In case you’re a new reader, you may not know that I lived in Japan for about two years, from 2011 to the end of 2013. Living in Japan was undoubtedly one of the most unique and formative experiences of my life. Now, eight months later, I think I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface on how my two-year field trip affected my life and personality.
Though living in another country was, at times, difficult, the more time I spend away from Japan, the more I realize how it positively changed who I am. Today, I want to share five ways Japanese culture changed me as a person.
1. I’m more generous.
Once, while traveling in Japan, I was having a difficult time locating an overnight bus I was scheduled to take. If I’d missed the bus, I would’ve missed work the next day, which is hugely frowned upon in Japan. I used my limited Japanese at the time to ask people how to get to the bus stop, but no one could explain the directions in a way I could understand. Eventually, I found a train conductor who’d just finished work — he had a briefcase in hand and appeared to be on his way home. I rushed up to him in a near-panic, asking if he could point me in the right direction. Instead of pointing, he led…all the way to my bus stop, at least a mile away. He didn’t complain or say a word and brushed off my thank you’s as if he did this all the time.
That experience is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I pull it out when I need to remind myself to be more generous and willing to go out of my way to help other people. Things that may take ten minutes of my time and a blink of inconvenience could completely turn someone’s day around.
2. I’m more conscious of what is actually healthy.
Before living in Japan, I was convinced that pouring salt on my veggies and adding broccoli to a bowl of mac and cheese was in some way, still “healthy.” Now, I cringe at much of the “healthy” food I see in The States. In Japan, people traditionally eat a variety of unseasoned vegetables with lightly seasoned fish, white rice, and miso soup. It might sound bland, but it’s actually very good! Now, I’m realizing that adding some vegetables and chicken breast to a bowl of cheese and sauce doesn’t make it better for your body. This isn’t to say I eat as healthy as a traditional Japanese person, but I’m a lot more conscious of what I put in my body — good and bad.
3. I’m a better gift-giver.
Gift-giving is an arguably important part of Japanese culture. One aspect is called “omiyage,” which translates to “souvenirs.” For Japanese people, it is expected that if you go on a trip, you bring back a small souvenir (usually a little snack) for each person in your office. People usually bring back gifts for close friends or family, too. The idea relates to Japan’s group mentality, essentially saying, “I was thinking about you, even while I was away.” It’s kind of beautiful, isn’t it? Now, I carry this tradition a little more heavily than before I lived abroad, using small, thoughtful gifts to remind people that they are with me, even when they’re not.
4. I’m more punctual.
I come from a family of late people. I’ve grown up with the expectation that being late is essentially the same thing as being on time. …Which is why it was a slap in the face when I discovered that, in Japan, if you’re not early, you’re already late. After more than two years of putting effort into punctuality, I’ve found the value in being on time or early to events.
5. I’m more comfortable in my own skin.
In Japan, what is “beautiful” often includes pale skin, rail-thin figures, and small facial features with big eyes. In the US, things are nearly opposite, with tan skin, curvaceous bodies, and full facial features reigning supreme. Living in two countries with different values about beauty reminded me how subjective this whole game of appearances is. Once you realize first-hand that beauty is biased, you start caring a whole lot less about fitting into any one person or country’s ideals.
Have you ever lived or traveled abroad? How did it positively affect your life?
p.s. Want to teach English abroad? Check out my full experience and tutorial!
p.p.s. Read about my life in Japan here.
This post also could’ve been called “Melyssa just bought a new blender and needs to try ALL THE SMOOTHIES,” but, you know, marketing or whatever. When I lived in Japan, I made smoothies just about every morning. It was kind of miraculous to me that I could smoosh a bunch of fruits, veggies, and nuts into a jar and deem it “breakfast.” It only took me eight months to finally buy a new one (I didn’t bring my old one from Japan), but now I can’t wait to check out all these smoothie recipes! Need a smoothie fix? Click the links below to find a new favorite! (They’re in order based on the pictures in the graphic above). Don’t have a blender? Enter the giveaway below to win one for yourself!
- Peach Smoothie via Taste of Home
- Minty Morning Green Smoothie via The Urban Ecolife
- Vegan Raspberry Coconut Smoothie via Creme de la Crumb
- Sunny Hawaiian Smoothie via Daily Dish Recipes
- Velvety Blueberry Smoothie via Natasha’s Kitchen
- Cinnamon Bun Breakfast Smoothie via Cooking Classy
- Blueberry Oatmeal Smoothie via Best Cleanse Recipes
- Blackberry Coconut Smoothie via Scaling Back
- Cinnamon Apple Smoothie via Skinny Ms.
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Breakfast Smoothie via Cooking Classy
- Cherry Walnut Smoothie via The Roasted Root
- Fig and Almond Butter Smoothie via Kitchen Confidante
- Vegan Peach Snickerdoodle Smoothie via The Sweet Tooth Life
- French Toast Smoothie via Produce on Parade
- Summer Wine Smoothie via The Nectar Collective (hey, that’s me!)
- Pear Ginger Cinnamon Oat Smoothie via Mom on Timeout
- Sunrise Smoothie via Iowa Girl Eats
- Peach Wine Slushies via Dessert for Two
- Tangerine and Strawberry Smoothie via Chew Town
- Peach Melba Smoothie via BBC GoodFood
Win a Smoothie Set + PayPal Cash!
One of my blogging buds, Crystal from The Happy Type, is celebrating her blog’s one year anniversary. Yay! In honor of her love for all things smoothie (seriously, she has the best recipes!), she put together this neat smoothie-centric giveaway, so you can make your own from start to finish.
Here’s a list of what’s up for grabs:
1 x Magic Bullet + accessories
1 x Superfood Smoothies Book by Julie Morris
1 x 20 paper straws
1 x Insulated drink tumbler with straw
1 x 20 oz. bag of Golden Omega Flaxseed
1x Box of Brewhaha Super Tea 50 ct.
$200 in Paypal cash!
Giveaway Rules: 1. Giveaway is open to US readers. 2. Winner will be chosen and notified within 24 hours of giveaway’s end. Winner will have 48 hours to respond. Should the winner fail to respond within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen. 3. Winner’s entries will be verified in their entirety and if falsified entries are found, winner will be disqualified. 4. Winner must have Paypal if they wish to claim their prize. The Happy Type will transfer money directly to winner’s Paypal account and is not responsible thereafter.
I’ve written a lot of posts with blogging tips in the past, but creating a blog that people enjoy can be summed up in even less words than those past articles. Today I’m sharing my absolute #1 tip for writing better blog posts. And seriously? It’s stupid simple.
I occasionally get emails from hopeful bloggers who aren’t receiving the results they crave from their blog. They’re putting in the effort — marketing themselves on social media, publishing posts everyday — but their blog still isn’t growing how they’d like it to. This is what I tell them, and this is what I’ll tell you. Before I ever start writing a post, I ask myself this question:
Will this be useful for my readers?
That sentence is important for two reasons: First, it asks if the post is useful. What value does the article provide to your readers? Sometimes it’s more subtle, like style inspiration, and other times it’s obvious, like business advice. But the key is that it provides value and usefulness to the people who visit your site. The other important piece of that sentence refers to your readers. Who reads your blog? Where do they live? What kinds of jobs do they have? What are their interests? Usually, you can figure this out through a combination of Google Analytics and knowing which posts tend to get more attention on your site. If I know something doesn’t align with my core audience, I won’t post it.
If you’re a blogger who posts mainly about your day-to-day, but wants to grow your audience, I encourage you to find the pieces of your day that will add value to your readers’ lives. Maybe you discovered a neat eatery that locals would enjoy, or you had a mini-epiphany while taking your dog for a walk. Sharing value with your readers doesn’t need to be difficult, but for people to frequent your site, day after day, it needs to be present.
What kinds of things would be useful for your readers?