All JET participants receive a General Information Handbook. It’s good to read it before going to Japan. It’s 300 pages, but since it’s bilingual (Japanese & English) it’s really more like 150. I hadn’t had time to read it, and decided yesterday that rather than try to read it little by little, I should just plop down with it and read it cover to cover. So I did.
There was tons of useful information. There were also some funny parts, but I didn’t make note of it, until I got to the part about culture shock. At the first orientation (the non-mandatory one), a couple of former JETS spoke about how hard culture shock could get, saying things like “you curl up on your tatami mat [the floor] and cry.” Lol, right? But here are two gems from the GIH (which, in turn, got most of it from the book Survival Kit For Overseas Living by L. Robert Kohls):
“What are the signs of culture shock?… … …-excessive amount of time spent sleeping or reading–activities which offer sanctuary from overwhelming foreign stimuli”
Okay, maybe it’s not that funny. But “overwhelming foreign stimuli” just struck me as if a bunch of foreigners were trying to overwhelm you or something. This one’s better:
“The degree to which one is affected by culture shock varies…and depends upon personality traits such as:… … 5) ability to fail.”
It would’ve been great if they’d put “ability to FAIL” ^o^
Near the end of the GIH there’s a collection of essays, mostly form JETs. There’s “The JET of African Descent,” “The JET of Asian Descent,” The JET of South Asian Descent,” “The Older JET,” “The Vegetarian JET,” “The Gay/Lesbian JET,” and a few others but…I read them all and was surprised that there wasn’t an essay for “The Hispanic JET.” I know there have been Hispanic JETs, so why don’t they get an essay? The closest thing was “The Non-Native English-Speaking JET,” which mentions Brazilians, but in general talked about people who represent multi-cultural countries like the U.S. and Canada, where there technically is no such thing as a representative type (even if everyone outside those countries thinks “American” or “Canadian” = blond, blue-eyed white person).
Just thought that was interesting.