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Culture Shock Teaching in Asia: Brooke’s Experience

TEFL in Asia


Brooke is a graduate of the University of Iowa. She had the opportunity to work with young students in Japan for just under three months. I asked her to speak about her culture shock in regards to living and teaching in Asia and what she took away from her experience. Here is what she had to say:

I had the opportunity to live in Japan for 10 weeks one summer. This was my first abroad experience, and boy was I nervous. I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to find my way around the county or be able to effectively communicate with the locals. I was able to meet with several friends before I left the country that had already traveled to Japan. It relieved so much stress that I had about traveling in the country. I was also able to pick up several tips on what to do and what not to do while there. Make those connections! Your friends/acquaintances will love the chance to talk about their adventures!

I experienced culture shock the first day I arrived in Yokosuka. We walked onto Blue Street and were immediately submerged into the Japanese Culture. Businesses and restaurants were stacked on top of each other in high buildings, cell phone vendors were just as popular as Starbucks are stateside, and everyone loved to wave. The biggest “I’m not in Iowa anymore” moment came right away. A woman had spilled her leftovers from a restaurant on the sidewalk. Then she did the craziest thing! She took her napkins and with her friends help, they scooped up the noodles and cleaned the spot the best they could. It was then that I took note of the cleanliness. I noticed the street sweepers who were busy at work, the man who carefully put his cigarette butt in the trashcan, and the trashcans that were present at every corner!

The first time exploring our surroundings for the summer was a wonderful way to start our journey. I learned a very important lesson about being the new guy. Observe your surroundings. Adapt to the norm. Most of all respect the culture and ways of those around you.

Want to experience Japanese culture for yourself? Learn more about teaching English in Japan by downloading our Japan country guide!

For another story about confronting culture shock as a teacher in an Asian destination, read about Mary’s experience in China. 

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