This Is What I Experienced Driving Again in My Home Country

Sometimes, it can be very disorienting.

Photo Pakutaso

Change is inevitable. When you move to Japan, you’re bound to encounter a lot of changes. Foreigners living there even find themselves slowly and unconsciously adopting the Japanese culture—to the extent that they’re “turning Japanese.” Because of this, their experience of going back home translates to a whole new process of adapting to change. This phenomenon is called
counter-culture shock or reverse culture shock. It involves having to re-adjust after living for some time away from home. 

In this series, we share the experiences of our writers, who found themselves questioning their national identities. Here are some of their stories about their experiences of driving again in their home countries. 

Honking horns

It’s rare to hear people honking their horns in Japan. Coming back to my home country, I found myself literally jumping from my seat whenever somebody honked their horn at me. It's quite funny because I was once used to the sound of horns. Before, it was simply background noise while I drove and contemplated life. 

Merging lanes

Drivers in Japan are disciplined. When merging into one lane, they would cautiously wait for their turn, properly alternating into the lane like organized bees. However, in the Philippines, it's like watching a swarm of ants trying to go inside their anthill all at once. Once you gave way to one car, the whole lane would keep proceeding without alternating. 

Cutting into lanes

Drivers in Japan always make sure to maintain a certain distance between them and the cars driving ahead. Safety first has always been a motto that Japanese people would adhere to. However, this isn't the case back home. Once people found a space in-between cars that they could squeeze into, they'd take the opportunity so they can get ahead of everyone. This is mainly the reason why I have to keep my guard up every single time I drive. 

Thank you sign

There are different ways to say "thank you" while driving in any country. In Japan, drivers do a two-second hazard signal to show their gratitude to the car behind them for letting them into their lane. But it dawned on me, when I returned to the Philippines, that this didn't mean anything there. It only left me frustrated that I am unable to say thank you properly.

Accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road

Even if you don't drive in Japan, every now and then, you're still prone to driving in the wrong lane when you're back in your home country. The environment has the capacity to change one’s bearings. Even the most experienced drivers will find themselves doing a double-take when entering a street and thinking, "Should I drive on the left side or right side of the road?"


Traffic and chaos

Traffic can be very upsetting, especially when it happens on a daily basis. Coming home to the usual traffic jams is the pinnacle of frustrating events. So much valuable time is wasted just waiting in traffic. This is also one of the main reasons why a lot of people arrive late for work. This goes against the punctual behavior that is exhibited in Japan. 

Flashing headlights mean “Go ahead” 

In Japan, you flash your headlights to signal people to go ahead. Just imagine how hard I had to step on my breaks when a person flashed their headlights at me and did not stop to let me pass. 

Pedestrian first

In reality, this rule also applies to the Philippines but is not practiced well. In Japan, pedestrians are given priority to cross the road. Coming home, though, I always found myself in an awkward situation where I’d stop for a pedestrian who would also stop for me. I guess speeding on the road is just so rampant nowadays that pedestrians in the Philippines have learned to adjust to drivers who have a “king of the road” mentality.

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