Reverse Culture Shock: Coworkers!

カルチャーショック:同僚 版

So I've been back working in the States for three months now (stability - whoo!) and I seriously feel so thankful to be doing something I legit enjoy. A major bonus is having such awesome coworkers who are totally down to earth and actually care about what they do.

But a few things have boggled my brains recently, making me appreciate a few things that were commonplace in Japan.

Awkward silences
(or lack of "aizuchi" 相槌)

During a few group meetings at work, I'll be the only one to "actively listen", throwing in a stream of comments to whomever is speaking, like "Uh huh" or "Ah, really" or "What a great idea!" 

But after realizing no one else besides me really does it, I end up pulling back and (what feels like) an intensely awkward silence starts. 

Of course it's not completely quiet, because the speaker is talking. And these silences aren't necessarily awkward either. I've just been rewired to feel like they are!

Living in Japan and Skyping with Taiki has really engrained that "active listener" culture. How else is your conversation partner going to know you're actually listening to them if you don't give them a "uh huh" or "I see" every other 5 seconds? Or if the situation calls for it - every other half second! ;)

I used to think simply making eye contact was enough, but now conversations just seem so seriously uncomfortable without listener comments too. 

Appearing and Disappearing Acts
("Hey, can you hel-- ..Oh, she left?")

I usually greet everyone I pass when walking through work to my desk, and then say "bye" before leaving at the end of the day. But it recently started bugging me how some people literally just come and sit down, or get up and leave without a word! Most people say hi/bye to their immediate neighbors only.

So, it's happened on quite a few occasions where I'll be wanting to say hi, but will have said it after people've passed me. And I wind up possibly coming across as a weirdo. Again.

I seriously miss my Japanese coworkers' cheery "Good mornings". Even if they were fake, they were still the best!

A plate of cookies I made for Japanese coworkers. Running out of M&Ms = overwhelming stress at the thought of having two different kinds. But it worked out (I think).

Not sharing is not caring
(See the double negative there?)

In the US, we have the popular phrase "Sharing is caring", right? Well, how does this apply when coworkers bring in treats and only share with a select few? Again - this is completely normal and I'm in no way that selfish to be offended, but the culture gap just recently hit me. 

In Japan, people won't say anything, but they'll definitely be thinking it if you don't share the love with everyone else.

In America, you might have to run to get a bite if you're overheard someone brought the goods.

On the flipside, I guess I don't need to count heads when bringing in snacks at work for people (finally!!).


There are definitely pros and cons with any work situation. I love being able to compare and appreciate such different environments, and would recommend anyone to give a new workplace a try. 

Are there any things that boggle your brains too?  I feel like a Part 2 is definitely in the works.




About Us!

Hey there! We're Taiki and Andrea - a Japanese/American couple who love traveling and learning about other people and cultures. We've been to India, Thailand, Korea, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece and Italy (as well as the US and Japan of course!)

We started a blog to preserve our memories while encouraging and motivating others to travel or learn English!

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