Living overseas, one gets use to the environment. Also one realizes what one is missing out on once leaving the nest.
I must admit Japan is one of the easiest and most efficient place to live in the world. Easy since I already speak the language and the public transportation system is one of the best in the world (invention of Shinkansen aka Bullet Trains…need I say more?). Think the Germans are one of the few that can match the efficiency…let me not even get started on the Italians as KGB sourly grimaces every time he has to think about getting anything done there…also a good friend of mine can attest with her time there that Japan “sh*t just works” where as Italy you kind of fear for the people and their leisure mentality because obviously the world is more concerned than they are.
Besides trying to find some Middle Eastern food (which sadly is not so common besides the occasional sketchy Kebab shop), everything is readily available in abundance and without much effort.
A few things I miss dearly :
- Convenience Stores (eg. 7-11)
- Time Efficiency
- Transportation System
- Fresh Fish
Convenience Stores :
I know, I know 7-11…they have those around the world, but the one in Japan takes it to a whole new level. The cleanliness for one is a major step up from the sketchy rep they have. Besides a occassional Slushy no one really enters 7-11…certainly not for their cuisine. Surprisingly in Japan the ready-made food in convenience stores are becoming somewhat of an art form.
Now I don’t know about you…I don’t think you’ll see these laying around in your corner shop anywhere but Japan! This also goes for their Bento boxes and Onigiri (rice balls) which is casually sold in the prepared foods section.
Rice isn’t your thing?
No problem! You can get pasta, fried noodles, salads, simple sandwiches…what have you not. They also have seasonal offerings like fresh hot Bao (Chinese steamed bread with stuffing) or Oden (fish cakes and veggies in broth) as well by the register so that’s not to be missed. All that for a reasonable price (meaning less than £10 for the whole meal). I know KGB is a huge fan of the onigiri and whenever we spot a convenience store he perks up and asks if we should get a snack. Honestly it’s that simple…yet so non-existent anywhere else…this is one thing I think would do well anywhere in the world.
Also every person has their favorite convenience store (Lawson, 7-11, Mini-Stop,Family Mart, etc.) that some friendships are found and broken…
If you’re interested there is a website ranking the top purchases of the week!…here.
2. Time Efficiency
Or timeliness…which seems to be nonexistent in a LOT of countries I’ve lived in has a very loose definition of arriving on time. The worst is when given a time frame (of say 2 hours) and not even showing up! They just love wasting our time. Handyman especially seem to just conveniently “forget” their work order.
In a China based country (HK, SG inclusive) you would be lucky if they arrive within the time frame…usually they give you a time frame of about 2-6 hours…SERIOUSLY!!! Who has 6 hours to carve out of your day? That is more than HALF of your free time per day. Ok that’s less than half of the day, but out of the day time where you can go out and get stuff done its about half…I hope I’m not being too dramatic but you get the drift.
Now since moving to London I’ve experienced the 2-6 hour time frame…but usually they give you a 2 hour time slot. Which seems to be a very good amount of time but…more often than not they don’t even arrive within the time slot. Now those who do give me a longer time frame (say 3-6 hours) they do arrive mostly on time. The tricky handyman who gives me a 2 hour time slot always never shows up and lets us know after the time has passed they have to reshcedule…coincidence?
Overall I find it very annoying….something I never had to deal with in Japan. When you schedule a time slot in Japan they usually arrive on time. Heck some arrive 10 min early and call us if it’s OK that they come in earlier. The politeness of the handyman never ceases to amaze me…I mean it’s so nice to have a polite conversation without being irritable before they arrive. The anxiousness of having ones time wasted does put one in a very bad mood.
I really miss things being on time…and also time efficiency of government processing. I know the Italians are infamous for having things take a while to process. This is proven by KGB and my friend in Milan. But UK one is the one I am dealing with here…and really not knowing if something is being processed or is finished processing…is very very frustrating. There is no way to check to see if it’s being processed or rejected is just stressful. They really have to give people the power to check on the application…the time frame of 2-6 months to be processed is vague. At this point I am willing to settle for a note that let me know it is being looked at…or worst case rejected…doesn’t help that the postal service here is so unreliable…as post does go missing…never happens in Japan. Oh ok I think it’s a European thing since all the Asian countries I’ve lived in had things processed in a timely manner…Sorry Europe Asia has you beat.
3. Transportation System
Needs no introduction…I miss the efficient transportation system and also which country has the train staff apologies when the train is running late for unforeseen circumstances? Over here with the strikes…you have no idea when or how you can get somewhere…really striking on a weekday?! Never happens in Asia…eve if some parts aren’t working they do give another way to get somewhere with the fee paid…how nice is that?!
4. Fresh Fish
I guess this is one of those things you have to get along with when one moves to a meat heavy country. I just miss going to the grocery store and having a selection of fresh sashimi in packs displayed beautifully in the seafood section. I grew up eating fish so this is probably one thing a lot of people won’t agree with but I miss it dearly. It shouldn’t be this hard to find a fishmonger for fresh sashimi. However, there are benefits…coming to a farming country meant there is a lot of meat relatively cheaper than what I used to…was shocking to see a cow tongue on sale for £6.99 at the butcher when it was ¥1000+ for a small platter for few slices so I guess you take what you can…
Japan makes it so easy to live that sometimes you forget how the rest of the world lives…it’s a struggle but c’est la vie…it made me appreciate some things better when I go back!
So what do you miss when moving overseas?