Today, I have decided to write about the difference in communication styles that I have come across between Canada and Japan. Also, I intend to speak about the difficulties I have observed over my short period in Japan, and I will discuss how the difference between the two styles feels as if a second persona has been created.
So, I have moved to Japan for approximately three months and two weeks; may I say it has been a lot more difficult than I initially expected. Now, living in Japan has been an overall more positive experience rather than a negative one. Nonetheless, there are certain things I was not expecting to get used to.
Let’s start with eye contact. Eye contact is considered as an offensive gesture in Japan, compared to Canada where it can be used to monitor the relationship with another person depending on their gestures. This may be just a feeling, but sometimes when I have yet to have a deep conversation with a fellow Japanese co-worker I get the feeling that my gaze me very uncomfortable for them. As a result, I do not wish to offend them and begin to peer away – this makes me feel like a shifty person because my eye contact is not consistent and it looks like I’m trying to hide from my fellow coworker, when I just mean to not offend them. Now a prime example of these scenarios are during speeches, for a reason I do not know, you are not supposed to look other co-workers (especially your bosses) in the eyes when they are doing speeches. For me, I might as well be looking down with my eyes closed due to the fact that now that I cannot look at you – I might as well not look at anything because it would only distract me from your speech.
Is this a good or a bad thing?
Personally, I don’t know. It is Japanese culture after all, but I don’t understand the purpose of not being able to look at people. It makes me feel as if I can’t read other’s emotions as easily. Furthermore, when I translate phrases into English is Japanese, it is a great difficulty when I cannot even see the speaker’s face as he is utterly merciless in tossing Keigo at my English-prone brain.
Note: Recently I spoke with my contracting organization and they said I could rest at ease because this is a good thing that we look others in the end. In this I believe there is an important balance. Maybe, as I learn the language more I can find the answer I’m looking for. It took me a while to settle into Hyogo, but now I want to put my best foot forward again to revive my overly optimistic attitude when it comes to socializing. Wish me luck.
Now I was aware of the fact the Japanese people often have an obsession of describing the daily weather conditions – 今日は寒いよね. However, if you translate it directly as the weather is cold, I believe what has actually happened in that time is a missed opportunity to communicate with a Japanese person. There’s something about the way that Japanese communicate with this statement, or an “疲れった” which provides a good chance to begin a conversation. Though, “How” you ask? Japanese people seem to like to have a commonality with one another before they can communicate with a – “How’s it going?/What’s up?” type of gesture. At least if you are at work that is what I have seemed to have found. Normally, if I meet a friend it is a tad bit easier to greet them because we are more direct with one another. So, whether this communication style I am trying to adapt is only work etiquette or how people try to get to know each other in Japan, I believe it is important to recognize this difference for the sake of your communication. Even I have noticed my mannerisms, humour and way of thinking is definitely starting to change just due to my daily interactions with others. Is it cold today (5 degrees – I’m from Canada eh?), my new response is ABSOLUTELY!
The new me? Nope.
Sometimes people call adapting to these cultural changes, the new them. For example, if I take a step back and think about how I behave in Japan compared to Canada, I think that I may have changed into a completely different person. Am I fake? NO! Am I acting differently? Yes. I believe it was a good idea to start learning the language quite a bit before coming here, and studying cultural tidbits was also a benefit. However, I don’t think I was ready to observe and try to absorb all of the history and cultural this country has. Japan is a very special place. In my heart, I believe that a new persona/side of myself has arisen that would have never been brought out in Canada. Some people have said that you cannot combine your Canadian and Japanese persona because the cultures are too different. For now, I cannot personally verify if that statement is true; nonetheless, I will do my utmost hardest to find an answer. Like a side-quest. Recently, I learned things I never knew, I never knew which is pretty cool (where is Pocahontas when you need her?).
So all in all, I may be down at times and you might be thinking “Oh, Yannick’s having a very hard time adjusting” – which I will speak more about next week or so; but, I am learning things every day while being blessed by the kindness of the Inaka. For this, me and whatever else that is happening within my soul will be eternally grateful.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, or if you have any questions – I’m always all ears!