Blog and opinion
30 May 2018 • Phyllis Fercho
Growing out of my Japanese honeymoon phase
First, the noise is only a muted mumbling. But then it turns into the annoyingly loud laughter of one boy and a couple of girls chatting away in English and Japanese. Oh, how much I’m loving life! In the desperate attempt to block out the noise for just another couple of minutes, I burry my head under my pillow because it sounds like they’re sitting right next to my bed. When I hear them laugh again, I groan and peer through my sleepy eyes but immediately have to squint because I’m blinded by glaring sunlight. Ugh that’s bright! Way too bright!
Despite the two curtains in front of the door leading to the shared balcony, my tiny room is flooded with light. I reach over my teddy which I brought with me all the way across the ocean without moving more than necessary or falling out of my bed sheets, trying to grab my phone from the floor. When I finally find it, I lift it over my head and press the home button to check the time. When I see what time it is, the phone almost slips out of my hand and onto my face because I’m so shocked! It’s 7:26am!! ON A SUNDAY!!
Unhappily, I turn around to stare at the fake-wood sliding door right behind my bed. For the hundredth time, I’m wondering if it’s not actually made out of paper because I can hear the voices of my flatmates as if they had set up the table next to my bed: “It’s so nice to have breakfast together.” I hear a girl say…my tired brain takes a couple of seconds to recognise her as my flatmate from Columbia. “Yes, yes, thank you very much for the invitation!” the boy replies enthusiastically with a Japanese accent. I give another loud groan and burry my face in the tacky heart-eye-emoji pillow (already the name is ridiculous!) which my housing company gave me as a present when I moved into this dorm just about two weeks ago.
I mean, really? A breakfast party that early on a Sunday morning? Especially on a Sunday morning following a fun Saturday night which I had mostly spent with my friends on the fourth floor in one of the other shared apartments. The mix of exchange and Japanese students who live here are a crazy bunch of people. The majority consists of 18 year-old Japanese freshmen who just left their homes and families for the first time. And then there’s us, the minority; consisting of a handful of international students from Korea, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Brunei and Colombia.
Most internationals have already moved out years ago but for many of us it’s the first time living more than an ocean away from our home country. Yesterday, was an evening similarly spontaneous to many we have throughout the week including games, drinks, music and misunderstandings. Wait what? Let me explain: I would have never thought it makes such a big difference but those misunderstandings occur on the daily basis and are usually caused by the often huge language barrier for some of the Japanese who barely speak any English. But in spite of that, or exactly because of that, we always have a lot of fun! Just that now, this fun became a bitter-sweet combination with the 7am breakfast-party held next to my bed and leaving me with only 3 hours of sleep.
From my last room in The Hague, I am still used to sharing a house or an apartment. Just that here, an apartment for six people is one third of the space that I had in the student house for six people in the Netherlands where we had a whole freaking house! Here doesn’t feel like more than 80 square meters. The space is not really a problem for me but the fact that all walls are as thin as paper and don’t block any noise, sometimes gives me the feeling that we’re all living in one big room. If I’m really honest to myself, I have to admit that I have officially left my living abroad honey-moon phase. Indeed, I have now arrived in the daily grind of student life in the real Japan.
The lively Japan which is packed with Japanese, almost solely Japanese and rarely people from other countries. The authentic Japan where I will often find a colourful Shinto temple surrounded by grey office buildings. That contrasting Japan where I first walk past a greasy fast-food takoyaki stand and then past tea houses seaming the street where geisha and maiko entertain their guests with the art of dance, conversation or a tea ceremony. And, last but not least, the kind Japan where friends as well as strangers will do everything and anything to help you find your way through the unwritten rules coordinated life in Japan.
This crazy cocktail of the so different culture is really what makes me love living in Japan -despite the daily struggles I encounter. So that the Alice in Wonderland party on a Sunday morning makes me, on the one hand, laugh because it’s something that would have never happened to me in the Netherlands. But on the other hand it also makes me groan and complain because this ‘different’ can sometimes get a little bit too different. At least that’s the experience I’ve made with my brain running on three hours of sleep.
But now I’m curious! How is it with you? Have you ever made a phone-on-your-face-dropping experience, good or bad, whilst living or staying in another country? If yes, definitely let me know in the comments! It would ease my mind to know that I’m not the only one waking up from a cherry blossom dream to a bitter-sweet breakfast party! But I guess that’s what happens when you grow out of the first, exciting, honeymoon phase of living abroad.
Twenty year old student Phyllis Fercho from Germany is crazy in love with life and all the great things it has to offer. Since graduated from secondary school she lived and worked in England and Italy. Nowadays she is a student International Communication Management. This semester she is studying abroad in Osaka, Japan and will share her experiences with us.