There is a lot of things you have to adjust to when moving to another continent. I think the most substantial difference is how to understand people. Of course it would be a lot easier if I was speaking Japanese, but there is more to it than just syntax. To comprehend the behaviour and community of the inhabitants, it feels necessary to challenge your own semantic attitude. Facial expressions, body language, customary and mutual respect all seem quite different. But instead of evaluating that further I thought I should just list some superficial observations that contrasts from my prior worldview, excluding toilets since it deserved its own post… hehe.
Some things I like and some I hate. I will not take responsibility for any irregularities corresponding to the rest of Japan as Hokkaido is as said a bit different and there is no specific order.
1. Don’t be late
Of course not to prefer in Sweden or anywhere else either but if you for example are five minutes late to the lesson or lecture in school you are not allowed to participate. Punctuality is everything.
2. There are no trashcans
This is so frustrating I want to curse. Anytime you carry something with you to eat or whatever you cannot throw it away because there is no public garbage disposal. You simply have to put it in your pocket or bag for the time being. The only place you can get rid of your junk is at your apartment, inside convenient stores or at school in some buildings. You would expect this leads to more littering but it is extremely clean everywhere. I guess that if you know there won’t be any bins you won’t bring anything that leaves trash. Littering is also prohibited and seen as very obscene.
3. Smoke inside but not outside
On some streets in at least Sapporo you are not allowed to smoke. If you are walking around and want to have a cigarette you have to find a designated smoking room. Or going into any restaurant, because in most of them you can smoke at the table. A bit ironic but the reason is once again to prevent littering. I have surprisingly seen a lot of people ignoring this rule but it is rumored you can get a fat fine.
4. No credit card payments
Also very frustrating, because you always have to carry cash around. In addition, they have coins with value down to 1¥, which is about 0,07 SEK or $0,007. You always end up with a ton of worthless coins. Good thing I have a piggy bank. There are some but very few places that take credit cards, instead they have paying cards that you can charge with money, and yeah, they love vending machines.
5. Convenience stores
Literally everywhere. Seicomart, Lawson, Seven eleven, Familymart, Sunkus. Those are some of the chains of small local shops which you can find in almost every street corner. Pretty convenient.
6. Vending machines
Also literally everywhere. Even in restaurants there are machines where you pick your meal from a menu and then receive a ticket to give the staff showing you have paid. Also pretty convenient.
7. Subway safety fence
Safety first I guess.
The majority of people here are biking on the pavement instead of on the road. They may not have the best preconditions for biking elsewhere but it is still stupid. More than twice I have almost been run over. They do have alarm bells on most bicycles but it is seen as quite rude to use it. This is an example of when I think this Japanese politeness has gone too far. The bells are there not only for the biker but also for the pedestrians sake, so that he or she can get out of the way safely. Why is it considered impolite to use it when they already have it one their bikes? Very weird.
Not just a Japanese thing but more an asian thing. It started getting used because of the air pollution in the major cities, But there is nothing but fresh air in Hokkaido so I first wondered when I came here why people wore these. Apparently, it is for when they are feeling sick and don’t want to infect others or if they want to protect themselves from getting infected. I find it very unnatural and frankly a bit disturbing, not being able to tell facial expressions when talking to someone and feeling a little bit like your in a laboratory.
10. Left hand traffic
I still haven’t gotten used to it and I still look to the left first when I cross the street.
11. Diagonal crossroads
In some intersections, when the light turns green for walking, they stop all of the other traffic and you may walk diagonally right across the road. Pretty nice.
12. Pedestrian traffic lights
Link here. As a student of interaction design, I love this. Satisfactory feedback.
13. English prints
“Know how to let you has fun and laugh”
I see these grammar disasters and silly english texts all over Hokkaido. Mainly on signs and clothes. It is very amusing.
Remember, do not eat whore.