I’ve been bitch slapped with reverse culture shock in the last six months. And it’s not the kind you learn about in those self-help articles that I totally didn’t read. It’s the dumb, mundane ways that I continue to feel like a weirdo. Like I’m handcuffed and institutionalized to that giant chunk of my life that was Japan.
Walls are funny. Whether they are the walls of a shoebox apartment, a long-term job, or even a whole damn country, you learn to depend on them. The whole of me was wrapped up in Japan and that sense of identity was lost somewhere over the Pacific. And though I have successfully obtained a library card, I can’t help but commiserate with Brooks.
I suppose there’s no quick cure to being institutionalized in the non-prison sort of sense. I think it’s a matter of piecing together some semblance of who you once were while awkwardly testing out the adult you’re expected to be at 34. Finding a way to carve out “I was here” while simultaneously avoiding those rafters.
But first… a little reflection.
You know you’ve been in Japan too long when:
- You didn’t realize cold brew and seltzer water were a thing.
- You’re called out for apologizing too much on the phone.
- Girls at the gym are creeped out if you try to smile or make conversation with them before class starts.
- It’s time to stop taking pictures of your food.
- You don’t understand how a stove works and thus burn the first thing you try to broil.
- You also don’t understand how to use a dishwasher. Or a dryer.
- You want to set fire to the next woman you see wearing Canadian Goose and Sorel boots.
- You are amazed and delighted by central heat.
- There’s about 50 new English words you’ve learned. Partly because f#&$ you’re old.
- You eat more Asian food than you ever did in Asia.
- You didn’t realize that calling people doesn’t cost anything to your cell phone plan and only texted until people convinced you it was truly free to call.
- So… you’re telling me I can’t drink in public?
- You’re overdressed at work.
- You purposely dye your hair darker because it would be weird to look like everyone else.
- You use an umbrella when it snows.
- Help me Jesus. Ramen is $14.
- You put trash in your pocket or backpack waiting for the next trash barrel.
- You are going out but own nothing that shows cleavage.
- Holy shit. A man held a door open for me. WHAT DO I DO????
- Faxing something at work is done electronically. As in not with a fax machine.
- You are paying three times the cost in rent and still don’t have a kitchen table.
- You have a banana case but stop using it because wtf do you have a banana case.
- Why is everyone saying “literally,” literally every other word. Why.
- You’re the only one not covering your junk in the locker room.
Ever feel institutionalized?