1. Bowing to strangers

In Japan I had to bow everywhere from stores to buses, and even friends’ homes. It’s a part of the culture. At home I found myself bowing to the cashier at CVS. That was when I realized I may need an intervention.

2. Apologizing for everything

Along with bowing, apologizing often is another cultural norm. I apologized when I bumped into people, when they bumped into me, when a server served me very hot matcha tea. I felt apologetic all the time, and it continues even today. Once, while waiting for a train in Osaka, a train had an unusual delay and I apologized to the crowd waiting for the next train.

3. Playing music at a public toilet

The best invention ever has to be the modern Japanese toilet. In the winter, there’s nothing better than plopping your butt on a warm seat. Then there’s the selection of musical tunes that you can play that conceals every type of noise that you could make while peeing or pooping. I missed that when I returned home – I would often reach back to turn on the imaginary tunes.

4. Answering in Japanese

When I arrived in Japan, I could say “konichiwa,” “arigato” and “sumimasen.” These three words practically got me through any situation I found myself in. So when I began to string sentences together, I was surprised at how easily they flowed out of my mouth. I was beginning to understand the side conversations I heard on the bus and to understand more than the Japanese-English t-shirts in the department stores. When I returned home, I noticed I was answering questions in Japanese to the amusement of the clerks and cashiers I interacted with.

5. Queuing in public places

Ok, so we do queue in the U.S. When we’re at the supermarket, at the bank, and most other public places, but it’s more of an unspoken rule that can be broken. In Japan I learned to queue for trains and buses. The first time I queued for a JR train to Osaka, It was an odd experience, but I came to like the order it represented. Now, watching people waiting for a Metro train in DC can fee; like the Hunger Games.

6. Hiding my germs behind a mask

The winter I spent in Japan I had a debilitating cold. I would come to class coughing all over my co-workers and students. Luckily, I wore a mask to keep most of my germs at bay, otherwise I probably would’ve been fired for spreading germs, or least sent home early.