Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Countdown for trip home!

It's December 15 already! Where did the year go? This has been one of the most exciting years of my life, but I'm ready to go home and spend the holidays with my daughter in the U.S. While I love teaching, it will also be nice to take a break for a few weeks.

My students are so puzzled about Americans and their vacations. They can't understand how we manage to take even two weeks at a time. Rarely does a Japanese worker take more than one week. I've asked them many times about why they take so few days at a time and the usual answer is that they can't leave their work for others to do. It's a custom I can't wrap my brain around, but in Japan people are much more team oriented. If a member of the team is absent, the team falls apart, apparently. It's for this same reason they don't take sick leave when they're really ill. They'll drag themselves to work (or to class!) no matter how sick or hung over they are--all for the sake of "gambatte" (the title of my Web site).

"Gambatte!" is an expression used to encourage others to give it their best, and it's ingrained in the Japanese psyche. Appearance is everything, even if the worker or student is unable to focus on work or the lesson. They think, "well, at least I showed up. Gambatte!"

So, I've wished all my friends here in Tokyo a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and will leave for the U.S. in just a few days. I'm wondering how it will feel to see things from a new perspective. I'm sure everything will look very big to me after living in Tokyo where everything is very small. It will also probably irritate me the first time a store clerk slaps something in a bag and throws it at me--that is, if I can find a clerk to make my purchase. In Japan service reigns supreme and there are "shop girls" everywhere to wait on me, bowing and smiling.

Yes, it will be a big culture shock to go back home where I will once again look short, be ignored by store clerks, and stunned by "personal space."


mmulibra said...

Hopefully I am not too late to wish you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and a Happy New Year :-)

Absolutely Tokyo! said...

Thanks for your good wishes! I had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's, and hope you did, too!