Bilingual Problems – Friday Afternoons & Monday Mornings

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It’s Friday (yay!) and for me, that means the start to a weekend of speaking 99% Japanese. My first language is English, I was born in the US, and I live in the US, but I have studied Japanese since high school so I can have everyday conversations without too much trouble.

My husband is Japanese, and he can speak conversational English, but when we met he spoke literally zero English and so our conversations from day one were in Japanese. Since we spoke Japanese from the time we met, it’s difficult to change our habits at this point in time. (I’ve since noticed that whenever I meet someone, whichever language we start speaking first is the one we usually speak in at least 75% of the time from that point on).

English on the Weekdays, Japanese on the Weekend

So that means that I spend the week speaking English at my job and speaking Japanese at night, but when I come home on Friday I start a weekend of pretty much only speaking and listening to Japanese. We mostly only watch Japanese TV and movies (mostly because I like to watch Japanese news and TV shows). The friends I’ve made in my new city are also mostly Japanese speakers, so when I go out on the weekends I speak more Japanese. The only times I really speak English for any length of time on the weekends are when I talk to my parents on the phone or Skype.

Then Comes Monday Morning…

So what does that mean on Monday morning? You might have guessed that my English is pretty lousy by the time Monday morning comes around. I have an early morning meeting every Monday, and while my sleep-deprived brain is already fumbling to make coherent sentences, Japanese words come to my mind rather than English words. My English sounds like an English language learner, or my grammar switches order as I try to directly translate the Japanese that comes to mind. It can be frustrating, but also maybe more than a little entertaining to my co-workers.

Conversely, when I go on business trips and come back home (usually Fridays), my Japanese is lousy when I go back to talking to my husband. I’m tired from travelling on airplanes, getting up super early, time changes, and sleeping in hotels. I go from discussing technical data in English to blanking out on answering simple questions in Japanese. It usually takes me a while to get back to where I can have coherent conversations in Japanese again.

Does Every Bilingual Person Experience This?

I imagine this is something a lot of bilingual people experience. A few other American friends of mine who have studied Japanese and used it on a regular basis, then had to switch back to English after long periods of time, have told me that they also noticed that their English (native language!) got worse. Of course, either language improves with use, but that initial transition can be tricky.

When I had to interpret for my parents and my in-laws earlier this year when they finally met, I was mentally thoroughly drained thanks to having to constantly switch back and forth between the two. I really admire interpreters, as it takes a lot of mental fortitude to keep up that kind of transition!

Are you bilingual? Have you ever experienced this kind of thing? Have you ever tried interpreting between two languages? Any advice that could make this transition between languages easier? Let me know in the comments!

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Being Sick in Japan

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I hate being sick. I hate being sick away from home even more!

When I travel anywhere – within the US or to Japan – and especially when I fly, I usually get sick. Being in a small space with other people and sharing recycled air allows those nasty little bugs to invade.

At least when you are home and you get sick, you are in familiar surroundings and the medicine or foods you need to feel better are in easy reach. In a foreign country, you often have to figure out what medicine to buy in a language you haven’t entirely mastered, and then if you need to see a doctor that’s a whole other problem.

Getting Sick in Japan

So what happens when you get sick in Japan? I’ve gotten sick enough times that I’ve learned to be prepared for the eventuality.

If you are on a student visa or any visa that gives you access to healthcare, go to the doctor (isha 医者)! They have national healthcare and it will cost you nothing to very little to go to the doctor. As a student, I went when I got injured playing soccer. I had an X-ray and got some painkiller (I had a collision with another player, but it ended in just some bruises) and I walked out of the hospital without a bill.

If you’re a visitor, you don’t have access to the national healthcare system, but I got an IV drip (this is pretty common in Japan for flu and cold treatment) and some medicine the last time I was sick in Japan, and got out for under ¥5000 (~$45).  Some copays in the US can be more than that. You can also go to a pharmacy or convenience store, and explain your symptoms to the clerk (there are free Japanese-English dictionary apps available!). Ingredients are often listed in katakana and if you know the ingredients you are looking for, you can make educated guesses.

My advice? Figure out what kinds of (minor) illnesses you are most likely to get when you travel (if you get sick enough times, you’ll know). Bring medicine with you, just in case. I’d recommend bringing over-the-counter cold medicine if you’re going during the winter, or pain killer if you’re prone to headaches when you travel. If there’s anything you are prone to (like.. gasp.. diarrhea), pack medicine that you know works so you don’t have to find something when you’ve already gotten sick.

If you have a chronic condition that requires medication, of course you should be sure to bring it with you. But if it’s a narcotic or prescription strength, it’s a good idea to check and make sure that you can enter the country with it. Japan is a bit stricter on drugs than the US, and you don’t want to be stopped because of drugs that are legally in your possession. And don’t bring illegal drugs to Japan, because that’s just asking for trouble!

I’m Getting Better…

My Japanese husband and I have different ideas about comfort food and home remedies when it comes to being sick, and so when I bring back a cold I picked up on a business trip, we end up with an interesting meal plan.

Sometimes we eat ozosui お雑炊 – a soup with rice that’s almost like a porridge – and sometimes we eat chicken noodle soup. The most important thing about comfort food is that it soothes the symptoms of being sick, and often it isn’t the food itself but the memory of eating it as a child that makes you feel better. When both of us are really really sick we obtain calories from store-bought bottled smoothies (US) or from jelly drinks (Japan).

Usually Japanese people think that American medicine is too strong, while Americans think that Japanese medicine is not strong enough. My husband and I each have a different combination of American and Japanese medicine that we prefer for different symptoms, and thanks to his parents we have an abundant supply of both!

Sometimes I wonder if the perception of a certain medicine not being effective enough can affect the way that the medicine actually works – like a placebo effect. If you always used the same medicine to cure your cold, and you are positive that any other medicine won’t work, is it because it really doesn’t work, or because you don’t think it will work?

What is your favorite food when you are under the weather? What do you do to prevent illness? Have you ever had any problems with medicine in a foreign country? Let me know in the comments!

New Year, New Relationship Goals

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In 2017, my New Year’s resolutions include new relationship goals.

Wait, what? I thought you were already in a relationship? ∑(。・Д・。)???

Yes, I am! I’m happily married to my Japanese husband. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a new romantic relationship, but rather new friendships.

In 2015, I moved to a new town after graduating from grad school and starting a new job. At the end of last year, I moved again for work to another new town. So the year after starting over in a new town and finding new friends, I’m starting over again!

It seems daunting to again try to find friends in a place where I know literally no one. But I’m making it a resolution to try to find new friends (again). The only question is how to do it when I don’t already have friends to introduce me to new friends (and coworkers probably won’t be able to help with this).

So I’ve brainstormed some ways to get out, be social, and hopefully find some people with similar interests:

  • Professional groups – This way I will meet people who work in my field and, even if I don’t make new friends, I will at least have a professional network
  • Young professional groups – This will introduce me to young professionals, like myself, even if they aren’t in the exact same field as me
  • Meet Up – This is an app I recently heard about, where people join groups and “meet up” to do activities about once a month, thus you can find a whole group of people with similar interests as you
  • Go somewhere new – At least once a month my husband and I will go to a new place (museum, park, etc) to get more familiar with the area and to broaden our horizons – at the very least we can see what this place has to offer!

These are the ideas I have come up with so far, and if I do at least one of these events at least once a month, I hope to meet some new people!

Do you have any other ideas about how to meet people in a new town? Please let me know!

The Facebook Page

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お知らせ:(For your information)

I finally did it, and made a Facebook page for my blog*!

The inspiration came months ago, from Alice at Kiwi in Korea, but in my typical procrastinatorial style, I’ve only just gotten around to actually making it. I will of course link my posts, but also look for additional photos, random text posts, and whatever else a blogger is supposed to do on a Facebook page.

So please drop by and say hi on my new Facebook page! Let’s make our friendship Facebook official (。•̀ᴗ-)✧

*If you want to know how to make your own Facebook page for your blog, check out Mary Qin’s excellent walk-through.

And if you are really bored, you can always check out my Twitter account as well (but I will warn you that I am terrible at using Twitter).

A to Z Challenge 2016 Recap

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April is over, and now it’s May! That means that the 2016 A to Z Challenge is over, and I have completed 26 days of posts in one month. This was my first A to Z challenge, so I thought that I would give a short recap and an insight into my experience, aka “What I Learned from A to Z.”

If you are wondering what the A to Z Challenge is, it is a personal challenge to post a blog every day in April (except Sundays). The challenge happens every year, and I found out about it earlier this year and thought it would be a good way to inspire myself to post a more regular basis.

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Posting Daily IS Possible!

When I wrote my theme reveal post, I thought that posting daily was going to be really hard, and even though I promised not to give up, I had my doubts in the beginning. However, once I picked a travel theme and started thinking about what posts I wanted to do for each letter in the alphabet, it was a lot easier than I had anticipated! Continue reading

Hello 2016!

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あけましておめでとうございます!今年も宜しくお願いします。

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu.

Happy New Year! I wish you a wonderful 2016.

Now that we’ve said goodbye to 2015, it’s time to look forward to 2016! So, what do I hope to accomplish this year? In 2015, I had a lot of huge life changes (graduating with a Master’s, getting married, and starting a new job), so my 2016 resolutions will be a little less grand.

Looking Forward

In Japan, people make pilgrimages to shrines during the first days of the new year – called hatsumoude 初詣 – to make prayers or wishes for the New Year. Japanese New Year falls on the same days as the Roman new year, unlike the Chinese New Year, which follows the lunar calendar and falls in late January to early February, depending on the year.

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Arakura Shrine in Yamanashi Prefecture
photo by kei

In the US, we make New Year’s resolutions! The most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, and this is almost always the first resolution to be broken. Other resolutions include stopping bad habits (junk food, alcohol, tobacco) or saving more or spending less money. I like to focus my resolutions more on attainable goals, so that I can make some reasonable accomplishments by the end of the year. Continue reading