nareru なれる : to get used to

By: Rora

Sep 19 2010

Tags: , ,

Category: Japan

1 Comment

You know that feeling that you get in a new city where you scan the crowd for familiar faces? (I know you must do it, because I have a hunch it is universal). This has become a challenge for me. Obviously I am not going to run into anybody I know here, as thus far I know about 10 people in a city of 1.5 million. Instead I have taken to playing a sort of “Japanese doppelganger” game, which keeps my brain satisfied in a similar way, scanning the crowd for people who look familiar. I have found very few who do.

And then, of course, when I actually do see a blonde or red head in the crowd, my heart does this weird jump that I would never have expected. It also happened when I thought I saw a man wearing a turban (there are a lot of sikhs in the area of Somerville that I used to live, and I didn’t realize how accustomed I was to seeing them walking around until I got here) but it was just a Japanese man wearing a towel on his head to keep cool. I uncontrollably grinned at a blonde woman yesterday. A Nigerian man who owns a hip hop clothing store chatted me up for a good 10 minutes, simply because we had the common bond of English speakers.

These familiar strangers, how connected I feel to them, even though often times it’s a complete mirage.

It is difficult to get used to living in a homogenous environment after living in a city inhabited by scores of people from every continent. I miss ethnic food more than I miss “American” food (even though I recognize that my idea of ethnic food is Americanized). I am not used to the lack of diversity, or at least, my American idea of diversity. There IS diversity here, it’s just more subtle, and that’s sort of what my “doppelganger” crowd scan game gets back to- my crude attempt to differentiate faces, clothing styles, expressions, voices, as a mechanism to adapt.

I am used to Japanese food, strangely enough because I had access to a relatively authentic and diverse selection (ie, not just Sushi) in Cambridge downstairs from my old univeristy.  Tempura donburi, bowls of nabe, katsu curry, okonomiyake, udon, pickled daikon slices- I have adapted as quickly as one could, and enthusiastically. The food here is amazing. But grocery shopping has led me to the inevitable conclusion that my favorite foods from home are going to be represented in a watered down, skewed way. I now understand what it is like to be Mexican and shopping in the taco aisle of an American grocery store. Nothing is the same, just a close enough but oh so far approximation of a childhood comfort food. An attempt to buy peanut butter yielded a strange “peanut creme” that was actually more like peanut gelatin. A sandwich is two pieces of bread filled with 80% mayo. Coffee exists only in small aluminum cans that come from vending machines, in many shades of black, creamy, sugary, but they don’t have the same caffeine kick. Want hot coffee? Instant is the only option.

This is by no means a deal breaker. In fact, I’m surprised at how I don’t yearn for certain things more than I do. If I miss a food, it just means I get to look forward to it tasting even more delicious when I return home. If I miss certain people, I can see them online when I’m not hallucinating that I see them in public. I am getting used to Japan, but what has surprised me is that I also need to get used to my own feelings of nostalgia along the way.


One comment on “nareru なれる : to get used to”

  1. The comment about weird versions of American food is something I hear a lot. Have you been by a Japanese KFC, yet? I hear that at Christmas the KFCs in Japan require reservations to get in because for some reason Japan thinks KFC is authentic American Christmas fare. Although, in some places it probably is.

    Man I am so jealous! I can’t wait to see pictures!

    Speaking of childhoods, I need your address in Japan so I can send you a nostalgia inducing birthday present.

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