Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Assimilate (1)

I put a (1) up there in the title because I’m sure there  will be more of these post types.  Let’s be real, folks.

Cultural differences is sort of the name of the game here at the KpQuePasa blog, yes?  I’ve had a few areas where I’m failing to fit in with said cultural differences, and I want to talk about ‘em today.  But I’m feeling a little lazy in the segue department, so you’ll excuse me if this ends up as a numbered list (spoiler alert - it’s a numbered list)

Have you ever gone somewhere you didn’t fit in?  
Were there points that you were OKAY about not fitting in?  
Tell me about it in the comments!

1.  Americans are (aka THIS particular American is) hairy.
Not all Americans.  Specifically, I’m speaking of those members of the “Melting Pot” who have a few chips in the Northern European pot (also, as The Mister would chime in, the Italian pot).  I would like to excuse this through the rationalization that Swedes, Germans, Brits and Bohemians had rough winters, and a little extra fur could only help.  It was an evolutionary perk.  One that’s unnoticeable in the States, I might add.  

But I HAVE noticed that when it’s humid all day every day,* extra body hair not only keeps the humidity trapped next to your skin for that extra un-sure feeling, but compared with the hairless-wonders that are Japanese people, it makes you an unsightly yeti.
I think, if I’ve learned anything from my travels, it’s that deep down, I am actually a VERY vain person.  Hey, we all have character flaws, right?  At least I know one of mine.  The long and short of that vanity is that I managed to make it to month 4 of living here before I got really embarrassed about the amount of dark hair on my arms.  This is particularly funny because I remember back when I was taking Japanese lessons in the states, there was a day when my instructor told me I might want to think about shaving my arms to avoid ridicule.  And I thought she was out of her mind. I dismissed her so quickly.  “HA!  No, not necessary.  I’m not that hairy.  This is normal.”

A week ago I took a no-no!™ to my arms.

Have you heard of no-no!™?  It’s supposed to be a pain-free hair-removal that stunts future regrowth.  What it actually does is burn your hairs off so they’re really short and stubby, plus blackened because you essentially lit them on fire (this smells really good too, by the way).  The part about inhibiting growth has proven to be a serious misnomer on all fronts.  Also it does all of the "hair removal" in a really uneven manner.  So I no longer have gorilla arms, but I do have arms with “stubble” and patches of longer hair that resisted being burned at the stake.  It’s a great look.  I’m totally not more self-conscious about patchy arms than I was about gorilla arms (I’m TOTALLY more self-conscious).

And now it’s a waiting game to grow that hair back so I at least look natural.  *eye roll*  Moral of this story?  no-no!™s are a no-no!™

2.  I tried and tried and tried and tried, but I cannot magically will myself to be petite-sized.
Wouldn’t that be great though?  Meh.  Though I am a normally-sized American person, I am by all accounts, very tall for a lady in Japan.  So I’ve been able to find clothes which physically fit on my body… but said fit can be a bit awkward.
In some cases, this is fixable through the magic of owning a sewing machine.
Had to get a 'XXXL-size' in order to get it over my American (M) sized boobs.
Length is supposed to be a dress but on me is a bit of a mid-thigh scandal.
Minus some fabric, plus some elastic in the back to take in the sides... now it's a shirt.
In other cases, specifically pants, it means I’m thankful for “high waters” being a trendy fashion this season.  And also thankful for people who are willing to go on a witch-hunt at American Old Navy stores to find me the proper pair of pants in non-petite sizing.  Hopefully within a timeframe that I receive pants in the mail before I manage to walk through the crotch of my current last pair of jeans.  Fingers crossed there.
non petite, straight, boyfriend-cut,
dark blue old navy jeans continue
to mock me by being perfect.
and perfectly out of stock online.
3.  People don’t feed the birds here.
We’ve had a few birds sit on our balcony here, and Bubba’s enjoyed the “cat TV.”  Thus I wanted to put out a bird feeder and “amplify the signal,” so to speak.  You’d think I’d figure out people don’t really feed the birds by my utter inability to find a bird-feeder for sale after searching in hardware and pet-stores alike over the course of multiple weeks.  Alas, this realization didn't come to me until after I bought a water bottle and some flower-pots, then spent a day cutting and gluing them back together into a very adorable bird feeder.  …A bird feeder which two weeks later still has yet to have a single avian visitor.  Because if the people of Japan don’t feed the birds (and they don’t), then the birds have NO concept that this bird feeder holds bird food. So though we have had other birds on the balcony, not a single one has touched the feeder.  hmm.
*shrug* oh well.

2. Toilets both spoil and terrify me.
There’s two kinds of toilets here in Japan:  
  • Bidet style toilets, which are like American toilets except they have a control panel on the side which allows the user to do any/ all of the following:

-Warm his/her butt while sitting to a temperature of your liking (or if you’re The Mister and I, this feature turns more into a war-like scenario where he accuses me of trying to burn his butt hair off while I accuse him of trying to give my butt frostbite)
-Issue forth a cleansing spray of water onto your nether regions (front or back)
-Warm that cleansing spray to a temperature of your liking
-Adjust the force of said cleansing spray of water to make sure you achieve your desired level of cleanliness
-Play a musical / flushing / tinkling noise (depending on the bidet) to hide the sounds your body is ACTUALLY making from those within ear shot because modesty is no joke here.
Bidet control panel.  Because if I wasn't me I would think I was kidding.
You know what?  I LOVE BIDETS.  I, KpMcD, LOVE BIDETS, and I will shout it from the mountain-tops (or at least from the 11th floor of this apartment complex)!  I want one in every house I ever live in ever again for the rest of all time.  Forever.
I was skeptical on my first use - but it really only takes one use to make a convert for a bidet-afficionado, I believe.  And I can’t really type that amazingness into words.  You’ll just have to visit us and try our bidet.  There’s a reason for a 12 hour flight.

But wait!  You say.  KpMcD said there are TWO kinds of toilets in Japan!  What’s the other kind?
  • The “Eastern Style Toilet,” as it’s called in polite company.  Or as I like to call it:

               A dirty hole in the ground.
how do you go from a bidet to this and be okay with the situation?!
Sure, there are attempts to make these holes look nicer - they’re framed with porcelain so they echo the sentiment of a toilet.  But the fact remains that I’m somehow expected to squat-hover over that hole and also somehow expected to not pee directly into my pants.  I have no idea how someone would do that without taking their pants all the way off?  Or alternately, I have no idea how someone would do that without accidentally falling backwards, bare-ass first, into the hole in the ground where hundreds of other people have *ahem* squatted.
I didn't draw this one, but it made me
laugh too hard not to share.
Check out the rest of this artist's American in
Japan adventures at!

If you’ve experienced an Eastern Toilet, 
feel free to tell me about it in the comments, 
but I’m telling you right here and now that 
I am too stubborn to want any advice about how to use them.

That’s right.  I refuse to use an Eastern toilet.  And maybe it makes me a snobby American, but I think in this one area, I just… I totally don’t care.  I’ll take the snobby American card.  And I’ll hold it proudly.  Just like I’m holding my bladder because I’ve still got a half-hour train ride home before I have access to a toilet I can comfortably use while simultaneously checking my Facebook account from my phone.  Because that’s what freedom is all about.   'Murica.

today’s little language lesson:
ないゴリラ - 私はアメリカ人です。
nai gorira - watashi-wa america-jin desu.
I am American - not a gorilla.

*My Japanese teacher taught me a new word**:  むしあしい(mushiashii):  For the season of constant high heat and high humidity.  It literally means "steamed legs".  She also taught me that we’re in the middle of said season right now (I could have guessed), and it’s gonna last another month or so.  God help us for whatever season is next.  I’m betting something along the lines of “Devil’s armpit” 

**She also taught me the word for a onesie:  着ぐるみ (kigurumi)!  
it will be mine.  oh yes. it will be mine.


Jessi Cottrell said...

In India, we had to use an Eastern style toilet on a moving train. And all the train bathrooms were unisex. Yeah. Good luck not touching the wall that all the dudes peed on, or falling backwards from the bumpy ride.

And I think the hole just went right underneath the train.

Jen Anderson said...

I encountered squat toilets in France. They're do-able, but not fun. (They have foot pads for standing on - very useful for positioning purposes.) Their continued presence in Japan probably explains the super amazing bidet toilets. You know, we've put up with squat toilets, so we deserve something way nicer.

Kp said...

You ladies are so brave to have endured the squat potties. Also special note to maybe not visit India for me? I really feel like this is my own personal limit.

Marilee said...

When I was in India, the first week was at my in-laws, with a trusty western toilet option, the second week was to be traveling. It was about half way through the first week where I was about the have a panic attack when I realized I was going to lose my preferred toilet option. I couldn't mentally figure out how was I going to use the bathroom without a seated toilet, like how can I just not pee for seven days? (side note, I have a bladder condition that makes me have to pee more often than most). I my faithful husband explained to me how to use it & how to avoid accidents. I practiced on the eastern option at home to prepare. By the end of the trip, I realized in some ways I preferred the eastern toilet & wouldn't mind having one in the USA if I could.

Also, in some public restrooms you're happy not to have to touch anything, and the most important thing is to carry your own toilet paper. Weirdest feeling was the first time you try to go number two & realize up you can't push- it's either coming or it's not. Anyway, I too have experienced the mental road block & thought "Mmm, I'm okay not visiting half the countries in the world that don't have a "proper" toilets." But when not given a choice, I actually became a bit of a convert. You can fight it for a little while, but you'll be happy once you survive it & realize there was nothing to fear (and I mean I was terrified).