I recently took a few months off from blogging to completely immerse myself in the many adventures that came my way over the last few months. So, with this first blog back (and, it feels so good to be back!), I wanted to share with you a little about what I’ve learned.
If you follow my Facebook and Instagram accounts, you probably already know that at the end of March, I married my best friend, and for most of April, he and I explored Italy with a wine in one hand and a bowl of pasta in the other.
By May, I was packing up our house and moving across the Pacific to a little Japanese island called Okinawa. Since my new husband is in the Air Force, this is where we will call home for the next 3 years.
Many changes… Many good changes. And, many new things to get used to.
From the moment I stepped off the plane in Japan, this place felt different. Cast aside the 100% humidity and the 90 degree weather that boasts a “wind chill” of 116 degrees, and I was still left with a world that seemed so different from my own.
It opened my eyes to a different lifestyle, (beautifully different from my own) with it’s own ideas and traditions. It opened my eyes to a new way of looking at life.
Here are just a few things that I’ve learned in the first three months.
I’ve observed that the culture in Japan is rooted in having respect for one another. Children are taught to be respectful from a very young age, and it is reflected in their behavior and throughout society.
Everywhere I turn, there are folks waving, smiling, or bowing to one another. Even in places where I assumed they would be on auto-pilot (such as working in a coffee shop), they take the time to respect others.
For example, I went to a Starbucks-like shop a few weeks ago, and this is how the story went:
I walk in and head over to the counter. The barista’s eyes light up as though she’s excited to be there aaaaaand excited to see me. She bows and offers a sweet “Kon’nichiwa” (“Hello” in Japanese). I smile and ask her for an iced tea. She rings up the order, and tells me it will be 460 yen. I hand her the money, and she reaches out with both hands and a slight bow.
She then tallies up how much I should get in return, and again with both hands, offers the change to me. She uses this two-handed approach yet again when she hands me my tea. So formal, so respectful, so kind.
And, I can’t help but do the same in return. I smile, I bow, I now hold out things with both hands. I hold others in a high respect, and they do the same for me in return.
When I first moved here, one of the first things I noticed that was drastically different from America is that they drive on the left side of the road. And thus, the driver is on the right side of the car.
I knew it was only a matter of time before I was going to be pushed/coerced/forced into driving myself, and sure enough, only 2 days after arriving on this island, my husband threw me the keys.
“Just go with the flow of traffic,” he said. I smiled indignantly as I got in the car (at first on the wrong side, but quickly realized there wasn’t a steering wheel in front of me).
Should have been easy enough. But, it seemed to take my brain a while to grasp onto the concept. Everything was the opposite from what I was used to. I was driving in America for 23 years, so this was going to be a tough habit to break.
Need to turn on the window wiper? That’s now on the left. Need the blinker? That’s on the right. Shift stick? Left…. If only I had a nickel for every time my wipers accidentally came on as I approached an intersection.
It was difficult to remember what side of the road to drive on, especially when in an empty parking lot. I hate to admit there have been a few times I headed into oncoming traffic and immediately slammed on my brakes so as to not hit the oncoming car.
The easiest way for me to grasp this was to remember to take my time, and just “go with the flow”. Which I found was an amazing metaphor for life. Life will have its ups and downs, twists and turns, blinker or wiper moments… But, when you go with the flow and take your time, you’ll find that you’re right where you are supposed to be.
I attended a tea ceremony for the first time last weekend in Kyoto. If you’ve never been to one, you might be surprised to find out that it is an extremely long and drawn out process to make one cup of tea.
This is because the tea masters use such precision, every movement has a reason and is purposeful. It’s a beautiful art, and it made me really appreciate every drop of the green matcha tea I was served.
I learned that while making, drinking, and enjoying tea, you are to offer thanks for everything around you. Thank you to the tea farmers for harvesting such a healing crop. Thank you to the ceramic makers for making such a beautiful cup for me to enjoy while I sip. Thank you to the generations of people that have contributed over the passing years to help bring me to this moment, to enjoy this cup of tea.
When the tea was in my hands, I felt appreciation for all of these things. And, I realized in that moment, that I would never want to rush through a cup of tea again. There is always time to enjoy it, and give thanks for all of the factors that came together for me to enjoy this.
As is with life. I always want to take a few moments throughout the day to do things that I love. Enjoying a tea in the morning, meditating, snuggling with my dog… All of these things make me happy, and are therefore worth my time and attention.
I’ve already learned so many things while being here, and this list doesn’t even scratch the surface. There are bound to be many more follow up blogs on this same topic as I immerse myself more in this beautiful culture.
But, for now, I’d love to hear from you on this topic. Are there any life lessons that you’ve learned from another culture? Comment below, or send me a private message here.
Until next time, be respectful, go with the flow, and enjoy the heck outta that tea.