A Million Ways to Move Your Feet and Abroad
While I’ve neglected to talk about it for some time (extended to writing on this blog in general, blah), I actually have my black-belt test in Judo coming up within the next week. As I’m trying to solidify my movements and get rid of bad habits, it’s been interesting, and honestly a little frustrating, going between different teachers for help. When I ask one person how to do something, they show me, I “perfect” that form, go and try it with another person and then I’m told to do it a totally different way. Now, granted, the other person’s method totally works too, but it turns into a continuous cycle of encounter new person->correct previously taught technique->learn new technique->try technique->encounter new person->etc. When I question which move might work between two, the usual responses are either A) Well, it’s both or B) The one I taught you.
In the same sense, as the incoming JETs start asking questions about the job and their new life, some of the responses of current folk leave me a little puzzled. A most recent suggestion I found mentioned “make sure you don’t get 2000 yen bills because they’re bad luck and people won’t accept them!” When further probed as to how they found this out, the original writer responded “oh, a friend mentioned it.”
This, of course, is not true. For the record, I haven’t even come across one yet.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned living abroad so far, it’s that there are as many suggestions about “what to do” here as there are people. I remember when asking many questions about my upcoming move, one person would say “this is how it is!” and then another would chime in “no way, it’s totally like this!” It gets incredibly confusing, as if handed a puzzle and then told by hundreds of different people which piece to start with. And which corner. And if you even have the right puzzle. Dammit, you didn’t even get the right puzzle.
It’s all of this which makes me a huge proponent of the “Every Situation is Different” mantra. Yeah, I know it gets a lot of shit. It does become an extremely lazy and easily abused phrase, which can amount to nothing more than “idonnaknow.” But I cannot fathom one person’s example being applicable for every person across an entire country. Hell, Kanto and Kansai are so different, it seems like there is a cultural cold war between them! Hell, there’s cultural differences within different parts of Hyogo! In the same sense, if America were to bring in a bunch of foreign teachers, would anyone honestly expect the customs, traditions and attitude between between states to be the same? The pop v. soda example is just a sampling of this!
And just to get it out of the way, it’s pop, dammit.
I extend the suspicion of all ExPat tales to anything on this blog as well. I would be no better than to expect someone read something here and expect it’ll be the exact same way. My situation is different enough between the other ALTs in my district. If anything, my tales should be taken as just that: my tales. I know it’s easy to read one thing and totally expect that (especially when moving to a new area), but any and all shared stories should be processed through one’s personal salt mine.
This is not to say “literally distrust everyone and everything you come across” when preparing for the move, but having a healthy dose of skepticism is vital, especially before coming here and even when right in the thick of things. It’s alright to take suggestions (and believe me, you’ll need them) but I found out way more about my situation once I was actually here.
So, if you’re a newly hired JET coming into the weird, crazy world that is teaching and living here, first and foremost getting as many sources will help you out in the long run. Talk to as many current JETs you can. Read as many blogs as you can. Do as much research on your area as much as you can. But don’t limit to just one person, website or facebook page. You’ll be better for it.
But then again maybe you should doubt my recommendation of doubt too. Paradoxes, man.