“Japanese are the most polite people I have met in my life,” says Palmira from East Timor

Coming from a tropical country

Palmira, second-year student at School of Social Sciences.

Have you heard of East Timor? It is a new country that just recently gained independence in 2002, located to the northwest of Darwin, Australia. Well-known for tourism and being peaceful, the sovereign state has been able to perverse its rich culture and nature despite experiencing mass tourism every year. Historically, the country’s culture has been heavily influenced by Portugal and Indonesia. If you are thinking of going on an adventure to the tropical region, you should definitely consider going to East Timor.

Before coming to Japan, I started studying Japanese language in 2013 at a church facility called St. Raphael Center near my home in East Timor. The people who taught me Japanese there were Japanese Christians, who also happened to be church sisters. By attending classes at the St. Raphael Center, I was able to make friends with Japanese people and learn about their history, culture and way of living.

Palmira (left) and her classmates at  St. Raphael Center

One of my biggest dreams was to study in Japan. That is because I have a liking for the Japanese language, particularly how it sounds. Now a second-year student in the Contemporary Japanese Studies Program (CJSP), I am currently doing my undergraduate degree at the School of Social Sciences in Waseda University. In CJSP, I have not only learned about the past and contemporary Japan, but also the methodologies used in doing research in humanities and for analyzing social issues. As I am also very interested in Japanese culture and history, I look forward to classes every day.

Japanese are the most polite people I have met in my life. Many of them are kind and helpful. For example, if you were to drop your wallet or umbrella on the street, you would probably see people running after you to return you what you had just dropped. Even if you were out of sight, there would be people delivering it to the closest koban, a small neighborhood police station often located near a train station in Japan.

Palmira (middle front) and her Japanese friends she met in East Timor

Japan is also widely known for being one of the safest countries in the world. In fact, it was one of the reasons why my parents allowed me to study in Japan. It is a wonderful country where I can travel around without having to worry about safety and crimes.

After completing my studies here in Japan, I want to return home to contribute back to society. I also want to be leading figure in the field that I will be working for. Furthermore, I have plans to organize seminars and debate sessions in East Timor targeted at younger people to raise their awareness of global issues. Lastly, I also want to be the bridge between my country and Japan. I will learn as much as I can from Japan and its people during my studies here, and make full use of the knowledge in building my home country.

Blue sea of East Timor

What surprised me the most in Japan

People queuing for buses on Mount Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture

The thing that surprised me the most when I came to Japan was how Japanese people do not seem to mind squeezing through each other to get on to a bus or train. I once went to Mount Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture with my Japanese friends for an event. When we were queuing up for the bus, there were many people waiting in front of us. Just when I thought we would have to take the next bus, we managed to hop on the bus. At this point, the bus was already full but people behind us started pushing their way onto the bus. I was surprised that people in Japan do not mind doing so and by pushing and squeezing through the bus, an additional 30 people were able to broad the bus which I thought was fully packed. Even when the bus moved and people started wobbling, they did not seem to mind at all and simply just continued chatting away.

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