Living in a foreign culture can sometimes be challenging. But other times, it's downright exciting. The exchange I can have with my students is not only informative, but we can all enjoy the oddities, or rather peculiarities, of one another simultaneously learning about each other in the process. This multicultural exchange is what makes being an ESL Teacher worthwhile.
This time, I had the pleasant experience of quirky off the wall humor. It's an epic of silliness. It's one of the reasons I enjoy living in Japan. Namely, the Japanese culture is so different from my own that every little difference is startling! For example, in Japan tattoos are BAD! Really bad. Not like, I'm a good Christian and my Pastor dad will kill me if he finds out kind of bad, but, literally society will shun you and you'll be driven out sort of bad. But then again, they love to bathe communally... in the nude... together. Go figure. Just don't get caught with a tattoo.
Even so, it's these differences which I find amusing. And one of the best examples happened today. Let's call it: the case of the smelly girls.
It all began after fourth period, before lunch, when a group of students convened in the hallway to chat with me. As they were excitedly all talking to me at once about numerous topics of interest, I noticed the girls continually sniffing in my direction. I looked at them and they all giggled and then stared back at me. As a habit, I turned to the boys and asked, "What are they doing?"
The boys laughed, and informed me that I smelled good. "Oh, you think so too?"
"Yes," they confirmed. And then one of the girls asked, "Are you wearing perfume?" All eyes and ears intently focused on me anticipating a response.
"No," I informed, "I am wearing deodorant."
"Di-ode-o-ra-n-to" they replied in staccato Japanese accents. But in Japan deodorant is scentless, and moreover, nobody wears it. It's only meant for really active boys who are doing sports, and then Gatsby, one of the popular brand names, only sells aerosol sprays and paper-powder-wipes, both non-scented. Not exactly what they think about when they smell my Old Spice Aqua Reef gel based antiperspirant and deodorant.
So I thought it would be a good time to do some show and tell. I retrieved my stick of Old Spice from my school bag and opened it to show them. The boys took a big whiff and instantly retracted, eyes tearing up, noses wrinkled. "Pheeew-that's strong!" One boy exclaimed.
The girls, on the other hand, loved it. Of course, in Japan girls are accustomed to wearing perfume, and so anything new and exotic entices them. Then, without warning, one girl grabbed my Old Spice and started rubbing it on the back of her hand. She then proceeded to make her friends smell the back of her hand, informing, "I smell like Vick-sensei!"
Without hesitation she passed it to her friend, who did the same, and then there were seven girls, all rubbing my deodorant on themselves giggling frantically because they smelled like Vick-sensei.
One of the boys turned to me and asked, "How do you put it on?"
"You rub it on your body," I said.
"Your naked body?"
"Yeah, basically," I told him. His eyes got big, he looked at all the girls frolicing and rolling around in the scent of Aqua Reef, and then doing a double take looked back at me.
"Which part of the body?" he inquired quite earnestly.
"My armpits I told him."
He started laughing hysterically and ran off to tell all the other boys that the girls were rubbing my deodorant all over themselves, which I use on my armpits!
Then the lunch bell rang, and retrieving my Old Spice, I watched as seven smelly girls danced and pranced down the hall all giddy with the excitement of smelling a little bit smellier than they smelled before. And all this made me chortle, as I found it so funny that they got so excited about something so mundane back home. It was entertaining to say the least.