When the Usual ‘Normal’ Isn’t How It’s Done

Something I noticed while travelling in Japan is how much I am a creature of habit, doing commonplace things on auto-pilot much of the time. In an environment where my normal way of doing things doesn’t work as I expect it to, I am surprised by how long it takes to adapt. Sometimes I don’t. Some things I never adjusted to while travelling in Japan.

  1. Opening hotel room doors into hallways, not into rooms. When entering I never stopped trying to push the door after unlocking it or pull the door when trying to leave the room.
  2. Deciding which side of the sidewalk or escalator to use. It doesn’t help that it changes city to city. But there is a current. Inevitably, like a spawning salmon I swam against it.Escalator Tokyo SkyTree
  3. Thinking that stopped escalators are broken. Not so. If no one is on them they are saving power. They start up when you step on them. Something I discovered midway into hauling my suitcase up a long flight of stairs.
  4. Getting a three-ounce cup of coffee in a paper cup from the automatic dispensing machine as part of the free breakfast included in the hotel. My usual and quite modest habit of two cups of Canadian-sized coffee looked very greedy. I had to choose between going to the coffee machine five times in five minutes or taking two cups at a time, going back twice but shorting myself three ounces. (On the road, every one of those ounces counts.) One morning I tried two shots into one cup. It looked as if it should fit but didn’t. As the cup ran over, the gentleman next in line sneered (when I turned to take a napkin to mop up I caught him) and snorted. Polishing his omotenashi spirit for the 2020 Olympics, I guess. Whatever I tried, I couldn’t escape drawing attention as I was often the only blonde in the room and doing what no one else was doing. I can’t tell you how grateful I was the morning I came down to find a group of Aussies tucking into their breakfast. As long as I didn’t speak I could blend in.

You have to laugh—or at least I do. Often the way to best cope with anything is to turn it into a have-a-laugh-at-my-expense story.

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