Living in Japan was a dream come true for me. They say it takes up to 9 years to get used to living in a foreign country.
After three years in Japan I finally started growing accustomed to life in Japan. There are three phases of adaptation which I noticed:
Cultural shock and eternal optimism
You enjoy the differences in whatever you see, taste or hear. But at this stage you still have your country’s way of life inside of you. The rhythm that you are living in at this stage is more of a tourist.
The differences in lifestyle are not obvious. Your favourite words at this stage is “but it’s not how we do it in our country”. This stage is also marked by the optimism which which you face all the cultural differences.
Making mistakes and learning by observing
You will no longer say that something is done differently in your country. In fact, you will no longer propose the ways of doing things in your country to others. Instead you will be curious to know how things are dealt with in Japanese company/university/school etc.
This stage is marked by the inevitable mistakes that you make because you didn’t know something. Learning from those mistakes you learn to observe others. In particular, learning how locals deal with a certain situation and compare in with your own idea of a solution is very fruitful.
Adaptation starts when you start noticing that certain things are dealt differently in your country and make a conscious decision to either follow the Japanese pattern or do things your way.
This stage is marked by acknowledging your own differences with Japanese people and Japanese culture, accepting yourself as a foreigner in Japan and accepting society around you. You may notice that you are very comfortable around foreigners and less comfortable around locals. You acknowledge that you know little and try to fit in by maintaining your identity.