I knew that I would experience counter-culture shock coming back from Japan, but I didn’t know that I would become so socially awkward.
In Japan, I didn’t learn Japanese. So, instead of me using terrible Japanese to communicate with people, my friends would use English. My conversation with a friend would sound like this:
“How has your week been?”
Confused silence as she searches her mind to understand.
I start annunciating every syllable and adding silence between each word, “How has your week been?”
I wait for understanding.
Time to switch up the vocabulary, “What did you do this past week?”
“Huh? Past… past…”
“How are you?”
“I’m fine. How are you?”
“I’m good.” Hmm… what’s another way to say past…. I know, last!
“So… last week, (pause) what did you do?” I say this with hand gestures, hoping that by moving my arms to the left, she’ll realize that I’m talking about the past.
“Ah haha, I went to Ogaki and had lunch with a friend.”
When I first arrived in Japan, I actually would ask, “What did you get up to this past week?” I quickly stopped using that question.
As you can imagine, coming back to Canada was a little bit overwhelming with all the fluent English speakers around. As I’m still adjusting to having normal English conversations, I’ve experienced several socially awkward situations.
For example, the other day, my boss told me, “Looks like you lost weight in Japan.” Which really means: “You look really good.”
At this early point in the conversation, my mind is overly stimulated by the fact that I am in a situation where I can have a normal English conversation. This over stimulation makes my thoughts freeze for a moment and when I come to I realize that I need to say something so that I don’t create an awkward silence. I resort to blurting out, “Really?! Because all we did there was eat tons and tons.”
She tries to interrupt with something about fish and rice, but now I’m on a roll because I can speak English to someone who can understand.
“Apparently, one of the symptoms of culture shock is doing anything excessively. So, we ate excessively. It seemed like all we did in the winter was eat and eat and get fat. I’m pretty sure we got fat.”
On reflecting, I think in response to her compliment, I should have just said, “Thank you.”