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Feeling bad for doing good

First of all, Im currently living and studying in Osaka, Japan. I'd like to share my experience from today with you.
On my way back home from a wine tasting event, it began to rain so I took out the umbrella I had with me and used it. As I approached a pedestrian crossing, there was an old Japanese lady standing with her bicycle waiting for the traffic lights to change. Without hesitation, I walked up beside her and held my umbrella over her. In that instance like the flick of a switch, everybody around began to stare at me; even the people in the vehicles waiting for the traffic lights to change stared at me, I felt strangely naked by their glares. The old lady was equally surprised that she immediately began talking about the weather. I began to get that negative vibe that I must have violated some unseen cultural code of conduct. The traffic lights turned green and she bowed three times saying thank you before getting on her bicycle and quickly paddling off to the other side of the road.

As I continued my walk home, I replayed the people’s glares and stares over and over again in my head trying to make out what wrong I had committed to permit this public display of visual rebuke. Then it occurred to me that it was probably because I was a brown-skin girl; a foreigner who, without invitation, violated the private space of a Japanese lady in a public place. I remember being told several times by friends that Japanese are private people and usually don’t mind other peoples business because they don’t want to trouble others with their problems or don’t want to owe others anything, including favors. My bad.

As I walked further away from the scene of my encounter, I thought to myself, "Eyebrows should never have been raised for what I did, its common sense!”

But then I thought, maybe I wasn’t the one using my common sense. I probably should have just minded my own business. But I'm not Japanese and I can't simply ignore an old lady getting soaked in the rain while I stand comfortable and dry under my umbrella...
Oh well...its been done...


Carri Pence's picture

It is strange to place

It is strange to place yourself in an environment where you don't know the rules and the ways of society. For instance, my boyfriend is Russian and the cultural differences between us are so strong and bold that they have caused many fights and many tears (on my part). But to understand a culture is also a beautiful thing. Seeing us trying to adapt to our different ways of life is a strength in our relationship, where it shows loyalty and support.

-Carri Pence

P.S. If you ever come to Portland I would love it if you placed an umbrella over my head.

Estella's picture

Glady share my umbrella...

I'd gladly share my umbrella with you, Carri! Yes, I am still getting used to the Japanese culture; all these do's and don'ts can be quite difficult to follow when you don't speak the language..



olutosin's picture


This brings secret laughter to my heart....I was in India and began to greet people that I meet on the road just the way we do in Lagos, to my surprise no one greeted they were just looking at me until a friend asked if I know them I said no, I believe you should greet people you meet on the road. My friend laugh, you do not just greet every body in India, you greet familiar people I said No in Western Nigeria where I came from, you greet elderly people especially when you live in the same town....LOL
Living is Learning friend...

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


Toyin's picture

Here's a thought

I think what you did shows you have kindness in your heart. Although I respect other people's cultures, I wish sometimes that people would see things for what they truly are. Your act was common sense, there's an elderly lady getting soaked, why wouldn't you help! Keep doing what you are doing, you didn't do anything illegal or horrid to that lady, you showed kindness and warmth to another human being regardless of cutural differences.

Estella's picture

Its been a few days..

Hi Olutosin and Toyin,
Its been a few days since my experience and I have eventually come to accept that, yes; some cultural things that I might view as common sense, might not be seen as such by the long time residents and people of this culture. But every experience is a learning one. Toyin, your words are true; if we can do good, then why not?


telinga's picture


Hi Estella,
Thanks for taking a look at my site/forum. You may have some ideas about how to get the forum going.


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