Japan as the Netherlands see it

Hi, I’m Evelien, 24 years old, and from Holland, the country of tulips and windmills. I came to Fukuoka for a research project at Kyushu University and will be staying here for another 5 months, so enough time to explore this beautiful city.

I will also be working part-time at Bulanco. As many people asked me how I find Japan compared to my home country and the rest of Europe, I’ll tell you a bit about my first impressions here.

Hakata at night

Hakata at night

First of all, what immediately struck me is how incredibly clean it is here. Especially with so few trash bins around! Please tell me, where do you leave your trash? It still puzzles me. Also, everything is very neat. Even in the 100 yen store everything looks impeccable.

Takoyaki party!

Takoyaki party!

But the biggest difference I found is the culture and the way people interact here with each other. Everyone is so polite! While Holland as a very individualistic culture, where personal freedom is highly valued, here in Fukuoka the emphasis seems to be much more on the community. People for example wear facemasks when sick, as to not infect others, and would never sneak in front of a line like some Dutch people would. Also, one person’s problem quickly becomes the whole community’s problem, and I’ve experienced how friendly and helpful people here can be when you’re struggling with something.

But apart from being really friendly and helpful I’ve noticed it can also lead to people being indirect, as they don’t dare to say things straight up. And believe me, if there’s one trait that characterises the Dutch it’s being direct. So the Japanese culture is in this respect hugely different, and it’s something I still need to get used to.

Colorfull vending machine

Colorfull vending machine

I think it can also be seen in design, as everything is very cute or “kawaii”, as it’s known here. I really like the colourfulness and playfulness of the design here, with all the drawings and pictures.

Kawaii

Kawaii

It’s very different though from what you often see in Holland, where much design is focused on efficiency and getting the message across as well as possible. It looks quite serious and minimalistic compared to what you see here.

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki

One last thing I really have to mention is that the food here is absolutely amazing. I’ve already had udon, takoyaki, ramen, sushi and okonomiyaki, and every time I wonder whether food could taste any better. Even Japanese fast-food (tempura) is delicious, and so much better than a BigMac from the McDonalds!

To conclude: so far, so good! I’ve met so many friendly people here and am still every day amazed by everything I see. It’s certainly very different from what I’m used to, but I haven’t regretted a single day coming here, and am looking forward to the 5 months to come!