「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Welcome home!

By Kip A. Cates


Despite our cultural differences, we're all human. And to be human means to feel emotions. People feel happy to be with friends. They feel sad when parting from loved ones. They feel afraid when faced with danger. And they feel angry at injustice.

Regardless of race or nationality, we all feel happiness, sadness, anger and fear. No matter what country we come from, we all feel the same emotions.

Feeling emotions is one thing. Expressing them is something else. In different cultures, people are taught to handle emotions in different ways. In some countries, they express emotions openly. In others, they hide the way they feel.

The first time I experienced this was back in 1979. I had just arrived in Japan and was working in Kobe. One day I got a letter from a Japanese friend. He'd been studying in Canada and was getting ready to return home. He knew I was interested in Japanese culture and invited me to visit his family. I was pleased to join him and looked forward to experiencing family life in Japan.

I met my friend at the airport after his long flight from Canada. Then, we took a train together to his hometown. My friend hadn't seen his family in over a year. I tried to imagine the intense emotions he was feeling.

When we got to his house, I expected to see an emotional reunion with laughter, joy and tears of happiness. I pictured my friend jumping up and down in excitement. I was certain that his mother would hug and kiss him to welcome him home. I felt lucky to witness this emotional event!

When his mother opened the door, however, everything was strangely calm. My friend said, "Tadaima" (I'm home). His mother replied, "O-kaeri nasai" (Welcome back). That was it. No hugs. No kisses. No tears. No emotion. I couldn't believe it!

Their behavior didn't make any sense. My friend had been living in a foreign country for a year. Yet they were acting like he'd been away for an hour and had just got back from the corner store. I couldn't comprehend why they didn't show any emotion. Were they robots? Didn't they care about each other?

Later, I asked my friend to explain their strange behavior. "In Japan," he said, "we don't express our emotions publicly. Becoming an adult in Japanese society means learning to control your emotions and keep them inside. For us, it seems strange the way that you Westerners express your emotions so openly. You laugh and cry in public just like little children. It's hard for us to understand!"

People from different cultures are the same inside. We're just taught to behave in different ways. One challenge of cross-cultural understanding is learning to see our common humanity behind our different customs and behavior.



The Japan Times ST: April 19, 2013

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版