Posts Tagged cultural differences
Managing supplies of clean clothes can be a challenge on vacation. My mother in law has been trying her best to take care of everyone’s laundry*, but she is having trouble keeping up with 3 additional people’s clothes in the tiny laundry machine they have in the house. My in-laws, like many Japanese people, don’t own a dryer, so clothes can only be dried by hanging them up outside. With yet another rainy day and packing to return home coming soon, we were developing a laundry crisis.
*Yes, I am more than capable of washing my own clothes. But trying to do household chores at my in-laws house would end up causing more problems than it solved. I once got yelled at by my father in law when he found out that I helped wash dishes in Canada, but that’s a different story.
I suggested that instead of waiting for the rain to stop, that I would be happy to take our laundry to a nearby coin laundry, which would also buy me some quiet time outside of the house. My in-laws agreed and dropped me off, promising to pick me up later.
I expected they would take me to a place where I would largely be left alone, similar to the coin laundry I used to use in my teaching days. This one had a very attentive owner who my mother in-law referred to as “mama-san”. I have only ever heard this term before used in reference to the manager of a small bar or hostess pub, so it was interesting for me to hear it in this situation.
Mama-san looked at my pile of clothing, assessed my needs, and directed me to one of the machines. She explained in rapid fire Japanese how to use the machine while my brain tried to translate as fast as possible. I did catch all of the key points like where to put my clothes and money, which was fairly obvious in retrospect. The machine that mama-san recommended provided its own soap and would both wash and dry my clothes, proving once again that Japanese technology is cool.
I sat quietly on my own for most of the time, taking advantage of the free wifi from nearby 7-11. My mother in-law came in later after finishing grocery shopping, and I showed her some of the pictures from our trip to Nagoya while we waited for my laundry. When the clothes were done, my mother in-law started talking to Mama-san about our visit.
As a proud parent and proud Canadian I took this opportunity to show off pictures of Tiny Dog from Japan and Canada while trying to maintain a conversation in Japanese. My mother in-law seemed proud of the attention her daughter and grandson were getting.
Although doing laundry is not likely to be anyone’s vacation highlight, this was a good chance to see some of the differences between Japan and Canada. Experiencing another culture can involve temples and museums, but it can also be as simple as going to the grocery store or trying to get your clothes clean. I love vacation!
Today my parents, The Penpal, and her family had plans to visit a few local places together. I collected my parents in the morning at their hotel and brought them to my apartment to wait for our rides. My apartment wasn’t all that interesting, so we wandered across the street to check out the small supermarket.
Visiting a supermarket in a foreign country is always an interesting experience. You really get a sense of the differences between cultures by what’s available at the grocery store. My parents were interested in the tiny shopping carts (by Canadian standards), the different assortment of fruits and vegetables, and the rows of boxes that I couldn’t read. We ended up in the fish section, which was about double the size of the meat section. This is almost exactly the opposite of a typical Canadian supermarket.
My parents were looking at all of the different fish options available, when my mom came across one package with a nice dark red colour that we hadn’t seen before. She asked me what kind of fish it was, and I was actually able to read the label; “iruka”. I calmly told my mom that she was looking at dolphin meat.
(No, I’m not posting a picture!)
My mom didn’t think that was particularly funny, and asked me to tell her what it really was. I told her that she was seriously, honestly, looking at a package of dolphin meat. It’s not a common thing to find in the supermarket, but not unheard of in a country that is okay eating just about anything that comes out of the ocean. My mom was suddenly no longer interested in hanging out in the fish section!
I’m personally not sure how I feel about the idea of dolphin meat. It’s hard for me to come into another country and say that they shouldn’t eat certain animals when I know that people don’t approve of the animals that are commonly eaten in Canada. The one thing that I do know is that after two and a half years in Japan I was a lot less shocked by the idea than my poor mom!
Like I said, visiting a supermarket in a foreign country is always an interesting experience.
Today was another rainy day in Numazu. It literally rained all day. When you don’t have a car, rainy days can limit your ability to get around, at least if you are concerned about staying dry.
In the evening I went out for dinner at Bikkuri Donkey with The Penpal, one of her female friends, and the friend’s young son. The Penpal’s friend wanted to get her son some exposure to English from a native speaker. This is not uncommon – I have found that Japanese people put a higher value on the English they learn from native speakers, even speakers not trained as teachers, than English they learn from a Japanese teacher.
Over dinner, we talked about differences in how kids are raised in Japan and Canada. I was surprised to learn that in Japan it was common for children to share a futon with their mother from the time they are born until they start school. This would be very inconvenient for the father, and also very inconvenient for increasing the family size. I explained that in Canada, it’s common for children to have their own room, depending on the culture of the parents. This was surprising to both The Penpal and her friend, who had lots of questions about how a parent would know if child needs something. It was an interesting discussion for everyone except the young son.
Note to self: if I am going to raise children in Japan, have the discussion about where the children are going to sleep BEFORE making the children.
(2015 Update) As the proud parent of a 1 year old half Canadian, half Japanese boy, I can inform my wonderful readers that we came to a compromise on where our son would sleep. We are currently living in Canada, and sleeping in a nice, cushy queen sized bed. For about the first 6 months, our son slept in a bassinet in our room so we had easy access to him. After that, he moved to his own room across the hall to sleep in a crib. We can hear him easily from our room, and have a portable baby monitor for when we are anywhere else in the house.
I am sure our arrangement would have been different if we were living in Japan or sleeping on a futon, but I think we came to a good compromise.