Written by Morgan Stone, (Texas Tech University) Student Correspondent CET Japan, Fall 2016
Whether you wind up living in an apartment with just your roommate, or a sharehouse with three other roommate-foreign student pairs, adjusting your lifestyle to fit both the new culture and your new roommate can take some getting used to. However, if you take care to pay attention to certain things and make efforts to know your roommate, it can also be extremely fun! Here are some things to think about when living with your Japanese roommate:
Especially if you are new to the language, communication at first can be a bit tricky. But whether you want the air conditioner turned off, or need help finding the ward office, the important thing is to be persistent. It can be discouraging at first if your roommate doesn’t quite understand you, or you find their Kansai-ben dialect is hard to understand, but shutting down communication is the worst thing you can do. Keep at it! All of the roommates I have met on the CET program are very kind, and not to mention good at figuring out what you need/want. If you share a room, work out early on how cleaning or storage space will work.
Also, be sure to tell them your hobbies and favorite Japanese food! Likely, they will suggest a trip or a restaurant they know, and if your birthday is during the time you’re in Japan, don’t be shy. Everyone loves getting creative for birthdays, and it’s a great break from your studies.
Being in a foreign culture takes some getting used to. Even if you’ve done a
lot of research on Japanese culture, there are still likely things that will take you by surprise, so be flexible. One of the things I was unaware of before arriving is the Japanese attitudes towards invitations. Often, if your roommate or another Japanese person invites you to do something, turning the invitation down without an excuse or not immediately suggesting another time/activity, your friend will begin to think that you don’t wish to spend time with them, and will consequently stop inviting you to things. This seems a little extreme to most Americans, so if you notice your roommate is not asking you to do things with them lately, and you may have accidentally turned them down for karaoke too many times, suggest something else to do to reassure them.
In Japan, college is actually considered the ‘golden’ four years before the work force, whereas high school was the time to be serious. So don’t be surprised if your housemates go out or invite others over a little more often than you are used to. Again, be flexible, and communicate if it becomes a problem.
Make an Effort to Spend Time Together
Arguably the most important point, nobody wants to spend a semester or
more living with someone they don’t really know. Though it may seem impossible to spend four months with someone and not know them, once classes start for you, and for your roommate in October, everyone can become very busy very fast. That said, spend time together! Especially in the beginning. Suggest the two of you take a trip to Kyoto to see an Owl café, or Nara to see the famous deer and Buddah statue. It could also be something as simple as doing homework together or asking them to teach you how to make Japanese curry. These little efforts go a long way, and living with your friend is incredibly fun.