646 Life in America

Keiko talks about life in The States, being in high school, and learning English.

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Todd: Now, Keiko, you said you lived in America.

Keiko: Yeah.

Todd: How long did you live in America for?

Keiko: I lived there for five years.

Todd: Five. That's a long time. What was it like when you came back to Japan?

Keiko: It was quite difficult because I look Japanese and obviously I am Japanese but I act a little bit different from other people and the way I wanted to mingle with my friends was a bit different from how the Japanese people mingle with their friends, for example there's no hugs between friends. Those little things in daily life kind of shocked me a little bit.

Keiko: Or, even in university, I've heard about this before, but in universities, you know people go to bathroom together, you know they always think about in a group, OK, what should we do, should we eat lunch, should we go to the bathroom, should we, you know, do this after school. It's kind of always in a group.

Todd: That's in Japan or in the U.S.?

Keiko: In Japan. (In Japan) Yeah, is what I felt.

Todd: Wow, so it was hard because everybody was always together all the time, like you couldn't be an individual, or?

Keiko: It was hard because I think in The States you are expected to have your own opinions where as in Japan it's important to have harmony with other people and so you don't usually say, "OK, this is what I want to do? Do you guys want to come with me or not?" It doesn't work like that. You say, "OK, what do you want to do? You ask other people first and people ask each other, "OK, what do you want?" You sort of, they come up with one thing that we want to do which takes about maybe fifteen minutes or twenty minutes just to do one thing and I'm not criticizing but it was just kind of a different culture coming back.

Keiko: And then, now I've kind of got used to that culture now and I think it's kind of one of the good things about Japanese cultures and Japanese people because they really do respect the other people's opinions, even with friends, they don't take each other for granted so I'm getting used to it, but when I just came back it was just little things.

Todd: Right. Did you find that you had to change? Like, how did you have to change when you came back? Were you still yourself or did you have to adjust and how so?

Keiko: I tried not to say so much about, 'OK this is what I want to do?' or I tried not to stand out so much in the way, but after awhile I just thought, OK, when you try to be somebody you can't because that's who you are and there are a lot of friends in university, they ask me, "Do you think you're Japanese or do you think you're American?" because they felt that I'm quite different.

Todd: Sure.

Keiko: And I used to say, "Well, I'm Japanese but I grew up in the States and I used to explain that but then at the end, I thought, OK, well, I can't be Japanese and I can't be American. I'm just myself, so that is a kind of attitude that I took I think from, yeah, in the later years in university and I just try not to really change or try to adapt.

Learn Vocabulary from the lesson


They noticed that the way I wanted to mingle with my friends was a bit different.

Here, 'mingle' refers to the way you interact socially with people, including the how you speak to them and how you greet them. Notice the following:

  1. It's easy to lose her at parties, because she mingles with everyone.
  2. It was nice to talk to you. I'm going to go mingle a little.


I'm not criticizing but it was just kind of a different culture that I saw when I came back.

When you 'criticize' something, you talk about the faults or problems with it. Notice the following:

  1. Does it make you feel bad that your boss is always criticizing what you do?
  2. She spends a lot of time criticizing other people, but doesn't see that she doesn't do everything perfectly either.

respect other people's opinions

The Japanese respect the other people's opinions and don't take friends for granted.

You 'respect other people's opinions' when you really listen to what they have to say and think about it. You don't just think of your opinion as the only way to do something. Notice the following:

  1. Nobody likes him, because he doesn't respect other people's opinions.
  2. One of the most important things about this group is learning to respect other people's opinions.


Now, I try not to really change or adapt and just be myself.

You 'adapt' to a situation when you change in a way so that a situation works better for you or you are more comfortable. Notice the following:

  1. It took him some time to adapt to his new position at work.
  2. When you move you a new country, you will probably spend the first few months adapting to the culture there.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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Vocabulary Challenge

Complete the sentences with the words below.
mingling • criticizes• respects other
  1. The way she her husband makes me so uncomfortable.
  2. When you go to another country, people aren't going to start doing things your way. You will have to .
  3. He is very intelligent, but he still people's opinions.
  4. She spends most of her time at work with important people.