For my CIP, I joined Klexon, an English second language learning group as a volunteer. I’ll admit that things went about as I expected at first — non-native English speakers were very nervous to start talking, but were interested in knowing why I came to Japan. As the weeks rolled by, we moved on from basic self introduction topics, and I got to know some of the people rather well. Some of the things that I hadn’t really realized before coming to Japan were some of the simplest daily tasks. A lot of the people I talked to mentioned going to the grocery store on an almost daily basis (whereas I typically would go once a week). Also karaoke boxes are super popular, but that seems to be the only place people will really cut loose to sing. I’ve gotten a few strange looks for mentioning how my friends and I will burst into song while walking down the street. One of my Japanese friends said that it was more of an issue with being embarrassed than being polite.
Aside from being a little surprised at some of the more reserved attitudes and lifestyles people adhered to, some things felt very much the same. As always, the easiest thing to talk about is food, and no matter who it is or where they’re from, they have something to say about food. On top of that, outside of Klexon’s usual meetings, I’ve come to realize that all kinds of people are capable of drinking a little too much, and either way the sober people feel a little bit responsible for them. Fortunately, the people I was with, no matter how inebriated, were always pleasantly polite and considerate. Either way, I’m glad I got to talk to people in different environments and settings and learn about the differences and similarities we all carry.