After a journey across the Pacific, Eric quickly discovered the differences between Japanese and American cultures. He quickly realized that the key to success there was to be “open to everything and constantly flexible.” Here is what Eric wrote about his experience:
Before my YFU exchange trip, Japan was but a place on the wrong side of the map. It existed only on plastic globes and textbook atlases; it was always there, but never real. When I arrived in Japan, I entered the land I had always known of but never known. Reality did not overcome me—I overcame it. I had come because I’d heard the fairytale too often; I was ready to live it.
“Culture shock” didn’t do the feeling justice. It was like the world had gotten cosmetic surgery while I was sleeping up in the clouds somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly it was rude not to slurp and putting soy sauce on your rice was like setting the house afire. I was warned of the stark difference between the Japanese and American cultures before departing. I was informed my limits would be bent. So I set upon a goal: not to be snapped. The first thing I realized I must do if I wished to have a successful trip was to be open to everything and constantly flexible. In a week I was rubber.
There were hurdles nonetheless. The most challenging aspect of Japanese life to accustom to was the hidden language, the ritual of saying one thing and meaning another. Speech was a mere formality; physical actions and expressions were the truest form of communication. I could not only listen, but had to watch.