I’m taking a break from my helpful posts to discuss some very real topics. This post is kind of a damper, but cultural fatigue in Japan needs to be discussed. A new country isn’t always going to be perfect and sometimes you will get worn down. I looked up a great article about Cultural Fatigue on Vagabond Journey. According to the writer, cultural fatigue is defined as a state of being where the small, adverse intricate of the culture begin to bother you out of reasonable proportion after living in another country for an extended amount of time.
Sometimes you get sick of the small things like how much attention to have to pay to interactions or how much more time you need to spend at the grocery store, and how you fit into the society you live in. I particularly have cultural fatigue in Japan.
Japan is just as diet crazy as anyone in the UK or US. What I don’t appreciate are the fat comments from doctors, men, and women. They easily toss around body negative comments like a salad and usually I just shrug it off. Most of the time I’m like, “Meh, your opinions don’t matter.” However, three years of this crap is really starting to get under my skin.
I felt good about myself before Japan and now I feel awful. Since I started Cross Fit, my muscle gain is described as fat and makes me want to punch the guys who say so in the nose.
It’s also no secret being white is amazingly beautiful in Japan. I never conformed to anyone’s beauty standards and if I looked in the mirror and decided I needed to be tan, I would always wear sunscreen and spend more time at the pool with my friends. Problem solved.
Some days, I need a time out and go for massages to appreciate what my body does for me. The receptionist, who had seen me many times, was the icing on top of my cake. She commented on how my skin was so much darker since the last time she saw me, I needed to wear the UV protectant sleeves when I was driving, stay out of the sun, and wear more sunscreen. My initial thought was… Did I ask for your opinion on my skin? I felt it was uncalled for and unwarranted. Unfortunately, I lack the Japanese language to explain how they are being rude and defend myself. I’ve never cursed my ability to understand Japanese until that moment.
Whether she wanted to help or not was not the question. My body is my body and I take care of it just fine. My body is my business. It is not something put on display for Japanese people to pick apart on why it doesn’t fit their beauty norms or standards.
I feel so fatigued some people feel the need to push their beauty ideals on me. Yes, I will be respectful and follow Japanese rules, but I WILL NOT change the way I look. Leave me alone. I like myself the way I am.
I feel tired, fed up, and fatigued. Sometimes I feel like I can only see riddles with the Japanese, realize I can never understand, but still try anyway. I know I shouldn’t, but I’m trying to be mindful and see where people are coming from. I came here ready to take on a new place, new ideas, and understand the bigger picture of the world I live in. Two months out until my return to America, I just don’t want to try anymore.
It’s not the big things about this culture that wear you down. It’s the little things. I can deal with eating with chopsticks, taking off my shoes indoors, and bowing. What I cannot deal with are the passive aggressive attitudes prevalent in many people because confrontation is uncomfortable, the hidden social cues, and the snide comments about my weight and skin. The fact I need to be on guard all the time is breaking me down.
Some days, I’m consumed with anger and frustration. I have coping mechanisms like writing more positive messages on my blog to help others, writing my frustrations in my journal, Cross Fit, zoning out to a good K-drama, or swimming in the ocean. Other times, I want to throw in the towel.
As an expat, you can never be on autopilot. Your actions and your words must be carefully considered before action is taken. Facing some of the same ridiculous challenges every day wears you out. I feel like this challenge of people trying to pick apart my body is causing me some commotion.
Of course, going around thinking everyone is going to attack you on your appearance or be passive aggressive is not the way to be. There are good and bad people out there and I have friends who know it’s wrong to impose their ideas on how others should be. All I’m saying is, I don’t comment on people’s appearances and tell them they should change. I’m sure the people who tell me to lose weight or be lighter haven’t thought of what it feels like to be in my shoes.
I could easily turn around to a man and say, “You’re just jealous because you’re not as strong as me.” Or I can say to the women who call me fat and tell me I need to be lighter, “Have you gone to the dentist? Your teeth are so yellow and crooked!” or “Look at the terrible sun freckle you have! It’s so big! Do you need some sun cream?” Coming from me, it sounds awful right? Well, when they say hurtful comments like that, it’s just as bad, culture or not.
For me, this is only a sign of learning. I can’t change Japanese people, but now I’m only motivated to learn more Japanese to defend myself. The patterns are becoming more obsolete, the people more real, and I’m beginning to see my place in this society… Sometimes the lack of respect I get when people discuss my breasts and behind makes me want to explode.
Cultural fatigue is like a defense mechanism. Sometimes I don’t like what I see and I have enough sense to know what it truly represents. I can let these comments keep ruining my day or I can decide to take a body positive route where I appreciate the one body and one life I have. The lesson I have to learn is indifference. It’s one of the best travel skills to cultivate and one of the best life skills to have in some areas. I need to learn to stand emotionally separate from the action and not dwell on the past. When the fight is over, it’s over, and I should leave it there.
I can’t fight or change people’s ideals. All I can learn is how to defend myself and keep pushing forward. I’m thinking about starting some side pieces on my body positive journey to try to combat negativity and bring in positivity. What do you think? Do you guys have any suggestions on bringing positivity and body positive energy into my life? I’d like to hear if any of you have felt culturally fatigued and what you did to combat it?