After having visited more than 100 countries, you would think I couldn’t be surprised anymore. Yet Japan managed to surprise me, every single day.
I felt like ‘Esther in Wonderland’ in a world I did not understand. The culture was different and people seemed to be a bit shy at first. But the strangest thing was not understanding even the basics of the language. I speak 6 or 7 languages and am accustomed to quickly picking up similarities. I might not understand everything in a new country, but I never feel lost. Until I got to Japan. #lostintranslation became a hashtag to post weird situations I ended up in.
Not being able to read, I could not even identify if a building was a shop, an office, a restaurant, a police station a bar or a garbage collection station… I learned to give into this feeling of being a complete beginner again, and I actually liked it! When do you ever get that ‘like a virgin’ feeling again? Not knowing what things mean (both language and culture) and having to ask help with every single thing. I thought Japanese people would be ‘closed’ and distant, but found them to be extremely open, helpful, funny, have personality after an initial shyness. I loved the cleanliness of the country, the fact that everything is extremely organized, and it’s extremely safe. Oh, and did I mention the food???