kolff: de colve: de colve xiv: article: 2: 1


Article taken from De Colve XIV - 2009: Japan (1/3)

Welcome: News Association Members De Colve Genealogy History Biographies Contact Links Search Dutch
      Intro Contents of De Colve Remarks Contribute    
< Intro Colve XIV Japan, the second time round, by Barbara Kolff van Oosterwijk (CCA XVIIIx1) Next >
Barbara, her husband Jeroen, and their children Eline and Rens, have been living in Asia for the last five years (Ed.: 2009). They recently moved from Hong Kong to Japan.
Barbara, Jeroen and their children 19th August 2008, a hot, dark day with average high temperatures close to 30 degrees C and enough humidity in the air to make the clothes stick to your back, marks our arrival back in Japan after a 10-year ‘break’ in Holland and Hong Kong. We had not intended to come back so soon, at least not until well into retirement when we would make a leisurely trip down memory lane, but here we are again ready to rediscover the Land of the Rising Sun. This time our starting point could not be more different; these past 10 years have morphed us from DINK Tokyoites into Yokohama Suburbanites. Now we go out on our trips with Eline and Rens who fortunately generally appear to be just as keen to discover Japan as we are. Here I must add that trips are carefully planned to avoid an overkill of any one ‘boring’ aspect – don’t expect to see 3 temples or shrines on one day in Kyoto; cater a visit to the handicraft centre where you end up painting Japanese New Year’s Bells for the afternoon! Trips are one thing however; living and working in a country such as Japan is really quite another voyage of discovery.

One of the first things you notice about Japan – apart from it being absurdly expensive for certain things ranging from long distance train travel to brown bread with a crust – is that you really do need to speak some Japanese.

The Japanese generally speak very poor English so if you can string more than 3 Japanese words together their relief is so palpable they often use honorifics, which does not help you much in deciphering what they are saying. I invariably hear “Nihon-go wa jozu desu ne!” which means “Whooh! You speak great Japanese!”, for the mere fact that I can tell the taxi driver how to get to my house or order lunch. Naturally my self-esteem has on occasion soared to unknown levels with these types of daily comments, but at other times when outside the realms of taxis, restaurants and shops, frustration levels have also dropped to new lows. So I continue to persevere with my “Nihon-go” from 10 years ago with weekly lessons and the incentive of taking an official state exam in December 2009 to actually progress from taxis and shops to more elevated topics. At his work as General Manager of the Lighting division with Philips, Jeroen can also ‘wing it’ with his basic Japanese as most colleagues speak English and when meeting clients an interpreter is used. The children are in fact not learning any Japanese at their international school as their Japanese lessons have been substituted for Dutch lessons, which we felt would probably be more useful for them in the long run. Needless to say they now think I am fluent in Japanese; I just wonder how long the illusion will last…