Am I becoming Japanese?

“All good things must come to an end”, or so the saying goes. I started working at IKEA Kobe at the end of 2014 and just finished my last shift a few days ago.

In hindsight, I have learned many lessons. I put myself in a situation where I was forced to use daily conversational Japanese in the workplace. Additionally, I improved my keigo (polite Japanese) ability in order to provide better customer service. Working a part-time job in Japan, and especially in retail, requires you to use Japanese to communicate with both co-workers and customers.

There were many things that surprised me about Japanese customers. At IKEA Kobe, for example, oftentimes customers would bring us a small amount of change that someone forgot or dropped somewhere. That is something I have never seen (not can I imagine happening) in Sweden.

I’ve also been called many nicknames by customers: mostly “Gaijin!” or “Mite Gaikokujin da!”, Amerika-jin”,Eigo no hito“, “Aa marufoi da!“. Or in the case of co-workers: “Danieru”, “‘Danieru-san”, “Danieru-kun”, “Dani-chan”.

What surprised me the most was the following experience. On my last day at work, I realized that I had become somewhat more Japanese compared to when I first started working there more than a year ago. In Sweden, customers are King; but in Japan, customers are God.

In this small island country, a salesperson will do EVERYTHING for you. Even when paying with a credit card, you have to give it to the salesperson, who will swipe it for you and do the whole process for you except when entering your PIN code.

It was weird for me the first time, but now my feelings have changed after working in Japanese retail for a year. A few days ago, there was a fight between a foreign customer and me over the credit card machine. I tried to take her card and swipe it, as I have done in the past, but she didn’t let me do it. She wanted to do it by herself. She was so fast. At that moment, I thought to myself,“God damn it! What are you doing?”. However, I remember doing the exact same thing as a customer one year ago, and the realization of how “Japanese” I have become shocked me.

That being said, I’ve made some good friends, and I will never forget my time at KEA Kobe!

Good bye IKEA Kobe!

Picture 1 of 6