Our flat is becoming more and more ‘ours’. We’ve now been to every 2nd hand shop in the area (there are several!) and got some good deals on various bits of furniture. So we feeling more and more at home and settled in our flat.
One of the things that helped was receiving our boxes that we’d shipped out to Japan from Wales in mid-February. We thought it would only take 4-5 weeks to get to Japan, so we didn’t bother taking much warm clothing with us via Singapore – not much need of it there! But after a month of living in Sapporo, amid piles of snow and biting winds, I was very pleased when the boxes finally arrived. As soon as we got them open, I dived in to get my warm gloves, hat, a wool scarf (knitted by Anna!) and a woolly jumper (also knitted by Anna!). Pleasing!
To get the boxes I had to go to the port where the boxes had been shipped, along with a German friend who was the driver (I’ve not got my Japanese license yet) and a kind old Japanese gentleman called Murata-san who helped with the Japanese bit! He helped with all the form-filling and liaising with the customs officials etc. His English was very good, so good in fact that we spent most of the 1.5hr journey speaking English – and I had hoped for a bit of Japanese practice!
As advised by a senior OMF-er, I bought Murata-san a gift as a token of my appreciation for his time and effort. (Gift-giving is a huge thing in Japanese culture.) As I gave the gift I said the standard Japanese phrases:
It’s a very boring thing, but this is a token of my gratitude…
To which he replied,
That’s very Japanese!
But if it really is boring, I’ll throw it away!!
Obviously every person is a different individual, but there is still a certain Japanese way of doing things. Whenever a foreigner does things ‘the Japanese way’, it is really appreciated – even if I was just following instructions!
At JLC (Japanese Language Centre), they talk about ‘ the x10 factor’: if a foreigner does something bad/inappropriate etc, the Japanese response will often be, ‘Typical; uncouth foreigner!’ But if we do something culturally Japanese, like giving a gift in the right situation, the feeling is more like, ‘Wow – they’ve done the right thing, AND they’re a foreigner – they really know the Japanese way!’
Pray that we would quickly learn how to do the right thing at the right time to ‘adorn the gospel’ and build good relationships with the Japanese we meet.