Bonding with Coworkers
Aside from the occasional
The School Lunch
If you will be teaching English in Japan, you may have the option of eating at the school cafeteria. If you have strict dietary regulations, it is probably wise to bring your own lunch. Many Japanese elementary schools have adopted the slogan:
Eating a wide variety of food is the way to make a strong, healthy body.
Kids are expected to eat everything that is served and teachers, therefore, must model this behavior. Note that the phrase
He can do anything.
She can make anything.
I'll do anything!
If you feel that you cannot eat all that you are served, there are several things you can do, but it's important to limit waste. You may notice some teachers shaving off the top half of their bowls of rice back into the pot. Other teachers may be willing to accept whatever is you don't wish to eat. It is considered polite and respectful toward hardworking farmers, however, to eat every last grain of rice in your bowl. It is fine to use your
Your coworkers may comment on your use of chopsticks and wonder how or where you learned to eat with them.
Your use of chopsticks is excellent.
Do you use chopsticks in the States, too?
Who taught you how to use chopsticks?
Responses to these questions will vary depending on your experience with using chopsticks prior to coming to Japan.
We sometimes use chopsticks at my house.
I use chopsticks at Chinese restaurants or other Asian restaurants.
If someone approaches you with hands in prayer position and says,
Scheduled Meeting Times
Meetings are an important aspect of Japanese work life. Whether you are team teaching or involved in a committee, organizing a club or helping with a project,
When are you able to have a meeting, Brian?
Please observe that the meeting for the second semester is next Monday.
Your coworkers probably do not speak much English so these meetings may involve the use of dictionaries, gestures, and, above all, laughter. Try to be aware of the group dynamics and follow suit. Some teachers enjoy team-teaching lessons, while others prefer to let you handle the activities. Pushing your own ideas relentlessly onto other people is not effective in any country, but will be especially ill-received in Japan.
Breaks are another chance to get to know your coworkers a little better. Making yourself available during these times provides other people opportunities to interact with you. A few may be interested in practicing their English, while others will be curious about your life in your home country and how it compares to life in Japan. You may find yourself responding to the same questions over and over again.
Which is colder, the U.S. or Japan?
How do you like Japanese food?
Why did you come to Japan?
It is not uncommon for teachers to smoke in either the teachers' room near the exhaust fan or in the lounge. Most buildings also have a smoking area indoors. Rather than protesting directly, coughing or asking if you can close the door is considered a polite way to let people know you do not want them smoking around you.