BETTY ASIEDU (FOOD CORDINATOR)
I arrived in Japan on April 4, 1988 unsure of what to expect, but knowing it would be a completely new experience for me. My husband who came a year earlier came to meet me and my two kids at the Narita International Airport so I wasn’t alone.
The first place that I went during the second day of my arrival was a hospital since one of my kids had a cold. I was extremely nervous about the fact that there was no way I could explain the situation of my kid in Japanese to the medical officer. Thanks to a voluntary woman who accompanied us and explained on my behalf.
My first encounter with Japanese was when I started part-time work at a “futon” store. As a part-time employee, I worked 4 hours a day from Monday through Friday. I mainly worked with packaging goods and extra responsibilities like keeping my work-place neat and open up cases containing “futon”. By the end of each day everyone was rather grateful that I was able to accomplish the task that was assigned to me. They looked forward to working with me the next day by saying “ Jah mata ashita” before I leave for home. The little culture shock I had in this work place was that anybody I met would tell me “gambatte kudasai”. I took it literary to mean, “do your best”. In my country those who don’t work hard at the office or a work place are always told to do their best. So I took it to mean that I wasn’t doing my best and that they rather wanted me to work harder. I kept putting in extra effort in my work process, finishing my days task in extraordinary short time but still they kept telling me “gambatte kudasi”. This gave me stress and I couldn’t stand it any longer so one day I asked one of them who asked me the same question that “watshi wa gambatte nai desu ka”? Nan de itsumo gambate kedasai iu no? The person took her time to explain the meaning of “gambatte kudasi” to me and I noticed that it was rather a friendly attitude and an encouragement toward getting a good work done. One positive evaluation was that the workers there didn’t change their behavior on account of my being there as a foreigner, so I really felt like a part of the workers.
Onsen was something I never thought I could take part. For my first experience I was really nervous. However, It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but now I always have a feeling of having more chances.
In a summary, now my ability and confidence to speak and understand Japanese has risen greatly and now have no fear going by myself to get something done anywhere in Sendai. Finally, I have learned about myself, and what kind of person I am.
A key to successful living in a foreign country is to have open mind, a will to learn, and to not be afraid of making mistakes but be sure to correct them the next time. My stay here has been great cultural and language improving experience. I had to experience eating Japanese food, the culture, and speak in the language everyday. The feeling I get when I can communicate, understand, and learn new things in a language other than English is indescribable.
When I first came I assumed I would be happy to go back home but I have found myself to be very comfortable with my current life especially building my family without outside interference. If you ask me what the ingredients are to a good relationship in a foreign country I can say that they are:
1. Mutual respect,
2. Not always staying in your own house separating yourself from your neighbors,
3. Trying to live by the rules that they live by meaning not always thinking that your way is the best but trying other methods and
4. Not waiting to be asked to help but helping before you are asked.
People are afraid of differences so it is hard for them to get along with different kinds of persons but I think that we all have many more similarities than we do differences. If both sides were to realize this, then perhaps a common middle between the two cultures could be found.