Overall, Japan is a fantastic place to live and work, but as you pass through the honeymoon phase of culture shock, some small things begin to niggle away at you. Yes, that’s right, this is the ‘Frustration Phase’ of Culture Shock.
So as a response to this, I decided to make a video about some of the annoying things about Japan for a foreigner.
Don’t have time to watch the short video above? Then check out the general points here! (And please forgive the angry tone, Japan is a much better place than just these minor inconveniences).
No South African Food in Japan
While Japanese food is one of the most delicious cuisines on Earth, there’s nothing that can beat a good old boerie roll and some biltong.
And so this brings me to the number one annoying thing about Japan: NO BILTONG AND BOEREWORS. I mean, you have all the delicious foods in the world – from sushi to Kobe beef, to okonomiyaki, but you can’t import some of the best food South Africa has to offer.
In fact, it’s not only biltong and boerwors that’s missing. So far, I’ve only come across two. Count ’em TWO products that we have in SA: and that’s rooibos and kitkats. So if you’re coming to Japan, make sure not to include Rooibos in your souvenirs (like I did).
Want a Japanese credit card? Well, tough. They’re one of the most difficult things to get in Japan. They are insanely strict here. I’ve even met gaijin who are married to Japanese citizens who still can’t get credit cards.
Now. Do you want a cell phone contract, but don’t have a credit card? Well, tough. That’s almost as impossible as getting a credit card here. Because, you see, you have to have a credit card to lock yourself into a two-year binding cell phone contract. You also have to prove that you will be in Japan for the next two years AND you have to buy a phone with the company you’re joining. Even if you already have an unlocked phone. In fact, I was told (by a company that I shall not name), that in order for me to get a contract for my unlocked iPhone, I still had to pay the fee for the phone itself – even though I already had one! I mean… Come on…
Of course, there are a number of ways to get around this cell phone issue – such as using foreigner friendly companies or asking a friend to put your contract in their name (you only need the credit card for the initial payments). But it’s still one hell of a pain in the ass when you’re going about it. Probably the best, and low hassle, method is to buy a cheap smartphone with a pre-paid SIM (but be careful – these SIMs don’t work on any kind of iPhone here).
The Sheer Amount of Plastic
Are you an environmentalist? Well, tough. Here in Japan, I was shocked to discover the sheer amount of plastic that they use all the time.
Want to buy a pack of gum? Plastic bag. Want to buy a bottle of water? Plastic bag. Want to buy a few groceries? Here’s a hundred plastic bags. Brought your own plastic bag from home? Well here’s another bag just in case.
Even the packaging for products uses an insane amount of plastic – with packages inside of packages inside of packages… it’s like a friggen game of pass the parcel!
Even the bananas are individually packaged… crazy!
But despite the frustrating amount of plastic, I must commend Japan’s recycling programme. Recycling plays a heavy part in trash collection and some areas are very strict about trash separation. So, even though we shouldn’t be using as much plastic, you’re at least forced to recycle 90% of the time.
Sudden Change in Temperature
Truthfully, this is the one that really gets my goat. You see, Japanese summers are super humid, and while trains and office buildings are air conditioned, you still long for the coolness of autumn, winter, and spring.
But when it finally arrives, you’re faced with a new kind of heat. As early as October, the trains in Tokyo start blasting the heat. And I mean blasting. No matter the actual weather outside, they will boil and fry you alive through the heaters in the seats.
Sure, if you’re wearing a t-shirt and shorts in this weather, the heat would be a god-send, but that’s just the thing – you don’t want to strip down to your skivvies every time you get on the train! So of course, you keep your clothes on. But then you sweat. And what happens to damp sweat in the cold wind outside? That’s right! It becomes f-f-freezing.
Now, while this heat is great in the depths of winter, it’s still the sh*ttiest thing about autumn and spring in Japan.
The Disbelieving People
Luckily for me, I’ve personally never had this problem. But the more gaijin I talk to, the more I realise that this is a recurring problem: Many people in Japan simply do not believe many of the things foreigners tell them. Let me break down some of the disbelieving things Japanese people think:
First: If you’re foreign looking, then you simply cannot speak Japanese. It doesn’t matter if you’ve studied Japanese in Japan, if you’re half Japanese, or if you were born and raised here – whenever you approach anyone new in Japan, they will always be surprised at your level of Japanese… and sometimes they will only reply in English!
Second: If you’re a Japanese-looking foreigner, then you’re expected to speak Japanese. Now, this is a common mistake to make. You’re in their country (where the English level is low), so of course they’re going to try speak in their native tongue to you… However, it’s the disbelief that occurs when the foreigners says they can’t speak Japanese – it’s like it’s impossible!
Another thing that many gaijin complain about is the fact that they will always get into shit for things that the Japanese do themselves. For example, you will get the Japanese stare when you Jay Walk (despite the fact that many Japanese people Jay Walk in the exact same spot).
Well, that’s enough ranting for today. But despite my ability to channel my bitter gaijin, I do still believe that Japan has plenty more positives than negatives. So if you want to understand why so many people visit (and live in) Japan, then make sure you also check out my video on 5 Amazing Things About Japan.