Hello, beautiful people! I’m back with another blogpost. This time, I want to share a little about my experience in Japan thus far. I’ve been here for a little over 2 months and I’m settling in nicely. I don’t speak Japanese so of course, one of the greatest hiccups is the language barrier. It’s a real challenge half of the times, the other half isn’t bad at all. I get by without speaking much and the people here are patient and kind enough to help.
There are so many stories of how I’ve been rescued by strangers here, but that’s for another day. Today we’re talking about how I get by in Japan without speaking Japanese.
Ok, so let’s get started. Shall we?
Imagine you’ve just walked into McDonald’s to pick up some french fries and chicken nuggets… or whatever you prefer to get from McDonald’s. Ok, so you’re standing in the cue, hungry yet hopeful… ready to place your order. You can already taste that first bite into your meal. Tastes good, doesn’t it? Yeah, it does. As you wait in the cue, you notice that your favorite cashier, who happens to speak English, isn’t behind the register! Not only is he not behind the register, but as far as your eyes can see, he’s just not there!!! Remember, I cannot speak Japanese… at all! I know how to make the cute little gestures and I can say a few words that can’t make a whole sentence, but that’s pretty much it! Nevertheless, I usually get pretty far with the gestures and the few words.
Let’s get back to the cashier, though. This dude was very special to me. He’d always assist with my orders. Even if he’s not serving me, he’s gonna switch places with the other cashier and take my order… perfectly. But the last time I went, dude was just not there. I stumbled, fumbled and grumbled. The cute gestures and few words got me absolutely nowhere! It was a disaster, in my opinion. Eventually, the cashier and I saw eye to eye, and we completed the ordering process. When I say eventually, I really mean EVENTUALLY. By the time I ordered, the cue was through the door!
Now, mind you, this was quite an unusual occurrence. Ordering a meal or purchasing an item has never been a challenge before. Gestures, pointing at pictures and the few words I know have proven effective.
But still this was one instance where I told myself, “girl, you better get your shit together and really make a greater effort to learn this damn language!” At some point, I’ve gotta be able to communicate… verbally.
More of the struggles…
Communication is so important. We take it for granted all the time. Some of us choose to not communicate and others of us are just poor at it. Here, I suck at it! Not because I don’t want to communicate effectively, but because I can’t. I have no words. Literally, I don’t have enough Japanese words! It sure would help if I could communicate in Japanese when I need help in a train station or when I need directions in the streets. And I know what you’re thinking. Lol. “Does this girl own a smartphone? Does she not know how to download Google Maps and Google Translate in the App Store?” I doooooooo. However, I very much would prefer to interact with the people naturally. Although I don’t speak the language, I still walk up to folks and ask for directions. Remember, I said those cute little gestures, and few words do come in handy.
Everyday at 10:10am and 5:10pm, I hear an advisory through an intercom of sorts when I’m home. I have no idea where the intercom (s) is/are located. More importantly, I have no idea what is being said! Oh boy! “What the hell is she talking about?!” That’s always my reaction to the advisory. I’ve just kinda chalked it up to COVID-19. After all, that’s what everyone’s talking about these days, right? Stay home, practice social distancing, 6 feet apart, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, don’t touch your face… or the mask, monitor your health, all that. God, I hope that’s what she’s saying.
Don’t even get me started on all the mail I get. Not a lick of English!! The most English I’ve seen in my mailbox is my name, my address and “OK”. That’s it!
On a brighter note…
Shopping is pretty straightforward. You usually just walk into the store and kinda wander around until you find what you’re looking for. The more you shop at the same supermarket, the more you become familiar with the placement of the items. Then, as you visit other grocery stores, you’ll notice that you’ve become accustomed to the products and their labels. The same is true for department stores. Initially, Google Translate was my best shopping buddy. I’d just scan the labels when in doubt. Lord knows I was always in doubt. I still scan labels now when I want to scrutinize the nutritional facts.
My favorite word when shopping is “sumimasen”. That’s for when I really just can’t find what I’m looking for. For instance, I’d just walk up to a clerk and say “excuse me… flour”, in Japanese, of course, all while maintaining the cute little gestures and smile. They’re always so pleasant and willing to walk with me to find whatever I asked for. I’ve learned a few words from grocery shopping. I know a lot of food words now. Remember earlier when I said the few words I know can’t make a sentence? Exactly! I can make a grocery list, though.
With all that said, I’m definitely prepared to step my game up and get cracking on studying the language. I think one of the easiest ways to learn right now is by listening. That’s key.
I don’t expect to be fluent, but I just need to know enough to not feel like a fish out of water in these streets. I’d like to walk up to someone and have a conversation some day. I’ve set a pretty decent goal for myself. Let’s see what I can accomplish!
Until next time, my loves,