May 13, 2005

An Englishman In A Foreign Land Called Britain

For sometime, I have wanted to write about my experiences moving back to Britain from the Far East. Unfortunately, there have been all kinds of incidents that have pulled away my attentions from this site. To put it bluntly, 2005 has not been a good year for me, so far. Life has a tendency of fluctuating from the great to the downright rotten. The more I am aware of this flux, the more I am convinced that there is a force called Karma.

I am in no hurry to repeat the rushed packing that I went through during the last two weeks in Tokyo. It was absolute mayhem. I never imagined or wanted to leave Tokyo in such an unceremonial fashion. It seemed such an anticlimax to a wonderful period of my life. There was no time for farewell parties, and many of my dear friends still have no idea that I left.

If I am honest though, leaving felt like a good chance for a new start. I felt like I was stagnating, because I could not find a constant ready supply of work in the industry I wish to be in. The idea of returning to Britain was never appealing, but I thought that it would perhaps reawaken me from the comfortable, but non-progressive dream I was living in Tokyo.

On returning back to Britain, I was suddenly overcome by reverse culture shock. It is strange, but when I arrived in Japan for the first time, I did not even get a wink of discomfort. In fact, I was rather disappointed at how easy it was to settle in Japan.

There are several aspects that caused me the shock I felt on returning home. The incessant chatter that goes on all around me has been particularly startling. I missed "small talk" in Japan, and noted how this was not a custom for the Japanese. However, I was not prepared for the endless stream of words that burst forth from the lips of shop assistants, when purchasing something so mundane as a Crunchie.

Perhaps, the most disturbing item to purchase is a lottery ticket, because I find myself having exactly the same conversation with every shop assistant that has served me. It is almost like a mantra, as I find myself boringly say, 'Yep, I'm going to win today.' And every time I think, 'I bet she's not heard that one before.' Sometimes, silence is a far more golden.

If there is one thing that the Japanese do better, that is dressing well. I had forgotten how terribly dressed the British are. On top of the fashion crisis that is prevalent here, the introduction of American-sized food portions has done little to improve things. Obesity is becoming a growing concern in Britain. The results of this trend are all too apparent.

When I went to a cinema recently, I ordered regular size popcorn. I thought that I would be served a normal, old-fashion cup, but was instead given a bucket that could quite easily have fed an entire school of kids for a month and a half. One elderly lady was absolutely stunned by the size of the popcorn beast I held embarrassingly under my arm. Conveniently, but entirely by accident, I spilt half the popcorn, as I got up from my seat in the waiting corridor. It made a horrific scene of white-yellow flecks all over the floor and seat. I felt very sorry for the poor cinema worker who had to clean up, but a warm tingle of relief dominated my emotions, in knowing that I had escaped from having to consume it all!

Since being back, most of my time, inevitably, has been spent applying for employment. Rather naively, I had assumed that headhunters, recruitment agents and employers would throw me a street parade, in very much the same vain as Neil Armstrong's, when he returned from the moon. In mistaken flights of fancy, I visualised employers tripping over themselves trying to get me into their businesses. In fact, it seems that it will take time and perseverance to achieve the results I want.

It has been great to see my family and friends again. I wish that I could be more upbeat for them. Unfortunately, I miss my exotic life in Tokyo. I feel like I have lost a lot. It was not perfect by any means, but I had an excellent lifestyle and social life. I feel like I have stepped back in time to a period of my life before university. Recent events, such as the death of my dear friend, have done little to relieve the general frustration I have. Anyway, if things do not work out in Britain over the coming year, I can always go back to Tokyo, or to some new pastures away from these shores.

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