Whoa. Hold on. Today marked six months since we left Metro Detroit for Tokyo. So far on our journey, we’ve seen a lot, eaten more than a lot and, most importantly, learned a whole lot.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is to set realistic goals for yourself when it comes to adjusting. A fellow expat wife told me exactly what I needed to hear when I really needed to hear it the most: it’s OK to feel overwhelmed and want to sit inside all day. Just take baby steps. When she first moved to Japan, she didn’t jump right into intense language classes or clubs. Instead, she took herself out to lunch every day. Even if that hour was the only one she spent outside her house, it helped her to get more comfortable and learn to navigate the city on her own.
I still have to work at this . . . as evidenced by the pizza box by my front door. But I did go for a walk today and tomorrow I’ll go for another one.
Here are 25 more things I’ve learned in the past six months:
- Never underestimate the power of a smile.
- Manners matter, even if you can’t understand each other.
- Gender roles aren’t the same everywhere. Stick to your truth and respect someone else’s.
- Men can rock leggings. If you need proof, pay me a visit (or check out Jared Leto).
- Westerners are the sweatiest.
- Pizza is the great equalizer.
- When all else fails, pantomime.
- It will never feel like home if you never leave the house.
- Getting lost is essential.
- Google Maps isn’t awesome everywhere. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Sea urchin only tastes good to other people.
- Fair service-worker pay = great service.
- All live shows should include robots.
- Complimentary rain covers for purchases, foam padding for shopping bag handles, train track barriers, drink carriers with top handles, free gum syrup for cold drinks, free hand wipes before meals, bins for purses at restaurants, free grocery delivery, makeup shields for trying on clothes and buzzers to call over your server so they don’t feel like they have to babysit you . . . they all just make sense.
- Your feet are your best mode of transportation.
- Untanned, well cared for, porcelain skin is absolutely beautiful.
- A balanced diet works just as well, if not better, than medicine.
- Being a tourist also means being reverent and respectful when it’s called for.
- “I’m foreign” does not equal “I’m sorry.”
- Plastic food displays are to be appreciated, not mocked.
- Eating unidentifiable animals is part of the fun. Bring TUMS.
- Talk to your friends and family often. They worry about you.
- Set a budget that allows you to travel, even if it means living in a closet.
- Don’t try to do everything like you would “at home.” You have a new home.
- Be proud of your culture, but be prepared to really learn what other people think of it.
This list is sure to grow and grow as our time here continues. I can’t wait.