Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Using The Bus

I find it ironic that by going to Japan I have learnt more about American culture than anything else. I guess it makes sense because before I had no basis of comparision and now I meet daily, hourly with people from other countries and the things that grate from my culture are more apparent.
My initial strategy for getting around and meeting people has been to just follow people who look like they know where they are going. That is how I found myself on the bus for the first time. I followed two people who I met earlier on their quests to find various things. One of them needed to go to the bank to get some money changed.
I followed them on the bus to hirakata city. Now, the bus is no big deal; when I need to I can take it to the station and it saves me time. It is a long walk from the seminar house. But I digress.
So, I get on the bus without knowing how to pay or anything. I found it interesting watching the bus work. I had not used public transportation much back in the states. partly because I had a car and partly because where I live it is not very effective.
People got on the bus at the back and got off through the front of the bus. The only buses I had been on in the USA had only one exit, so that was different.
When the bus arrived at the station I needed to pay, but I did not have exact change. Having never taken the bus before, I didn't know what to do and I was not able to communicate this beyond having a terrible look on my face. The driver pointed at a coin slot and I put my 500yen coin in, got my change and started out. I thouught that I had done all that was needed. But, the driver grabbed my hand and picked the correct change out of it. It was then that I understood that the money changer just produced change. I felt very embarrassed and was unable to communicate how I felt.
My friends were waiting outside and when I saw them and explained what had happened they said that I should have asked them.
The next day during the orientation meeting, the use of the bus was explained. I had a sly grin on my face, becuase I had gone through the problems he described.
Now, looking back it was funny, but at the time I was really confused. It happened on the fourth day I had spent in Japan. I would like to think that I have become more sophisticated in my interactions since then.


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