10+ Really Amazing Things I Had to Get Used to While Living in Japan for 9 Years
When a person has lived in a different country for a long time, they can’t remain the same. They learn the way people speak there, different food preferences, and other everyday habits. And the customs that once seemed strange and foreign become very familiar.
This is what happened to Diana, who has been living in Japan for 9 years. And we at Bright Side want to tell you about the unusual things she was able to get used to without even noticing it.
You quickly get used to the plains of Japan.
Before coming to Japan, a read a lot about this country. I watched many shows and I thought I was prepared. But when I exited the airport, I quickly realized that I hadn’t fully prepared for it. I was shocked by the amount of space, plants, and fresh air. And it was a big city with lots of cars and people.
There are a lot of forests and mountains, parks and gardens, fields and meadows, and lakes and rivers. When I saw all of this, I realized I didn’t know anything about this amazing country, and all the things that I read weren’t entirely true. Also, there are huge insects here. The locals say it’s because there’s a lot of oxygen in the air.
During the first month in Japan, I lost nearly 7 pounds, even though I ate a lot because my husband took me to restaurants and cooked a lot himself. My friends and relatives that later came to visit also lost 3 to 5 pounds in 1 month and started to look better very quickly. It’s probably because of the fresh air. I got used to it and now I really miss it whenever I leave the country.
The Japanese have a special attitude toward each other.
In Japan, people thank each other for every little thing. I started to say “thank you” and “sorry” more often, and I also bow a lot.
A special feature of the Japanese is not showing off your abilities, knowledge, and wealth. They are taught to be modest. Boasting and being overly self-confident is judged here and frowned upon, and being arrogant is like being silly.
In Japan, there are a lot of proverbs about modesty and self-confidence. For example, “A great hawk hides its claws.” It means that even a perfect person doesn’t show off. And this: “Something that sticks out should be hammered down.” It means that the one who is arrogant is judged.
The people in Japan may use expressions in their conversations, like, “your honorable name/husband,” and say things about themselves, like “my poor home,” or “my silly kid.” Of course, they don’t think that their children or their homes are bad. But saying things like this is just normal. It is done to show how respectful they are of other people.
Japanese woman: “These are my silly kids!”
My tastes have changed.
In Japanese cafes and restaurants, they usually serve ice with water or juice, and now I can drink this really cold water. I’ve noticed that I don’t get colds as often as I used to.
There’s good tap water you can drink. Of course, most Japanese people have water filters at home. Many people go to springs to get water there, but tap water is still really good.
I’ve also gotten used to drinking green tea and eating different yogurts. The fact that the Japanese don’t eat dairy products is not true. They have a lot of dairy products, and they’re good, diverse, and really popular among local people.
In Japan, there are “distributors” that come to your home. They have bags with them and ring the doorbell, and ask if your bowel movements are regular and what they’re like. Then they give you a lecture on what it should be and tell you about their products — yogurts. They will give you a few of them to try, and if you agree to buy them, they will deliver them to you several times a week.
In Japan, people rarely buy frozen food. So I’m used to fresh food now. In general, the food in stores and restaurants is almost exclusively caught or grown. For example, I’ve been at a restaurant where a waitress caught trout and took it to the kitchen to get cooked. And this is quite ordinary for Japanese restaurants.
Japanese people love rice. They don’t buy imported rice since they prefer the local kind. Today, I often cook rice for many different dishes. And local rice tastes different.
I also like fresh shrimp and oysters. Now, fresh fish and seafood are my favorite things. If someone told me I’d eat these things 8 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Now, I eat slowly. Having a meal is a ritual in Japan. People do it slowly and take their time.
I discovered tofu in Japan. When I lived in Russia, I thought it was tasteless. But now, I’ve changed my tune. I like to eat it with soy sauce.
And I eat less sugar now. Of course, I will never give up on sweets, so I’m happy that they are not too sweet here, and the servings are usually quite small.
The Japanese eat a lot of seaweed, which I also like. I eat it every day now. Nori, wakame, and kombu are the most popular kinds here. The seaweed here is sold dry and fresh, and there are few meals without it.
The Japanese like tidiness and comfort.
In Japan, I had to get used to sorting trash. For example, milk cartons have to be washed, dried, and cut correctly. And certain kinds of trash are thrown out only on specific days.
Also, when I take off my shoes, I put them down with the toes facing the exit. In Japan, you almost always have to take your shoes off, and the tradition of turning the shoes like this is very popular. If a guest leaves their shoes in any different position, the owner of the house or restaurant will most definitely turn them. And it’s more convenient to put them back on later.
Japanese people are convinced that they should sit correctly in order not to have pelvis problems. It’s believed that the traditional sitting position (seiza) is good for posture, and it allows you to easily stabilize your body in the correct position. Some locals love sitting at home or in cafes the way they would sit on the tatami. It’s a habit.
Japanese women in cafes and on the beach
Going to the beach is different here.
Japanese women have their own style of beach clothes. Many of them cover their bodies, wear black leggings, and lots of makeup. Young people sometimes wear shorts, but most women don’t look like they are wearing something for the beach. They wear black and swim in the sea in these clothes.
Going to the beach in Japan is different from what we’re used to in other parts of the world. Very few people swim and dive in the sea, and almost no one enjoys sunbathing. Children play in the waves near the shore, and adults just stand in the water and do some water sports.
People in Japan have made their own changes to the European clothing style and created their own original Japanese style. Japanese women prefer simple colors, and they rarely have open shoulders or cleavage showing.
Interestingly, if it’s really hot at the end of spring, many women still wear warm clothes, like sneakers, boots, and jackets. Even my husband once asked me, “Why are you wearing sandals? It’s only May!”
Women in Japan wear T-shirts and tights under their sundresses. And they may also wear a tunic on top. This is how they hide from the sun. Also, these multiple layers can hide your wet back and armpits when it’s too hot.
Every season in Japan, they make great collections of socks and tights. My husband is amazed at how many tights and socks I have. You can wear them in winter and in summer, with shoes or with sandals. It’s really comfortable because you don’t get calluses.
When it’s hot, Japanese women wear long gloves, hats, scarves, and frozen gels to cool themselves down. I also started wearing sun-protective clothing no matter how funny it looks.
What you can buy in a Japanese pharmacy
The Japanese don’t like self-treatment. The thing is, you can’t just buy medications in a Japanese pharmacy. First, you need to see a doctor, and then you buy the medications in a special prescription pharmacy.
In non-prescription pharmacies, which you typically find in supermarkets, you can only buy vitamins, anti-fever medications, supplements, things for digestion, ointments, some cosmetics, nose drops, and many other things. And, of course, eye drops — there are huge shelves of them here.
The Japanese can use eye drops anywhere they are. I started using them too. They make your eyes feel more comfortable. Also, after I talked to some Japanese women, I started taking some supplements, vitamins, and collagen.
Every evening in Japan, I take hot baths with mineral supplements. The Japanese don’t just take a shower — they need 20-30 minutes in hot water to relax. It’s what I’m also used to now.
When I had just started living here, I was surprised by how many Japanese women wear black socks to work and sleep in tights, and that not only overweight women use shapewear. Also, Japanese people wear special warm, thin belts in order to keep their bellies warm.
Over time, I began to understand the meaning behind these habits. Today, I also sleep in compression tights and wear compression belts sometimes.
Living in Japan is easy and pleasant.
After 9 years of living in Japan, I’ve gotten used to feeling safe — I can go running late at night and not worry about my well-being.
The Japanese people are special. They always pay attention to little things, they never miss someone’s look or a sigh. They are like antennas — they catch the information and predict a lot of things. I was really surprised by this ability, and I even asked my husband Taro if the Japanese people were psychic. But now I’ve gotten used to it.
I’m also used to the fact that I’m a foreigner here and I’m not very likely to find really close friends here as I have in Russia. But Japan is a perfect place to live in. It’s safe, clean, comfortable, and reliable. People respect each other, and living here is pleasant and easy.
What surprised you the most about living in Japan? Which habits would you like to adopt and which of them seem really weird?