Common Knowledge 当たり前のこと

A few months ago one of my friends challenged me to write an article on some of the similarities between Japan and Australia. Ever since then, I have been struggling to come up with a list of things that are the same. My list to date contains: girl talk, being overfed by grandmothers, the growing dependency on technology, and the cruelty of high school girls. It’s a working progress. I was trying to avoid the obvious things that come with being human, like being afraid to make mistakes, etc., but that seemed to eliminate most of my list. To be honest, after months of thinking about this, I have come to the conclusion that it still surprises me how much is different. Things that I had assumed would be the same all over the world, turned out to be completely different.  I think by this stage I could probably write an entire encyclopaedia on all the differences I have come across. I won’t bore you with the entire series, but here are a few examples to highlight the sheer variety of differences.

Some differences that I have found between Australia and Japan are: the use of umbrellas, the length of sleep required to function normally, the definition of alcoholism, methods of dividing into groups, the value of time, masculinity and femininity, means of hydration, sense of humour, appropriate clothing for certain situations… and the list continues. Just the other day, I was once again faced with new surprise, as I tried to read through over 100 messages on my phone. This year I agreed to take on a district committee role in Rotaract. In order for things to work smoothly, we created a group discussion on one of the most popular chatting apps in Japan, Line. A month into my term, and already I have experienced some cultural differences. Apparently committee members in Japan share the most irrelevant information with each other all the time. Nothing can move forward unless everyone is informed and agrees on every detail.

I know and have accepted that Japan is a group-orientated society. It is very peaceful when we all agree, I get it. I am all about world peace. However, I think we should also be a little more considerate of everyone’s peace of mind before we send 50 messages about whether or not we should use drop box, then another 50 updating us on the progress of printing documents for the conference. Committees have roles for a reason, so let’s take some initiative… is what my Australian self was dying to yell in everyone’s faces. In person, I think I managed to keep my cool. As a foreigner, I feel it is not my place to change things. I am the outsider, so I am the one who should be flexible. I try to keep a neutral perspective; one system is not better than the other, they are just different. However, some cultural differences are hard for me to adjust to and leave me feeling tired and frustrated sometimes.

My record... 200 unread messages on Line. 

I was venting to a Japanese friend about some of these things, and she completely agreed with me about the sending too many messages thing. I am not alone in my frustration! Maybe I can add that to my list of similarities, which I will endeavour to finish writing soon. In the mean time, I will try to enjoy my time as a committee member, and treat each challenge as a learning experience. Someone please remind me of this goal next time I lose my composure. 
Thanks xx



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