Posted by: wesleysensei | April 16, 2009

Some Things Are International (but some aren’t)

I’ve been living in Japan for sometime now; it I was an expecting mother, I would have a newborn by now. Even after all these months I still find Japan fascinating and enjoy the daily cultural exchanges. I’ve noticed many things are internationally appreciated. The grocery store, for example, is something that developed countries across the globe take advantage of every day. Mine, fortunately, is a mere twenty second walk from my apartment door. The layout of the grocery store is identical to any Food Lion or Harris Teeter back home.

Another concept that is internationally shared — despite having been busted by those Mythbuster guys — is the three second rule. I know, I know, some of you live by the five second rule, but the basic idea is the same: something falls on the floor, and you have 3-5 seconds to pick it up before it’s gross and inedible. Yesterday my JTE dropped a hard candy on the ground, but rather than accepting defeat she quickly reached for the fallen candy and said “Ahh, three second rule; it’s ok.” Everyone in the staff room was focused on the JTE because she had announced her victory in saving the candy. I then said that we too have the three second rule, but I usually go by five seconds. Everyone then had a good laugh and thought it was amazing that I knew about the sacred three second rule.

Despite universal ideas like grocery stores and the three second rule, different countries usual are governed by different customs and cultures. The diversity of cultures is what makes living in a foreign country so much fun (but frustrating at the same time). One thing I’ve noticed in Japan is that the schools never have any fire or earthquake drills. For a country that is prone to literally every natural disaster, it’s surprising that there are no drills performed at school. Back home I recall fire drills being conducted even as late as college. I’m not sure why the Japanese (at least those in my town) don’t have fire or earthquake drills. Perhaps it is because the students and staff alike have been trained from birth how to react during a natural disaster. Whatever the case may be, the idea of safety drills in school is not a shared international custom.

Lastly–somewhat related to the topic–I just got a little portable grill in the mail. I’m excited because the weather is warming up and the days are growing longer. The day I got the grill I quickly put it together and got some charcoal started. I’m positive the Japanese know about grilling and that it is an international concept; however, when I was starting the grill outside of my apartment EVERYONE in viewing distance stared and me or did a double-take. One woman driving out of the grocery store parking lot actually did about a quadruple-take! She was lucky not to drift into oncoming traffic the way she was staring. Once the charcoal was ready and I brought out the chicken and vegetables, the stares were out of interest rather than shock.

Below is a video (I will post it once I get home) of the change in attitude once I started grilling. Once one little boy comes over, more and more people start to crowd around the grill. Once two of my foreign ALT friends show up though, my Japanese neighbors scattered!



  1. KAWAII!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. they dipped pretty quick when they saw your friends I guess…hahah. Looks nice.

  3. Did you ever see HANNIBAL? Do you remember the end seen when Hannibal Lecter is feeding the little oriental boy? The things that pop into one’s mind!

  4. The sentiments for “tasty food” are universal though!

  5. Funny how food always brings people together! Loved the video!

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