Before I got a scholarship from the Japanese government and went to study abroad, my worry was about my research. However, when my daily life in Japan actually started, I had many problems besides studying.
１．Japanese bow and greeting
In Japan, we say good morning in the morning, hello in the daytime, and good evening at night. I copy Japanese way of greeting, and when I greeted them, I tried to bow and said hello. When I met a same person in the morning and afternoon, I greet with Good Morning and Good Afternoon, respectively. But Philipino student always greet with smile and never bow his head. Other American student also do not bow and simply smiled. I asked them why they do now bow, they said it’s okay not to bow. Smiling is just good enough. Perhaps it is okay in their countries. American student told me they smile to strangers. In fact, in Myanmar we greet with smile and without bowing.
But Japanese people often bow their heads. When you see someone off, you may have your head bowed at their back even if he doesn’t see him anymore. Even if you can’t see the other person on the phone, Japanese lower their head. I’m so surprised. I was surprised at this. One time, when I visited a Japanese boys’ high school, every time students met the teachers, they greeted them very loudly. I thought it was a little strange to say hello out loud from a place not so far. I feel a little scared when a lot of boys shout “Hello” loudly. In Myanmar, it is a rude and bad image to say hello loudly. I’ve heard that in Japanese elementary school children are taught to say hello to teachers loudly. Why do they have to say hello in a loud voice? Is it because it is rude to the teacher if it is in a small voice and not audible? I think Japanese students are trained how to greet politely since childhood in such a way. And it seems to be correct to bow and greet audibly, rather than just smile. On the other hand, when I smiled at Japanese strangers, they look surprise.
２．Japanese rarely invite others to home
I have never been invited to a Japanese house while I was studying in Japan. I thought that the people in the local area around Tsukuba University were like that, but they don’t seem to invite people to their homes anywhere in Japan. It is not because we are foreigners, they don’t seem to let people into their homes. One Myanmar student entered the University of Tsukuba and went looking for a room to rent. She met a Japanese classmate in front of the apartment she went to see. The Japanese friend said to her, “I’m living here “ but she didn’t ask her to come in her room. I thought the Japanese were cold. I hardly know any international students ever invited to Japanese home.
In Myanmar, when someone met an acquaintance near his house, he would say, “I live around here, so please come to my place.” Even if it is sudden, and even if there is no tea cake to entertain, they would let a friend in and offer a glass of water. Even if you don’t live in a good house, even if it’s a small house, we invite friends into the house.
In the first two months of my coming to Japan, I couldn’t eat Japanese food at all. I thought there was no taste. I asked other Myanmar students what they think about Japanese food, they unanimously said that they were the same as me when they first came, and that they couldn’t eat, but they were all getting to use to it. So did I.
Many foreign tourists say Japanese food is very tasty. However, international students don’t eat sushi or tempura every day, but they eat ordinary meals eaten at home of ordinary Japanese. I couldn’t get used to the insipid flavoring.
Myanmar cuisine has three flavors: sour, salty and spicy, and it’s punchy. The taste of Japanese food is not spicy nor salt due to health reason, and there is not too much sour, and the taste which I feel most is a sweetness. While Myanmar’s floavor is easy to understand, it took time to get used to Japanese flavoring because it is probably a complicated taste that is difficult to understand for foreigners who haven’t eaten this flavor since childhood.
Japanese people greet politely. Everyone is kind, but I think their social distance is far. This complex relationship, which is difficult to understand when you get along, is like the flavor of Japanese food.
written by Htet Htet Aung