If you’ve ever lived abroad, changed schools, or even just been to your cousin’s house for the weekend, you’ll know that our environment shapes the way we think and behave. I used to work with Americans who laughed at the fact I would say I was “going to the toilet” – apparently that sounded overly specific and was a bit too much information for their liking. Back in my native England, I found that if I asked where the “bathroom” was, I would be oh-so-comically directed to the room with the bath in and asked why I needed to wash in the middle of the day.
Many people find that spending time in another culture does change their actions, right down to unthinking mannerisms. That’s what Russian YouTuber Ashiya has been thinking about lately too, as she shared her top five ways she’s become more Japanese since living in Tokyo.
So how does Ashiya feel she’s changed since leaving Russia for Japan? How many of these things have you experienced too? Let’s take a look at what she had to say in her latest video!
Ashiya’s video is about becoming “Nihonjin-poi“, which literally means becoming like a Japanese person, in terms of mannerisms or physical appearance. The video doesn’t have an English title, but on hearing Ashiya’s top five ways in which she’s becoming Japanese-like, we think we’d call it “You know you live in Japan when…”
1. You always check the convenience store for new products
Japan loves a good limited-edition product, from the donut burger to strawberry Pepsi, and the humble convenience store is a veritable goldmine of shiny new products. Ashiya is always on the lookout for new products and new flavours to buy in convenience stores. And since releasing an unfathomably high number of new products every year is a very Japanese thing to do, we guess going to the convenience store to look for new items is pretty darn Japanese too.
2. You came to like Japanese food
Japanese food is eaten in many other countries, but there’s plenty of unusual Japanese food that might turn the stomach of the unaccustomed. Although many foreigners in Japan don’t like natto (sticky fermented soybeans) or umeboshi (dried pickled plums), Ashiya says, she loves both these, as well as almost all Japanese food.
▼ Me? I eat only natto and pickles, and half a raw egg on Sundays.
3. Your concept of time changes
In Russia, Ashiya says, if the train is five minutes late, that’s pretty much the same as the train being on time. It stands to reason therefore that her sense of time has changed in line with the general expectation in notoriously punctual Japan, where a train being even a minute late is relatively uncommon.
▼ Other countries’ trains would probably be on time too if we had a super whiz team of cleaners who could turn around a whole train in a matter of minutes…
4. Your fashion sense changes
Specifically, Ashiya says her clothing choices have become a lot more ‘kawaii’ since coming to Japan. In cold Russian winters, she says, everyone is wearing so many layers, it’s difficult to dress in a cute way. Japanese winters aren’t exactly warm, but we think she might have a point. And of course, for lovers of Japanese fashion like Ashiya, the land of the rising sun is an easier place to buy the kind of clothes and accessories you like.
5. You always buy omiyage when you take a trip
We already know that Ashiya loves limited-edition items, so it’s no surprise that she loves to buy region-specific items as gifts when she travels. The Japanese custom of buying omiyage, small items (often food such as cookies or sweets) to give to friends and co-workers as a souvenir after returning from a trip, is one that many foreigners in Japan have probably embraced. Omiyage is the perfect way to say “sorry you had to pick up the slack while I took time off” and “thanks for giving me tiny cookies all year for no discernible reason” to your hard-working colleagues.
You can watch Ashiya’s video in full below. If you’ve been skipping out on your Japanese homework you’ll need a Russian dictionary too though, because the subtitles are in Russian.
One YouTube commenter also pointed out that the fact that Ashiya is making YouTube videos entirely in Japanese is also pretty darn “Japanese-like”. But when do you feel “Japanese-like”? Do you bow politely even when talking on the phone? Fall asleep on the subway on your way home from the office? Yell “ITAI!” when you stub your toe?
Or perhaps you go around telling foreigners how “Japanese” they are. That’s pretty “Japanese”, too.