Culture Shock

What kind of culture shock do you guys have?

Please listen to my culture shock story…

About 30 years ago (scary!), when I was a freshman in high school, my family and I moved from Osaka, Japan to Hawaii, USA.

It was my first day of school.

Of course, I could speak English, this is a pen!

Anyway, being completely unable to speak English, I was the only one in the classroom taking a test to prove how little English I could speak.

And then!!!!

Suddenly, jiggly jiggly! A sound that shook the whole school!

What! An emergency bell?

What do you mean?

Fire? Earthquake?

The ground is not shaking, so the fire started in the lunchroom! Fire!

Panicking, I looked outside, and lo and behold! The students are running outside like mad, trying to escape!

I knew it was a fire! I have to get out too!

But wait! How do you say “fire” in English?

Fire” is fire, but what’s the “thing” in “fire”? Thing”?

Fire” is “Fire Thing”? called?

Oh, ・・・・. What will happen to me if I can’t communicate in English, don’t understand, and am sent running away?

With that thought in mind, what haunts my brain is tomorrow’s newspaper article.

‘Poor foreign student, sent away because she didn’t understand English, found burned to death in a cloud of smoke”…….

Oh no!

I was desperate.

People can do all kinds of unexpected things when their lives are at stake! Like Degawa, I can manage even if I don’t speak English!

Anyway, I gestured to the teacher something like, “I’m afraid for my life and I’m going outside,” and ran outside. I had a handkerchief (it was my first day, so I had a handkerchief, nose paper, with me…) I covered my mouth with a ・・・・ and bent down to avoid breathing the smoke. (There was no smoke, though.)

Among the students running around, I found a girl who spoke Japanese! I grabbed her by the chest and asked her, almost in tears. (I guess she must have been scared when I grabbed her by the chest…)

Me: “What are you going to do?” What should I do next? Where should I run to?

The kid: “What?

Me: “Where is the fire coming from?

The kid: “What? Fire? (scowling)

Me: “Yes! Now the emergency bell is ringing and everyone is running away, but I don’t know where to run. I don’t speak English and I don’t know what to do. ・・・・ Please help me…”

The girl: “What? Oh, is that this sound, this ‘jiggery-jiggery’ sound? That’s the bell to let you know that class is over. Now it’s recess time…”







Ahhh ・・・・ I want to go home already…. I thought so with all my heart.

One culture shock a day is enough.


May the Lord bless you all today!


Setsu Shimizu (JCFN North America Director)

She grew up in Osaka, Japan in a pastor’s family. She believed in God from an early age, but lived an inactive life of faith until college, when she moved with her family to Hawaii at age 15 and has lived in the U.S. ever since. Involved in international student ministry since high school, rededicated at the Urbana ’90 Mission Conference, and led to JCFN, which she became involved with while attending Fuller Seminary, where she has been serving as a staff worker since 1994. Her very supportive husband, Mao (a former international student who became a Christian in Denver), has been serving in the Japanese Language Department at Wintersburg Japanese Church since May 2022, and they are enjoying their ministry together.

Scroll to top