6:23 AM

Over the last four years while living abroad, I have made my comparisons of what it was like living in Japan versus the United States.  However, as time wore on, I became more and more desensitized over the differences as I got used to the people and customs in Japan.  Being thrown back into the States refreshed so many of these nuances that I really wanted to write down the things I noticed so I wouldn't forget this time around.  They aren't in favor of either country; I love different things between the two, and some things I will dearly miss about the Japanese people.  What I can say, though, is that it is good to be back home :)

  • Americans are fat.  Yes, we all know this, but I sort of forgot how many are fat and just how big people get (not that I'm Little-Miss-Petite or anything…)! After being in a country of smaller sized people, and being stationed on a military base where the personnel are held to fitness standards, the percentage of larger people are drastically smaller in comparison.
  • The Japanese are so much more respectful.  They are brought up differently than Americans, and no matter where you go, whether at a business establishment or a McDonalds, the people will bow to you and are extremely courteous at all times.
  • Americans are ruder.  Lots of people have bad attitudes here, as we all know.  Its sickening, especially since I'm one of those obsessive smilers and I think dealing with people with a good attitude goes a long way.  One of the things that caught my attention when we first moved to Japan is that I thought that all Japanese were somewhat rude; they don't acknowledge you when you sit next to him (no head nod, no smile), there is minimal eye contact, and they don't hold the doors open for you.  I have learned since that its not that they are rude, but that is their way of staying in their own "personal bubble."  The Japanese aren't afforded the luxury of American's wide arch of a personal space that others try not to intrude upon; when they are in a crowded train, or walking down a bustling street, they are elbow to elbow with several others, all day long.  They internalize their "personal space," and what I perceived as their "rudeness" was actually their way of being in their own space, and keeping out of yours.
  • On that same note, Americans are genuinely kinder and sweeter as well!  It was so refreshing when the kids and I ate at Denny's the other day (MMMM!!!), and our waitress Tammy was jam-packed full of that sweet Southern charm!! She must have thought I had the hots for her for as crazily I kept smiling after her, but it was so comforting to have someone with that brilliant, happy attitude, and she was infecting.  I really missed that about my people :)
  • I missed the country!  Seventy percent of Japan is mountainous and nearly uninhabitable, and so the extremely large Japanese population is crammed into the small amount of available space.  Also, it seems as if so much of Japan was built haphazardly; as if when Western influence finally infected Japan, they were in such a rush to build it up that it was without design, and buildings and roads were thrown up wherever there was an open spot, and not where it made logistical sense.  I miss being able to drive from a metropolis area, be in the suburbs where houses have lawns, gardens, and trees; then drive a little further and be in a long stretch of country.  I miss driving down the interstates during my many, many road trips and being lost in a sea of trees.  Its so breathtaking seeing how beautiful nature really is.
  • Japanese are more stylish (in their own sense).  Lance and I realized early on that there are two types of Japanese people; those who dress up every day, or those who just wear whatever they pick out with their eyes closed and just don't care. But for the most part, most Japanese people are heavily fashion based and dress up for everything.  The women are always in their cute short skirts, their super high heels, their leggings and boots with their funky jackets, you name it.  Men have their own styles as well, lots more metro dressed men, or the guys who style their hair to look like Final Fantasy characters.  Its rare to see a women wearing just plain old jeans and a t-shirt like Americans tend to, and the men even are slightly dressier in their casual wear.  I have never realized how "American" and casual denim is, but whatever. I love my jeans and Converse :)
  • Everything is bigger in America.  And I mean everything… the cars, the food portions, the houses, the available land, the width of the roads, the interstate lanes, the space between buildings, the stores, the furniture, everything!!  Its good being back here in the good ole' US of A, but boy! Do I feel spoiled with how abundant everything is!!
  • The Japanese watch the entire movie at theaters… and I mean the entire movie!  I think our first movie off base was Avatar at an iMax theater.  The people were much quieter leading up to the previews at the start of the movie, but that didn't really surprise me much since the Japanese tend to be quieter anyhow.  What did surprise me, however, is when the credits started rolling and I got up to put my jacket on, that the family and I were the only ones doing it! The lights were still out, and people were as silent and attentive as if it was the climax of the movie.  We sat back down and pretended were weren't "that guy" making a fool out of themselves… and we were ready for the following movies we watched off base.  Regardless, that was strange!
Those are just some comparisons that I can think of at the moment. Obviously there are much more, but being as overwhelmed as I have been lately, thats all my brain wants to spit out at me.  I'll add any other interesting ones down the road that I can think of, both for your reading pleasure and for my gentle nudge in remembering these :)

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  1. Heidi: Glad to hear you made it "home" safely. If you would like to you can pm me at SL with your new address, Emily would love to keep writing to Alex.


  2. Hey Sheila! Could you send me an email through blogger so I can reply? I haven't been on SL in quite a while, but wanted to get Alex writing her pen pals again (the lack of letters is my fault alone, not Alex's). Thanks!

  3. Heidi:

    How do I email you through blogger??

  4. You can email me at :)


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