Of course, we all know first impressions are usually incorrect. So take the following with a grain of salt. Following is a list of some first impressions I received when we first arrived in Japan.
- No one wears tennis shoes. 😦 All of the women wear high heals. All. The. Time. (This first impression ended up false—I’ve since seen 5 Asian people wearing tennis shoes, two New Balance, one Reebok, and two unknown.)
- There’s a lot of English, especially on signage. (However, the English is often poor.)
- People are polite, but their idea of polite may be different from ours. For example, I saw a man slip on the sidewalk, slick from the rain, and fall on his back. People hesitated in their tracks and looked—like, “Whoa! What was that?”—but no one offered to help him up. I think that in Texas, people would have responded with, “Are you okay, man?” and offered him a hand.
- Everything is close quarters. In Texas, we would call it cramped, but they make it look nice and make very effective use of their limited space (such as our pantry being under our feet in the kitchen).
- Many things are clearly old, but not ugly. Very little is dirty.
- Everything talks to you! “Attention. The walkway is about to come to an end. Please disembark safely.” (This for the moving walkway at the airport.) “Please stand in the center and hold onto the rail.” (This for escalators.) “Turning left. Please be careful.” (This for all vehicles.)
- Our area seems to cater to (1) white people and (2) rich people. I’ve seen lots of whites in our building, and our apartment has carpet, an oven, and a dryer. At the nearest grocery store, what Derek bought cost at least twice as much as it should have.
- Japan has lots of Nanny State signage. “Be careful not to get your hand caught in the gate.” “It’s dangerous to rush onto the train.” “Please don’t drop anything.” (This on an 11th floor balcony.) This extends to helpers, as one tiny intersection had five crosswalk guards.
- Everything is very quiet. People don’t shout or honk their cars. Even on the trains and subways, there are signs reminding people to put their cell phones on silent or turn them off and the only people whose voices you can actually hear are foreigners.
- CHIMES. EVERYWHERE. When a car is turning, it chimes softly along with the flashing light. At five o’clock every evening, a soft melody chimes out—where from, I don’t know.