I was told that you either love Japan or you hate it, it is black or white and never something in between. Well, in that case, I am struggling somewhere along the (not 50) shades of grey-ish. No matter how many foreign languages you speak, as long as Japanese is not one of them, it does not help, not at all…
Having moved into my own apartment I found myself surrounded with a pile of Japanese only manuals (and they have manuals for everything, even how to use chair, spoon or toilet paper!), staring at the 30+ alternative function buttons on my microwave alone and trying to decide, which one to try first.
Don’t get me wrong, it all comes with time and you learn what does what without remembering any single hieroglyph. With some other things you may still need to ask for help. But everyone is polite, kind and helpful. I get business cards from guys setting up the gas, security and other utilities and they kindly ask to call them should I have any trouble, right away apologizing that unfortunately they cannot speak English. But Madame may call, anytime, ok, maybe preferably during business hours. I am smiling and nodding with “ok”, thinking to myself “right, I am calling, no doubt”.
Google translate is my new best friend, though even it sometimes fail. When you are a tourist, it is fun. I do recall a dinner in a tiny local Japanese place where I went with my European colleagues a couple of years ago. We didn’t manage to get anything else than a few pieces of “cook it yourself” meat, one piece of bread for each and 1 hour of all-you-can-drink at the self-service bar. It was fun, really. Yet, when you are not a tourist anymore, it can be frustrating, and at times you may feel like from another planet (If you have seen “Lost in translation”, that is exactly what I mean).
But let’s be positive. I have a business idea (manuals for dummies about life in Japan) and Japanese neighbors.
When I realize that there is no way I can set-up the dammed Wi-Fi, I start thinking that perhaps I could ask my neighbor smoking out there in the adjacent balcony to help me a little bit. They must be good at coping with instructions and manuals, don’t you think? 😉