Here are a few half-truths/half-myths about both Japan and Australia. I’m not getting into misconceptions about ‘foreigners’ here, by the way: that’s my next post.



Recycling in Japan is amazing

Depends where you are. In some places, you can recycle everything, and that goes for my old town Mizusawa in Iwate.

Where I live now, in Gifu prefecture, all household plastic other than PET bottles goes in plain old rubbish which is disposed of by burning. And believe me, there is a lot of plastic. It’s also really hard to recycle papers because they sort them into many kinds: coloured, shiny, thick cardboard, thin cardboard, cardboard that is shiny and coloured on one side, brown cardboard vs white, I don’t even know. If you want to recycle it you’re supposed to put it all in a box on a certain day of the month and hang a particular sign over the side of the box. Or you can buy a particular kind of ribbon to tie it into a bundle and take it to the local collection of metal containers outside the supermarket and put it in the appropriate one. So the only person I’ve asked about it says he just puts it all in burnables.

All Australians love rugby and Vegemite

OK, clearly, anything that starts with “All [insert nationality here]s” is a generalisation. Rugby’s not big in Melbourne, where 4 million people and I are from. And despite other beliefs, not all Melburnians care about AFL (Australian football, locally known as ‘footy’) either. Vegemite: some people just don’t care for it. Also, if you’re going to try it, don’t listen to people who want you to spread it thick. You only want a tiny bit, and make sure you have butter with it. It’s not chocolate! You have been warned.

The Japanese diet is really healthy

This one is mostly true. Traditionally, lots of fish, seaweed, fermented stuff, and they certainly do like their vegetables. There are beans in the diet, but generally in small quantities. These days, most people eat a lot of white rice and white bread (read: little to no fibre), and constipation rates here are high, especially among women – I think someone told me something like 40, 50%?  The Japanese also really like their meat, and they like it fatty – chicken breast is amongst the cheapest cuts of meat here – but they generally eat it in smaller quantities than most Australians do. Apart from lack of fibre, it is a pretty well balanced diet.

My favourite thing about the Japanese diet is their traditional breakfast, which is really just another meal and hence has fish or meat, rice, miso soup and vegetables.

“I’m going to the hospital to die.”strine

Not all Australians talk like this. It depends where you’re from. This sort of broad accent is more common in the country. I’m from the city, and probably about 5% of the people I’ve met speak like this – and most of them have grown up outside major cities.

Japan is technologically advanced

When it comes to developing new technology for cars, science, or something that will be convenient in your life, yes, Japan is an advanced country. In terms of daily life, people like their gadgets and convenient things, but nobody seems to have a dishwasher in their house. They’re old-fashioned in some ways.

Australia is full of dangerous creatures

This one is pretty true, but you don’t meet most of them. Just ask the locals when and where to go swimming, and keep your eyes open and don’t walk in long grass in the summer. And stamp, because snakes can’t hear but they’ll feel the vibration, right? And… ask someone from NSW about how to watch out for a funnel-web. I don’t know much about them.

Japan is efficient and hardworking

Image: Flickr / Hiyori13 

The thing to know here is that Japan has a particular notion of what it means to be hardworking. The meaning of ‘hardworking’ here is that you get to work early and stay until late at night: you pretty much live at work.

In Western culture, to generalise, I think the idea of ‘hardworking’ means putting in effort to get things done, where the goal is to make progress. I think we also like the idea of efficiency: doing things in such a way that you can make the most progress with the least time and effort possible. Possibly an important part of this is finding new ways to improve methods, which often requires change. To use a music analogy: don’t practise more, practise better.

We also like to have what we call a work-life balance, which I think we believe helps us to work with motivation and effort while we’re at work, because we know there’s so much to get done in a limited amount of time. So for me, the idea of putting in 80 or 90% of my possible effort for 7 or 8 hours seems reasonable. However, it seems in Japan, the time limit idea is not there, and neither is the work-life balance one: you’re at work for 12, heck, 15 hours a day, so you might start out enthusiastic, but after a while, you can’t keep that up. Work is life, or most of it. A Japanese guy told me recently about his long-service leave holiday, where he went to Singapore with his family. He got five days off work.  For him, this was a suitable reward for 10 (+?) years of his life in his company. Naturally, when I mentioned the 3 months people get in Australia, he was shocked. Lucky I didn’t mention annual leave?

If you catch the plane to the Gold Coast, you can get your friend in Sydney to come and pick you up

There’s no half about this, it’s a total myth.

Even though there aren’t many people, Australia’s pretty big.


4 thoughts on “Half-myths

  1. Enjoyed your post Cathy! Only thing is you have revealed your Melburnian bias… Rugby is quite popular in other parts of Straya like NSW, ACT and QLD.
    Also there is a Victorian funnel web as well but no-one cares because it doesn’t kill you and we don’t often see them in metropolitan areas. The Sydney one can live quite close to cities and is fairly venomous.


      • Hey, I don’t think I actually did that. Maybe you didn’t originally notice it was in there? I edited the bit about constipation to make it clear that it was just hearsay, and I checked the rugby bit and decided to leave it as it was. I lived in Brisbane for 2 years, remember?


  2. great post Cathy! So very true too! however, im not sure Japan in general is completely efficient. I was always told by other Japanese that those who are working hard are merely looking like they are working hard. That the appearance of hard work is vitally important!


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