Making a foreign country a place you’d call home, even for a short time, is no easy task. Throw in a language barrier and a wide array of cultural differences, and integrating to the point where you feel comfortable could take years. In Japan, there are a few ways you know you’ve at least started the process.
1. You bow when making an apology over the phone.
2. You measure the rice you cook in go.
3. You actually see Japanese gameshows as more than background noise.
4. You fall asleep on the Yamanote Line leaning against a complete stranger and make it all the way around before waking up.
5. You find udon or soba to be a well-balanced, completely satisfying lunch.
6. You forget what Mexican food is even supposed to taste like.
7. You start joining in the scolding looks when a foreigner answers his phone on the train.
8. You stop maintaining eye contact in conversations and rely upon aisatsu.
9. You don’t even bother with the heater in the winter; turn on the kotatsu.
10. While on a train, you spot someone you know on a train heading in the opposite direction, a la Kimi No Na Wa.
11. Your autocorrect doesn’t even bother with Romanized Japanese words.
12. You withdraw tens of thousands of Yen because you know when the ATMs close.
13. You start randomly muttering whether it’s hot or cold, or whether you’re tired or sleepy, even in English.
14. You hear all the stories of calamities across the world and feel safer in Japan… then you remember the earthquakes.
15. You buy several sets of guest slippers for your tiny apartment.
16. You stop connecting with every foreign English teacher that moves into your area, because you know they’ll most likely be gone soon.
17. You’re no longer foolish enough to answer the door when the NHK man rings.
18. When someone from home asks you why you put up with something, you’re tempted to just shrug and say “shoganai.”
19. You plan your garbage runs around your stops to the convenience store or supermarket.
20. You brush your teeth after lunch.
21. You just think to yourself, “Oh look, another shrine. And another. And another.”
22. You don’t even bother to lace up your shoes anymore; you keep them tied just tight enough to walk in, but loose enough to slip off.
23. You know not to eat all your rice first.
24. Your first instinct at a red light on an empty street isn’t to jaywalk.
25. You feel at peace knowing US political issues are 5000 miles away.