’t speak English any more’

‘Check out this Engrish’

‘Did you feel that earthquake today?’

‘That was a big one’

‘I don’t like those big ones’

‘Yeah, that one woke me up too’

‘Was that an earthquake?’

‘I’d be lost without my iPhone. Literally.’

‘Do you have an iPhone?’

‘You should get an iPhone’

‘You’ve got an iPhone, Google it’

‘Can you send me a pin?’

‘Where can I find ~?’

‘Have you seen ~ anywhere?’

‘If only I could get ~’

‘Who do we know with a Costco card?’

‘I hate sitting seiza’

‘I hate wearing a mask’

‘I hate Tokyo Station’

‘I hate katakana’

‘I hate pit toilets’

‘Don’t worry, I’ve done that too’

‘Yeah, I’m a ‘large’ here too’

‘Get used to the stares’

‘You’ll get used to it’

‘Nah, you’ll never get used to that’

‘Wow’

‘This sh#t just got real’

Gulp

‘WTF?’

‘I Gaijin Smashed it’

‘Did you Gaijin Smash it?’

‘Let’s Gaijin Smash it’

‘Gaijin Smash it?’

30 Japanese School Truths

1. It isn’t a school assembly unless at least one student faints.

2. Teachers are also weather forecasters/reporters.

3. Art is an exact science.

4. There’s a meeting to arrange an assembly, to organise a practice, for the rehearsal, before an event.

5. Club activity = cult activity.

6. The tea lady sees and knows all.

7. ‘Interesting student’ is code for ‘weird kid’.

8. Everything is tested. At least twice.

9. Janken (Rock, Paper, Scissors) resolves every conflict.

10. The equipment in the copy room has been there since it’s invention.

11. Nobody enjoys cleaning time.

12. Flu pandemics are feared more than natural disasters.

13. The student who does kendo, smells worst in summer.

14. The more introverted the teacher, the more exuberant the drunk.

15. The pool is used for swimming one month of the year. The rest of the time it’s a pond for an algae growing science experiment.

16. Teachers always look busy, but rarely are busy.

17. Caffeine consumption directly correlates to levels of genkiness.

18. The label maker is the most utilised piece of technology in the teachers’ room (see Truth No.16).

19. A missing red pen is cause for widespread panic.

20. Whoever has the stickers, has the power.

21. It doesn’t matter if the answer is right or wrong, as long as it’s the same as everyone else’s.

22. All the weird kids are in the table tennis club.

23. A student isn’t ill unless they have a fever. A teacher is never ill, unless they are an ALT.

24. The teachers’ room resembles an FBI archive vault.

25. Every classroom has a thermometer, world map, dying plant and roll of toilet paper.

26. Everybody wants the principal’s job. Nobody wants the vice principal’s job.

27. What happens at enkai, stays at enkai. Anything else is fair game.

28. Mystery meat is a school lunch staple.

29. Let troublesome students sleep.

30. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Only in Japan…

…are you unable to buy anything but full fat milk…or pretty much full fat anything, yet Japan has the lowest obesity rate (alongside Korea) of all developed countries.

…are the construction barriers on roads shaped like cute animals and lit up like Christmas at night, so that they create danger rather than ensure safety.

…are pets revered more highly than children and have dedicated pampering parlours, apparel stores and are often seen being pushed around in prams by their owners.

…are sleeveless shirts considered risqué, but bathing naked in public with family, friends or work colleagues is regarded as an enjoyable pastime.

…are two way roads the width of one car.

…are most of the population unable to read a newspaper, not due to lack of intelligence, but because the written language is so complicated.

Only in Japan…

…does the sport ‘soft tennis’ exist, which lives up to it’s name as a poor substitute for normal tennis.

…do construction workers wear MC Hammer pants to work (apparently for climatic reasons, not aesthetic).

…do people apologise, as opposed to saying goodbye, at the end of a phone call.

…do people completely ignore the dangers of smoking and think it’s cool to ‘light up’.

…do plurals not exist.

…do vegetarian burgers have meat on them.

…do a group of 15 year olds watch in awe as you construct a banana and chocolate topping sandwich from your school lunch items and call you ‘amazing’ and ‘intelligent’ for doing so, because they lack the imagination or ability to differ from the collective.

…do doctors tell you not to bathe when you are ill.

Only in Japan…

…is it completely acceptable for men to carry handbags. No, not manbags, handbags.

…is it considered attractive for young women to wear high heels that are two sizes too large, meaning they have to walk around pigeon-toed to keep them from slipping off.

…is my birth year Showa 56, as opposed to 1981.

…is it social unacceptable to blow your nose in public, yet they give you free tissues EVERYWHERE…on the street, at the post office and even while sitting at your desk.

…is it deemed acceptable to blatantly ask a person their age and income and expect a serious and accurate response.

…is it necessary to open all the windows in a room to clean it, even in the middle of winter.

…is walking and eating considered rude.

…is it normal for people to peel grapes.

Only in Japan…

…can you find a hundred different KitKat flavours, including wasabi and soy sauce.

…can you find neck ties and vacuum cleaner bags being sold in a vending machine…the same vending machine.

…can you use a scrunchie, have a mullet, wear a matching tracksuit or shave off your eyebrows and be considered the height of coolness.

…can grown men go to photo booths, do ridiculous poses and obtain photos in which they are airbrushed within an inch of their lives…for fun.

…can you order a meal from a vending machine.

…can I lose my job, be refused entry to public spas and be accused of being a member of the Japanese Mafia because I have a tattoo.

Only in Japan…

…will kids wear shorts to school in winter, even when it’s snowing outside.

…will people sleep anywhere.

…will your olive oil solidify in the pantry, condensation freeze on the windows and water be unavailable (due to frozen pipes), because the houses are not insulated, do not have double glazing and are basically built ignoring the fact that there are sub-zero temperatures to contend with in winter.

…will poo (yes poo, not Pooh) be idolised and have stickers, ornaments, confectionery and stationery designed in it’s honour.

…will a student completely freak out if you give them a blank sheet of paper to draw on, without telling them what size the picture should be, what colour and how many pens they should use, how much time they have to draw it and how it will be marked.

…will teachers tick incorrect answers and circle correct ones.

…will you be given cling wrap as a present for participating in a children’s sports day.

Only in Japan will you learn the true meaning of ‘culture shock’ and begin to treasure the comforts and familiarity of home more than ever…