According to Henri Frederic Amiel, "There is no respect for others without humility in one's self." Well, I for one, would definitely apply this idea to the phenomena that is known as culture shock.
Several years ago, (seven, to be precise), my husband and I flew to Tokyo, Japan to spend the Christmas holidays with our daughter, who was studying there for her Bachelor's Degree in Japanese.
The Abroad Office of her stateside university had encouraged parents, such as we, to visit our kids if possible, during the holidays, lest they become depressed so far from home. We happily obliged.
In Japan, the English language, as well as holiday sentiments, tend to morph into a sort of near-miss. Christmas, for instance, is a couples holiday in Japan, and it is very like our Valentine's Day.
Strolling about Tokyo we soon noticed that the malls, and other public areas, were all decorated in colorful heart motifs. It was, by far, the prettiest Christmas that I have ever yet experienced.
While waiting in line for popcorn in a Tokyo cinema, I took the photo, above. I was curious about the bourbon bottles that sat on either side of the image, and the slogan "Happy Merry Christmas."
Our daughter explained that this unusual holiday greeting had recently become very popular, owing to a local celebrity who had accidentally coined it. And what about the bourbon sitting there?
It turned out that this was an ad for Four Roses Bourbon, which is produced by the Kirin Brewery Company of Japan. "Ah," I said. "It's kind of like American holiday ads for spiking eggnog with alcohol."
There was the Ebi Burger, (made with a ground shrimp patty), that I totally enjoyed at McDonald's, the separate shower and bathtub arrangement, and transiting the famous five-way Shibuya crossing.
We sampled Takoyaki, (battered octopus orbs), rode Tokyo trains, (a different song greeted us at every station), and the entire bedroom, which my husband and I shared, was the size of one king-size bed.
My ability to decipher much of what I was experiencing in Japan was overshadowed by the conceptual template that my American experiences had contrived. In other words, I was slow on the uptake.
I learned to ease up on my fixed ideas so that I could accept new ones on their own terms. It was culturally humbling, and it helped me to gain a deeper appreciation of, and quieter respect for, Japan.
In a future post, I plan equate these concepts with the act of reading an author's work, or a poet's verses. They all touch upon making certain adjustments in our own perceptions and expectations.
But, for the time being, with the holidays decidedly upon us, I will finish this post by wishing you all ...
... a Happy Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!