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Reverse Culture Shock

…is itself a funny phenomenon. But when mixed with alcohol and some guy you’re kinda sorta jonsing on,

I didn’t experience RCS when I went home visiting over spring break last year. Maybe because I craved America. I experienced something like it when I went to Sri Lanka last summer, though. I was shocked at myself for even feeling slightly put-off by Sri Lankans’ apparent rudeness. I mean, it was rudeness – in English – and not really all THAT different from certain parts of the US, and I was shocked? What’s wrong with me?! Will I also go nuts if I visit Paris?

But on to RCS when you are the foreigner. I experienced that Sunday night.

You know how Japanese people are stereotyped as being highly prone to shyness and not being into PDA? Even if they like you? Even if you’re in a meaningful relationship? Well, I admit that I’ve 60% bought into this idea fully. The 40% is feeling that they play this card/fake it so they don’t have to bother with foreigners. Sunday I was invited to a New Years Party by a bar owner I met in October – Shinsuke. I hadn’t seen him since Christmas when, testing the waters, I told him that if he wanted action so badly, he could give me a Christmas Kiss (privately), which he refused – “I’m too embarrassed!” (In Japan, Christmas is treated like NYE for Americans.) Anyways, unexpectedly, he called me at home to make sure I was coming to this party and, intrigued by his sudden interest in me, I agreed.

Boy, was I in for it. I don’t know what happened between Christmas and Sunday to make him think twice about me, but I haven’t seen that amount of flirting since gawd knows when! Regardless of whether or not he *meant* it, I can honestly admit that I was shocked. Shocked! Sam didn’t flirt like that – he was very much a Japanese style dater. Nabe, too, though he wasn’t as reluctant to touch me in public. Hiro…he’s the closest to a Western-like PDA-er I’ve met. Other men who ‘showed their interest in me’ did it in a drunken bastard way which doesn’t count.

And to further illustrate the Japanese style PDA: So, at the ‘second party’ (nijikai) one of Shinsuke’s guest’s girlfriend arrived. She politely/formally greeted everyone. Her boyfriend said next to nothing, and almost looked embarrassed that she had come. He didn’t attempt to make room for her beside him – Shinsuke did. They nodded (bowed) to each other stiffly, and she sat. She seemed more interested in me than her boyfriend, and I really don’t remember seeing them exchange many words. In fact, the guy turned to entertain the rest of us by sticking his chopsticks in his nose and Frenching another man (the 3rd one that night). In other words, to me, these two could have been siblings for the lack of excitement between them.

My reaction to Shinsuke’s non-Japanese-flirting disturbs me because I have been one of the most vocal critics of Japanese style affection – or lack thereof. There are few foreign women more fed up with toning down the Me-ness so that natives won’t run away. And to think that I actually couldn’t handle a Japanese man’s sincere/obvious physical/verbal attention – which is part and parcel in my homeland – just curdles my milk! Hell, what if I go home and get shocked every time a guy puts his arm around me or hugs me in front of his friends? It’s a comical “problem” to have, but I think I have it! I was getting increasingly embarrassed BY his behavior towards me IN PLACE OF him.

And to make matters worse, he even noticed! “Hm, you’re shy tonight!” To which I replied, “Well, one of us has to be!” ~___~


( 1 said — say )
Jan. 30th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
:-) Cute story. I've never had the reverse culture shock thing with a Japanese man because my relationship took place in my own environment. However, I have had similar non-romantic experiences while living in Spain. For me, it was lowering my speaking/living volume and then being surprised or shocked at how loud other "tourists" could be. It's amazing how you can acclimate to the new situation and culture without even realizing it.
( 1 said — say )


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