Why You Hate Japan Which You Thought You Would Like It? – the Cultural Adjustment Process

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Tadaimaaaaaa~~~ (I’m back to Japan!) Anyone is happy to know I’m back? lol

I was on vacation in Malaysia for the whole February. The vacation taught me many things which I will share it with you in my next post. 😉 Stay Tuned with Naruhodo ya!


Back to the topic, I suppose many students who study abroad in Japan have experienced this. “Damn! I hate Japan! This is not the Japan I imagined before I came here!”

Sounds familiar? Yes, you have thought the same thing right?

I have seen my friends decided to go back to Malaysia after 1 year study in Japan, just because 1 reason – they turned out to hate Japan. Why? Is Japan not the Anime Kingdom you had been dreaming of?  Is Japan not the Fashion heaven you had been pursuing for?

So why do you turn out to hate Japan after 1 year study?

In this article, I want to tell every one of you, who has / is / going to study abroad, the psychology behind this phenomenon – It is just a normal part of the Cultural Adjustment process.


Why You Hate Japan? The Cultural Adjustment Process

Have you heard of this term called  “the Cultural Adjustment Process”?

Living in a foreign country, regardless of what country you are from, it is common for all international students to experience a period of Cultural Adjustment. To put it short, the process you adjust yourself to accustom to a certain culture.

Here are the 4 stages of the Cultural Adjustment Process. Everyone will experience the process  I’m sure you are in either one if you are studying abroad. Spot your stage and be prepared for the culture shocks. 🙂


4 Stages of the Cultural Adjustment Process

The Process of Culture Shock and Cultural Adjustment

The length of the process varies from person to person. Some people take 1 year to overcome 1 stage, some take few years.

1) The Honey Moon

This is the stage that occurs when you first arrive and everything is exciting and new. You may have a heightened sense of enthusiasm. You might focus on the similarities between your home and host countries.

This is exactly what will happen to people who have loved Japanese culture from their home country. Anime, Samurai, Fashion, J-pop, etc. You feel excited to meet the country you had been dreaming of.

Everything seems strange and exotic, and you feel moved by your encounter with a new world. At this stage, you are nervous, excited, and possessed of a strong curiosity.


2) Culture Shock

Culture Shock occurs when you realize that you are in a different environment than what you are accustomed to.  You start reacting to the difficulty of communicating with people in the new culture.

What you think of as common sense does not seem to apply, and you don’t understand how to cope with certain situations. You are a grown person in your country, but here you feel like a little child. Your identity is shaken. The shortcomings of the new culture weigh on your mind.

For instance, the annoying procedures for everything in Japan, the hierarchical society, the male-emphasis society, etc.


3) Cultural Adjustment

You are beginning to adjust to the language and culture and realize that things are not as bad as you thought when you were coping with culture shock.

You lean by trial-and-error and by reflecting on various experiences. You begin to find your own place and to understand how you can exist here. This stage is a time of displacement, a kind of journey to find out who you are.


4) Adaptation

You begin to reconcile who you are within the local culture, and to recognize changes in yourself.

You have gained some objectivity and are able to enjoy yourself. You find life worth living. You become able to see differences in a positive light and to act in a way that is true to yourself.


Culture Shock is the Hardest to Cope With

Why You Hate Japan Which You Thought You Would Like It? - the Cultural Adjustment Process

Many people who left the country after a short period of studying in Japan, largely because they could not cope with the culture shock stage.

If you ask them why you come back, their answers are likely to be “You know…Japan is not as good as you thought.”

However, by understanding the process of the Cultural Adjustment, we will all be prepared for the culture shocks and be able to overcome it. 🙂 Are you now at the stage of culture shock? or have you overcome it just like me?


Coping with Culture Shock

If understanding the Cultural Adjustment still does not help you feel comfortable with the culture shocks, try the following:

  • Find ways to relieve stress.
  • Do something that reminds you of home.
  • Talk and share your intercultural experience with someone.
  • Visit the office and talk
  • Connect with family and friends back home.
  • Get some exercises, Stay active.
  • Get involved in intercultural activities.
  • Take a vacation back to your home country. You will get to recognize the differences of the two countries and realize the good side of the culture shock.


Shen’s Experience of Cultural Adjustment

Everyone experiences different length of the Cultural Adjustment Process.

In my case, I am now at the 4th stage, where I find my own identity in the local culture, recognize the differences and similarities between the two countries in a positive way, and find life is worth living here. 🙂

Looking back at my Cultural Adjustment history, it should be like this:

  • The Honey Moon (6 months, Tokyo)
  • Culture Shocks ( 2.5 years, Tokyo, Oita)
  • Cultural Adjustment (6 months, Kyoto)
  • Adaptation (6 months, Kyoto)


It took me 2.5 years to overcome the culture shocks!!! Now you can imagine how bad I hated Japan. :p

Since I started making videos about Japan on Youtube, the cultural adjustment process worked faster than before. I began to adapt the local cultures and see it positively. Maybe you can already realize some “Adaptation insight” in my videos. :p


Today’s Naruhodo!

Many people give up studying abroad when they experienced culture shocks in a new environment. They thought the host country was just not their cup of tea.

However, we all need to understand that is just a part of the Cultural Adjustment process. By understanding how it works, we can cope with it and become able to adapt the new cultures.

Now you can tell which stage yourself or your friend is at, and find a way to deal with it. Remember, no culture is bad. Just we need to adjust ourselves to understand it. 😀

Love this? Share with your friends now! (How bad I want everybody to know this! lol) 

Shen Lim
A Chinese Malaysian, Blogger, Vlogger on YouTube, Tour Guide in Japan. He believes 1 day his videos can bring Japan and Malaysia together. マレーシア華人、ブロガー、YouTubeクリエイター、日本にいるツアーガイドです。いつか自分の動画は日本とマレーシアを繋げる架け橋になると信じています。 Read more ABOUT him.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. mi-chan

    Hi Shen. Thanks for sharing knowledge regarding cross-cultural adaptation. I’d like to know the details of culture shocks that you had experienced in Japan, especially the sexism culture as I’m female. It would be helpful if you write an article about it! 🙂

  2. shin

    hello, I’m a 留学生 from Singapore and studying in Osaka.
    I think I’m also experiencing culture shock in Japan but i’m slowing accepting their culture and adapting to it.
    However, I still have trouble understanding my Japanese friends, and i feel like it’s hard to get close to them. (it’s easier with other foreign students though) Do you feel the same?

    1. Shen Lim
      Shen Lim

      I’m glad you are experiencing the culture shock stage. ^^ 1 advice from my experience, if you want your Japan study experience to be fruitful (that you won’t be said by ur friends or family that u are wasting time and money), spend more times in Japan to experience more culture shocks.

      The more you feel culture shocks, the faster you will get used to them. Then you will start accepting and comparing with your own cultures. That’s the Cultural Adjustment stage. ^^

      The reason that you are feeling uncomfortable with them is because – “you try to adjust yourself to be a Japanese”. When you try hard to be one of them, you will feel “why don’t they try to be my cultures?”, “is my culture that bad?”, then you feel cognitive dissonance (imbalance), because we all have a certain pride for our own cultures.

      So my advice is, “don’t try to be a native Japanese, you are a Singaporean. Try to understand them, but at the same time also teach them how Singaporean’s way of communication is.”

      Myself, I am at the 4th stage. When I don’t like some part, I will try to mix my Malaysian culture to cope with it. That will make me special. Japanese will feel interesting to talk with me because “I speak Japanese, but in a Malaysian way.”

      Once I became special to them, they will also feel curious about me, and try to understand me. At this point of time, we are communicating in an equal stance. I respect their cultures, they respect mine. This is the ideal cross-cultural exchange stage I think. ^^

      Good luck to your Japan life!

  3. shin

    Thanks for your advices.
    What you said make sense..
    the thing is.. i feel that to them, i’m just a foreign student.
    I feel that being different can also make them feel that i wouldn’t understand them and so they would rather not open up to me..
    i also feel that they don’t have trust in one another and they talk behind each other’s back. It makes me feel like i can’t trust them too, as you know Japanese people always show 建前
    but i know because i am a foreigner that they treat me differently, so i cannot tell if they are actually sincere or not.. even though I want to believe that they are..
    Well, maybe i’m trying too hard to become close to them.

    1. Shen Lim
      Shen Lim

      I believe as long as we do good things to others, people will be sincere to us. 🙂 Even though it is just 建前, it’s okay. A 建前 is still better than a fight right?

      If we think everybody might be doing a Tatemae, then we will be paranoid. If something bad happened, don’t blame ppl. Blame ourselves. Because we are the one who started to doubt about others.

      If we behave ourselves, there is nothing bad to be talked behind. So i think instead of wondering if ppl are sincere to us, why not we make sure ourselves to be sincere to others ^^

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