Living in a foreign country is hard. One goes abroad with lots of expectations and preconceptions. You are first warned about the weather, also about the food. About cultural shock. And you think: I will be able to adapt quickly. I will improve my language skills. I will meet a whole lot of new people and friends. And everything will be fine.
Green stage, “The Tourist”
Wide-eyed amazement, the big screens in Shibuya, the toys, the people, the clean and punctual trains.
LeafGreen, “The Honeymoon”
You’ve just moved here, life is good and exciting. You’re learning new things every day.
Orange, “The Hangonaminute”
Culture shock creeps in. “What do you mean I can’t order extra mayonnaise?” “How many times do I have to fill out the same form??”
Red, “Mr Angry”
Aggression. The trains are too crowded. Salarymen stink. People are not friendly at all, just very annoying and unaware of others. No one speaks English one tiny bit after six years of mandatory study at school. Some things are way too expensive. Tokyo is dirty. Mental isolation. Pure hatred! Rampant racism and xeno-ignorance.
Grey, “The Realist”
Acceptance. Hey, Japan is a country pretty much like every other country in the world. It has good points, bad points, nice people and arseholes. Live with it.
The first months are great. You are a newcomer and that changes your perception of reality. Everything seems fine, fun, and as it should be. You radiate optimism and positivism. If there is any issue, you see it like just a small bothering thing that you can quickly fix. You are curious about all sort of things related to this new place.
Times passes, and you have your first missteps. Mostly related to things that get lost in translation. You can invite people to just have a coffee and that is seen as the most awkward thing in the world. You wont see them again. Or you try to follow a conversation and suddenly you need to make the funniest comment of your life. And it is not fun at all. Only you thought that it was. Some days you feel not only like a foreign but like an alien from outer space. But still, you are able to make fun of it. At the end of the day, everybody is so polite and friendly here, that you cannot feel bad about this little things. You start wondering in the mornings why the sky is grey, as it was yesterday, and the day before yesterday… And what do you have for lunch today? Pot noodles and a sandwich. You miss proper food.
The first years passed and you are extremely proud of yourself, your job, and everything else you seem to have accomplished. But somehow, some cracks start to appear. Things at work and/or personal life may get more complicated, as happens to everyone and everywhere, but you realize that you are very far from your “comfort zone”, your family and friends. You cannot just take a plane to see them when you want, that can be expensive. And you are saving money for a better, bigger, and nicer house, because the one where you live since this thing started, is getting smaller, like Alice in Wonderland. Or saving for a car, because what you thought about riding a bike everywhere, now is not so clear any more. You realize now that it rains and it is cold. Annoying weather… Your mind starts playing tricks, and again your perception of reality slowly changes, but now in the opposite direction.
I don’t want to go into a “red phase”. That way of thinking always seemed to me of little use and absurd. You just become an annoying person. At the end, you actually ARE living in a new place. I would like to go from “orange” (dark orange, to be more precise) to “grey”. But to be honest, I miss the “greenish” side of this. It was addictive and inspiring. Maybe it’s because I always have been a bit of a nomad and just moving to a different place IS the real reason to move. I took this picture the day I moved here. The sky above the clouds is still blue!… 🙂