1. Sweating and caring
Foreigners sweat here; the humidity is out of this world because we are on a tropical island. You cannot fight it; you will lose every time. I get dressed in my teaching attire which is business casual and even though I drive just down the road to school I show up with sweat stains on the front of my shirt. Natives don’t sweat so you’ll be the only one looking like a drowned rat when you come to work.
2. Being mindful of locking doors
I don’t lock my car door and I don’t lock my apartment door either. I have never felt as though I’ve been around any shady characters that would warrant me to second guess if my stuff was safe. Japanese society as a whole is very safe and people are very honest. I wouldn’t have a problem going into Starbucks with my computer and just leaving it to go to the restroom.
Yes I bow all the time to almost everyone I see. At first I thought it was awkward but later it felt easier than doing a handshake. I don’t have to wait for the other person to reach out their hand or even wonder where their hand has been last; just a quick bow/nod and I’m done.
4. Rice is a side
In Japan rice is like the grain of life. You eat it all the time with every meal. If you do no like rice you will like rice by the end of your stay. Seriously rice is everything to the Japanese.
5. Being shocked when asked personal questions
Since Japan has one of the lowest populations of foreigners in the world, you will basically be treated like an alien. “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “What size underwear do you wear?” “How big are your feet?” “What’s your bra size?” You will hear it all and be somewhat bewildered when they state how well you use chopsticks.
6. Not planning how I will get home at the end of the night
Back in the States we can drink a few beers, and as long as we feel sober, most of us will drive home. You cannot do this in Japan. The drinking and driving laws are so strict that you even if you have a sip of alcohol you are unfit to drive. We do have this amazing service in Okinawa called Daiko that will come with two drivers. One to drive you home and another to drive your car home as well.
7. Using a debit card
Japan is a cash based society so everyday you will need to have cash on you. Normally in the States I would carry about $20 on me and use my cards for everything. Here I probably have around $500 on me at all times. Again Japan is really safe so I never feel worried about having a large amount of cash.
8. Trying to save money by eating at home
One of my favorite things about living in Okinawa is how cheap it is to eat out. I am not a chef and don’t enjoy the culinary arts. Japan came to my rescue by providing meals in restaurants for around $10 or less. I love going to a ramen restaurant and spending $8 for a quality meal.
9. Wondering where the closest beach is
One of the greatest joys of living on a semi-tropical island is being able to get to a beach within 20 minutes. I can literally get off work at 5 and drive straight to beach to wait for the sunset around 6:30. It’s a great way to end your work day.
10. Worrying about what “normal” people are doing with their lives
I am 27 and quit my career in banking to become a teacher in Okinawa, Japan. I don’t make as much money and I live really frugally, but I can tell you it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. I feel so free from the hustle and bustle of corporate America and I get to live on this beautiful island. I am truly happy here and a fat paycheck can’t beat that.