How to adjust when just married and just moved to a Tokyo Life.
After marrying Toru in 1997, we moved to Tokyo. I arrived at the new apartment in Meguro very excited and willing to start my married life. Although I was never married before, Toru was his second time, so I relied a lot on him and his experience. Soon I realised how different Tokyo life was from Barcelona’s. I needed to quickly adjust to three key areas:
How to communicate.
Learning how to move around
Check- 3,2,1- Go!
Although Toru took a few days off to guide me in my first days in Tokyo, I soon realised how long it would take me to learn all the new challenges. Tokyo life would be completely different and more demanding than Barcelona life. Alongside feeling lonely and absolutely dazed, I was also affected by the fact that Tokyo is a big city. Moving around is not a simple task! Even though my husband showed me how to use public transport, I felt so hesitant. Even to just take the train. Have you ever seen the Tokyo metropolitan train system? Add the subway and bus network to that! Hahaha, and you have a beautiful, overwhelming web!
Toru encouraged me to take action every day! And I did.
The Internet was not as handy and practical as it is now, so I decided to carry a metropolitan transportation map with me and almost learn it by heart!
I would prepare my route the evening before so I was ready in the morning. Knowing already what to do gave me some confidence. It was just a matter of doing it!
And in the morning, I would not hesitate to leave the apartment. Back then, I did not know “The 5 seconds Rule” by Mel Robbins, but I was applying it already.
I got lost so many times, changing trains, exiting the wrong side of the station, taking a rapid train instead of a local. You name it!!
I often felt confused and scared. So uncertain. So doubtful. I wanted to flow with the new life, but I still felt hesitant and disorganized with my daily tasks. I needed specific goals and routines to provide me with more fulfilment.
Learning the local language
Study- Listen- Talk!
So, I decided to do something! I enrolled in a language school to start learning Japanese.
How did this help me? Well, certainly and foremost to gain a skill! Learning a language is something that you will never regret. It is so convenient in so many ways!:
It is primarily a tool to communicate with others:
Finally, I could exchange small talk with my neighbour rather than just a Good morning and a smile.
It works as a social platform! Because when you join a language class, most likely you will meet people like you, internationals who do not speak the language and want to learn. They are curious about the culture and how to interact with other people. Either for work purposes or just people who want to make friends! Yeah. And so I made friends. From everywhere: Hong Kong, Singapore, Nigeria, Mexico, France, USA, Australia…..
Having international friends stimulated me to keep studying and practising the language. We were testing our skills in a “safe” net, hahaha. When we felt a bit more comfortable with new grammar or vocabulary, we would go out as a group and interact with the local people. Going out for lunch, buying food at the markets, getting tickets for the movies. After a few months, we were fully engaged and felt delighted when we understood more elaborate announcements. We even attended Kabuki shows! A very traditional Japanese theatre.
It is essential to talk! Even when you know it won’t be completely accurate. I remember once, at the grocery store, instead of asking for “fruit” (kudamono), we asked for “kids” (kodomo). =P
Adjust to a new diet
New ingredients- New cuisine- Grow!
I mean to grow your taste…. Hahaha, not your waist.
Learning new vocabulary was not the only challenge but identifying the “kudamono” was a previous step! Exotic fruits and vegetables were a new addition to me. The way the Japanese cooked and served fish and meat totally amazed me. Luckily, Toru loves to cook! So I was introduced to a new world of tastes and aromas! So wonderful!
I did not enjoy every new savour right from the start, but gradually I got used to it and finally just loved it!
The Tofu was my first disappointment. In 1997 living in Barcelona, I had never heard about Tofu, so I imagined a raw cheese taste when I first saw it. Similar to mozzarella or fresh cheese. So far from it!
I am so grateful to Toru for introducing me to new tastes. Now, Tofu is one of my favourite tastes. Choosing from the silky one to the more consistent one. So yummy.
Tokyo Life scent
In short, there were a lot of new and unexpected challenges that came with moving abroad. But it also brought a lot of new and exciting adventures. Experiences to this day are still a part of me, from the types of food that I eat to preparing my route in the Tokyo metropolitan public transport. Also, how I communicate with people in their language. All these, in my first months in Tokyo, have forever shaped my character.
I invite you to try it for yourself. Be open and willing to try new things, meet new people, and welcome new experiences.
… very soon, you can become an Expert Expat, too!
Would you like to know more about living as an Expat? Don’t hesitate to keep reading some other posts I am working on. In the meantime, here you can find some previous ones.