5 “Side Effects” I Have As A Study-Abroad Student In Japan

I’ve been staying in Kyoto since July 2015. I started out with studying Japanese in a Japanese language school, called ARC Academy. After about 1 year 9 months, I graduated from the language school and got accepted into Ritsumeikan University, majoring in Global Studies.

And since today is the 22nd of December 2017, it’s been roughly around 2.5 years of living in Kyoto. My family, relatives and friends sometimes wonder if I’m a changed man whenever I return to Singapore during my vacation breaks. They kept on thinking and assuming that due to the fact that I’ve been living in Japan for quite some time, I’ve somehow “become” Japanese.

Well, it’s definitely not true that I’ve completely changed and become a Japanese man. However, it is certainly true that I’ve changed some of my habits and mannerisms, kinda in a way that it has adjusted to the Japanese culture.

I have listed down below, the 5 “side effects” that I have after staying in Japan long-term.


1. I Bow…All The Time

When I say thanks, I bow. When I apologise, I bow. When I give way to oncoming vehicles or pedestrians, I bow. I bow all the time. I got so used to it that I even bow while having phone conversations! Bowing is a like a daily routine for Japanese people. One does not live in Japan and not bow at least once a day. History has it that bowing started off as a reflection of social status, but as times changed, bowing now serves for many different purposes, including greetings and even when you are asking someone for a favour.


2. My English Speaking Ability Got Worse

“Hey, it’s so warm today. Let’s go get aisu kurimu!” Yes, that means ‘ice cream’. For those who have learnt the basics of Japanese, you should know how Katakana works. Katakana borrows words from the English language, change its pronunciation and then add it to its dictionary. There are literally thousands of Katakana words, such as doa (door), so-se-ji (sausage), be-kudochi-zuke-ki (baked cheesecake), etc. As an English speaker, I chuckled when I was learning all these words. However, as karma would have it, I end up speaking English like any other Japanese would.


3. I Go To The Convenience Store Almost Every Day

Convenience stores (also known as konbini in Japanese) such as 7-Eleven and Family Mart being convenient are totally an understatement. They offer way more services than any other convenience stores around the world could. Other than buying late night snacks (really wide selection of foodstuff you can find there), I find myself paying electricity/gas bills, photocopying and scanning documents, printing photos and even using the Wi-Fi, all in these really handy stores. I can even pay for movie or concert tickets, or even night bus tickets there.


4. I Don’t Jaywalk Even If There Are No Cars

‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Unfortunately, Japanese people adhere to the traffic rules very strictly. Even if it’s a very narrow road, the kind of road where you can walk across in less than 3 seconds, the locals here will never jaywalk. I remember the first time I tried to jaywalk when I was in Kyoto. I regretted my action after that. It was embarrassing as I received stares from the locals. I used to always jaywalk back in my home country, but over here in Japan, no.


5. I Leave My Valuables Everywhere

Laptop, iPhone, wallet, bicycle, you name it. Japan is such a safe country with one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Well, of course, ‘low crime’ does not mean ‘no crime’. However, here in Japan, the chances of you having your stuff stolen are so minute. I have left my stuff, especially my wallet and phone, in public places such as schools, restaurants, toilets and cafes and have yet to get it stolen. I am not trying to say that I am just waiting for it to happen, but it’s just that, everyone does it, especially the locals.


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