Even if you feel anxious, Swiss people always support you. 

“Hear one, understand ten” is an idiom which shows the Japanese approach to relationships. Japanese people prefer to communicate in indirect way. This idiom means that if the speakers say something, the listeners have to understand the other “nine” without wordy explanations. Listeners have to guess from non-verbal ways like tones or faces. Researchers have claimed that Japan is one of the most high-context cultures with indirect, subtle and nuanced languages. Why do we prefer this?

The reason for this indirect  communication style is that the Japanese believe it leads to the concept of “wa”(和). “Wa” means “harmony”, put interdependence over independence. Everywhere, whether in family or social or business environment, we always value “wa”. From childhood, we learn that we should not directly give responses. “Wa” would be broken if we directly argue with someone.  To maintain “wa”, I have to read the other’s true feelings behind the words. Imagine if you hang out with your best friend. You know she has some troubles. There are two solutions to deal with. 1.Ask her like “I heard the rumor about you, is that true? Is everything Okay?” 2. Ask her like “Is there any events or happening in these days?” Which will you choose? I will choose 2. Even if I knew she has trouble, I don’t ask her directly. I guess from what she told me, read her voices and faces, and wait until she opens the mouth. Is it annoying and complicated? I sometimes feel that too. But, for me, who grew up only in Japan twenty years, it is normal. 

I arrived in Switzerland this September. For the first time in my life, I stayed in another more than two weeks. As soon as I arrived, I found out that Swiss people are friendly, gentle, and active. For example, when I didn’t know how to buy SIM card in mobile phone. The staff of Mobilezone asked me, “How can I help you? You seem like you need a SIM card and want to have a contract.” He helped me to use my phone, and even suggested some discounts for students. When I got lost in school, some students approached me and asked “Which class do you want to go?” I said “I even don’t know how to use Ilias.” They told me how to use it and showed me the way to the class. When I shopped at Denner, the staff told me “This week, this fruits and vegetables are on sale. Especially, this one is my favorite, it has a lot of vitamins and tastes good. Also the corner over there is on sale and ・・・“

If any of these situations had happened in Japan, maybe nobody would have talked to me. This is because we wait until the other person says something first. If the other person doesn’t ask or look around, this means indirectly that they don’t need our help. However, as you know, unlike the Japanese, Swiss people don’t wait, don’t imply. They just simply ask. They act before guessing the others’ feelings. I felt anxious about this culture at first. Do I look so desperate and miserable that even strangers have to offer me help? Do I look weird to them?  But now, I understand. Swiss people simply don’t wait, and actively try to help. 

Now, I am very grateful for this culture. Living in a country where everything including cultures, people, and environment, is totally different is a hard thing. But people here have always supported me. That’s why I can always go out, study, hike, and have fun with my head up high and look straight. So, I want to say, Thank you Swiss people, thank you the staff of shopping center, thank you students in vonRoll, thank you my classmates and professors, thank you my friends, and thank YOU who read this blog until the end!

Nichika Teraoka

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