In Japan, many people think of the UK as having a certain appeal. Think Eddie Redmayne, think Benedict Cumberbatch: the stereotypical, soft-spoken gentlemen. This is what often comes to mind. Whether this is true or not is another matter, but it certainly plays a part in the popularity of British men in Japan.
One such British man is Andrew. He was born in England and his interest in Japan led him to finding a job here as an English teacher. It has been over 10 years since he met his now Japanese wife. Today, I spoke with three different British men, including Andrew, who got married to Japanese women.
No matter where you're from, there are bound to be some surprises, or at least things you need to get used to, when you get married. This is particularly the case with international marriages - you can learn a lot, but there are some things that you might not expect at all! So, what did these guys find particularly surprising after getting married to Japanese women?
(The following commentary reflects the personal opinions of the respondents.)
She's so particular about being on time!
“She gets pretty unhappy when things don’t go exactly according to schedule. It can be a pain whenever we go on a trip somewhere, or even just go out together. She makes too big of a deal if we’re off by just one or two minutes. The trains in Japan always run right on schedule, (another thing that surprised me!), so we can always catch the next one if we’re a few minutes late.”
In the UK, the trains don’t always run on time, and even events can get delayed. A party that "starts at eight" is more likely to see guests arriving from nine onward.
This less-than-strict approach from her British husband has caused some tensions. While he's fine to wait for the next train, she may well squeeze onto a crowded train to spare those extra few minutes.
In Japan, people particularly pay attention to timeliness, so it's best to keep that in mind if you're going to an event of some sort. Don't let this come as a shock if you're spending time with a Japanese friend or loved one!
Husbands get an allowance?!
One of the biggest themes after getting married is of course, money. Recently, there has been an increase in couples that are both earning, and some cases may vary depending on the person, however...
“I was really shocked when my wife suggested the “okozukai system” (monetary allowance) after getting married. It seems many hard-working men in Japan receive these allowances, and my parents did it too, but... I don't understand why I have to give all my money to my wife and let her manage it!”
The image of the father, the head of the household, saving up lunch money because of his small allowance, is commonly seen in Japanese TV dramas and stories of businessmen.
However, this Brit seemed a bit more used to the system where you put money into a joint account, or perhaps the idea that whoever makes the most controls the finances. Either way, it came as a bit of a shock to him when he was told he would have to ask for the money that he had earned.
Splurging on Christmas AND New Year’s gifts!?
“I was surprised to learn the custom of gathering relatives on New Year’s and giving children Otoshidama, or monetary gifts. In England, we exchange presents for Christmas, but never for New Year’s! I was also surprised that people go out of their way to prepare brand-new bills for these gifts. Although the original Japanese banknotes were really beautiful.”
In the UK, Christmas is generally seen as family time, and New Year's a time to spend with friends. So people freak out a bit getting all their Christmas gifts ready, but then it's over and done with. This Brit was a bit surprised to find that he was expected to give out money to his new relatives on New Year's Day as well!
When you become a part of a new family, living up to their expectations and learning about their customs might be tough on the mind, but in this case it was tougher on his wallet!
There are so many events about death in Japan
“One thing that surprised me after getting married was the amount of death-related events, instead of just the funeral itself. You even need to wear special 'mourning clothes' to them.”
In England, though they do hold the wake and funeral services, that tends to be it, and there aren't usually additional memorial services as well.
Although in the UK, it is of course customary to wear black or dark clothes, this Brit was a bit surprised by the stricter rules in Japan. There are particular mourning outfits, and these, along with the manners and etiquette for funerals can change depending on the timing of the event itself.
The subject of death is a tricky one, and can reveal quite big differences in religious and cultural views between international couples. Of course, it's an important topic, and needs to be discussed openly when possible.
Families with children tend to sleep together... When do we get alone time?
“In Japan, I was shocked to hear how common it is for couples to sleep in separate bedrooms, or sleep with their child in between them. In the UK, the couple’s bedroom is very important! So to sleep separately, or together with your children... where can couples go for intimacy?”
In the UK, parents tend to have one bedroom, and the children have their own, but in Japan, everyone often sleeps in one bedroom all together! You might have even seen this kind of cute seen in an anime or Japanese film. But here, the worry is that the couple don't really get any alone time...
Japan is generally known for having less intimacy than in the West. Children aren’t usually given much physical affection during the day, so perhaps families sleeping with their child between them is a way to supplement that affection.
I want her to look into my eyes!
“Japanese people typically don’t look each other in the eyes when speaking. Our working hours are long, so I really want to cherish the time that we do get to spend together, however, my wife doesn’t seem to be very comfortable gazing into each other’s eyes.”
When someone stares at you with a passion in their eyes, it can sometimes make you feel embarrassed. As a Japanese person myself, I can understand the feeling of needing to look away.
There was once a time when Japanese women were expected to bow down to their husbands, but that is hardly adhered to at all these days. Perhaps there is a bit of shyness still left over, or perhaps it is simply a personal thing. Either way, eye contact has quite different connotations depending on the country and culture.
An island country, driving on the left side of the road, and an affinity for tea - there are many commonalities between Japan and the UK! However, there are also many cultural differences you might realize after you get married. It is the respect for and enjoyment of each other’s cultures and the differences that come with it that can lead to a long and happy marriage.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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