Jordan McQueen

Jordan McQueen

Search for truth

A Difference of Culture

Things I learned about Japanese culture living in Japan. Especially how it differs from U.S. culture.

  1. The lack of a car culture is transformative and its effects cannot be understated.
  2. Trains have their own culture and urban fabric.
  3. Train stations become nexuses of community, culture, and place.
  4. The "last train" of the night is its own framing device of timelines, culture, and community.
  5. You walk a lot in Japan.
  6. When you walk, you perceive places differently.
  7. Walking is fundamentally more human.
  8. When you walk, you interact with passers-by and your environment. They interact with you. It's bidirectional.
  9. People almost always appear exceptionally polite.
  10. That politeness is sometimes genuinely held.
  11. Saying goodbye in Japan is very different to saying goodbye in the U.S.
  12. A group going their separate ways at the end of a night is a complicated dance.
  13. Separation is delayed and rejected until physics intervenes.
  14. In the U.S., we'd say "see you next time", walk away and not look back. It's 3 seconds.
  15. In Japan, it's drawn out. Many goodbyes are said, many bows are exchanged. You're meant to look back on the escalator and keep waving until they're out of sight.
  16. The Japanese life is a very scheduled one; adhoc meetings are rarely a thing.
  17. In the U.S., "let's grab coffee sometime" without scheduling anything is genuine in 90% of cases.
  18. In Japan, a commitment without a date is a polite way of saying "no" in 80% of cases.
  19. The hardest "no" you'll hear in Japan is "that's a little difficult."
  20. Most experiences in Japan are highly polarized, inherently extremist.
  21. You'll often get the best experience in a category, or the worst.
  22. Most of the time, it's the best experience.
  23. Japanese women have got to be some of the toughest women I've met.
  24. Excellence is the norm; deviation is hammered like the nail that sticks out.
  25. Tokyo's hustle and bustle is somehow self-fulfilling; even if you're not in a hurry, you begin to feel as though you ought to be.
  26. I was never as good at Japanese as I thought I was.
  27. I will never be as good at Japanese as I wanted to be.
  28. No matter how good at Japanese I become, I will always be a foreigner first and foremost.
  29. Therefore, the diminishing returns on becoming an expert in Japanese arrive posthaste.
  30. Therefore, I do not want to be as good at Japanese as I once wanted to become.
  31. The above items are not an excuse to neglect becoming conversationally fluent.
  32. The culture of a love confession is important in Japanese relationships.