A Japanese in Romania:
Two Different Cultures, One Experience
Japan and Romania: an Asian civilization and a European one. It seems unlikely that the difference gap between these countries can be bridged. But a volunteering experience has shown the contrary.
Kazuki Shimada decided to join the Projects Abroad journalism project in Romania in order to experience another culture. But in a country like Romania, confronted with serious economic and management issues, this seems to be an adventure rather than an experience. ”I wanted to look at the present situation in Romania. Because before I came here, I only had bad information about it. For example, A Japanese girl was killed in Bucharest last year, there are many orphans living inside manholes who are begging on the streets, homeless people and so on. There are homeless people in Japan too, but I have never met children begging on the streets. Many homeless children exist all over the world, and I definitely know Romania is not an exception. I dislike rumours and prejudice. So I thought if I join this project, I can make sure about it. This was my reason for coming here.”
Before he came to Brasov, Kazuki was prepared for inconveniences, but his anxiety proved to be unnecessary. ”Life in Brasov is a lot easier than I imagined. Romania's climate is like the Japanese weather, so Romania is a comfortable country to me.” But when it came to differences, the food culture was the first noticed by Kazuki. Japan is a land of rice, while Romania’s main food is wheat or corn. Also, it is known that the foundation of Japan`s cuisine is seafood. That`s why he was mystified that the Romanian cuisine has a lot of meat dishes, but very little fish. ”When I went to the supermarket, I was surprised to see at the counter that meat occupies a big space while fish space is way smaller. When I looked at many kinds of processed meat, I thought: <>. Also, the cheese counter is wider than in Japan”.
An unforgettable experience was Easter. For Kazuki, a man without religion, the mere sight of an old man making the sign of the cross many times in church was something impressive. Even though he wasn`t able to understand the prayers, Kazuki was exalted by the man`s actions. ”After I left church, I experienced the custom of the Easter eggs. Before that, I had heard about Easter in other countries from other volunteers. It's very interesting, because there are many differences in celebrating Easter in the world. It was the first Easter for me. It was an exciting event for me the knocking of the eggs. By the way, my egg broke first“.
As to Brasov`s hospitality, Kazuki found that Romanian people are open-minded and kind to foreigners. ”When I got lost, I asked the bus driver for directions. He not only guided me, but also gave me a lift in his bus for free. And then when I searched for the bus to go to other village, a woman who could talk Japanese spoke to me. She didn't mind about spending time with me, and asking the bus driver direction for me. Or, another day I admired a woman's behaviour who helped an older woman getting off the bus”.
As part of a journalism project, Kazuki`s job was to interview other people. He said: “At first, I thought that I must not ask too much, because some people dislike speaking about themselves But I started interviewing, and they people seemed to really want to talk about themselves”.
The volunteering team from Projects Abroad is formed of youn people coming from countries all over the world. Therefore, living day by day with persons of so many nations must be a challenge as well. The best way for Kazuki to become acquainted with them was speaking as much as possible. ”My English isn't good, so I sometime can't understand what is said. But I talk and answer whenever I have the chance to do it.”
After all the time spent in Brasov, Kazuki`s ideas about Romania have thoroughly changed. “Before I came here, I had bad information. But I am convinced now that this is a fascinating place. I want to know more about Romania and to discover as much as possible. I had the chance to have a good experience, see a very interesting culture and the beautiful views here. So I want many Japanese to come and know Romania.”
Kazuki Shimada`s experience in Romania shows that more than studying about other civilizations, the chance to actually experience another culture directly allows us to learn about ourselves. It forces us to pay attention to those details of life which differentiate as from others. As Carlos Fuentes stated: “Culture consists of connections, not of separations.”