Let’s Get Cultural

This is going to be a quick one, but I thought this little story was an interesting little cultural lesson!

Today, the dialogue the 2nd graders were learning in class was about homestays. At some point we took a little break from the book, and the teacher told the kids of his homestay experience in California. He said that his host parents didn’t drink, especially not on weekdays. I know, you’re thinking, “So…am I supposed to think that’s weird.” Well, you shouldn’t, and the only reason I wasn’t completely confused when the students let out a collective “へええぇぇ” (somewhat like an English “Whaaaaaat?!”), is that I’ve been confronted with this strange cultural difference before.

At my first 宴会 (enkai-or party you have with coworkers, usually), the teachers all asked me if I drink. Uh, yea. I drink. “Do you drink alone, like after work?” Um, no. Do you? I mean, if I’m having dinner or purposely go out with people to kick back, yea, but not usually alone in my apartment just because. Everyone thought that was super weird. In America, that’s called alcoholism. Here, totally normal.

Later, the teacher from before who went to California came over and told everyone in great detail about how some Americans don’t drink at all because of religious reasons or personal choice (or because they used to be alcoholics) and everyone’s mind was blown. I tried to explain why some people don’t drink, but it was way over their heads.

Not all Japanese people are like this, I’m sure. I think I just teach at a school full of sauce monsters (so glad I could fit that term into a post!). I’ve seen people not drink at parties before, but their excuse is always “I’m driving.” Because you can’t legally drive in Japan with ANY alcohol in your system, a good amount of people don’t drink when they go out. You can get a taxi or a 代行 (daikou-a special service that takes you AND your car home!), but if you live far away or whatever (or you secretly don’t drink), you just get oolong tea or Coke instead!

What do you think about that? I think in America, drinking has a bit of a stigma surrounding it, especially for certain groups of people. It’s more of a social pass-time, and when you do drink alone and in access, it means you have a problem. In Japan, it seems as though drinking alcohol is like drinking water. Only water doesn’t make you pass out cold in the street.

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Get Cultural

  1. That’s so cool, I’m glad Japanese people aren’t so alcoholism-phobic. I’m definitely with them on this one, I don’t see any problem with drinking daily or alone as long as you can handle your shit and it doesn’t cause any problems. Not only is it not bad for your health, there are actually positive benefits from moderate daily consumption, like reduced risk of heart disease (#1 killer in America). People who drink regularly live longer.

    • I actually agree. I might post a follow up to this to discuss drinking culture, because it’s really interesting from a Western prospective. Alcohol drives some pretty “non-Japanese” conversations and situations. Plus, life expectancy here is pretty high, so it must be working.

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