I have decided to answer wholeheartedly due to being questioned about this so frequently.

Every year, a hundred children are selected from Pakistan to experience life in America through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study program. But why America? We all know about American culture. We even unknowingly implement and integrate it into our countries.

What inspired me about Japan was its rapid evolution after the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the blink of an eye, they developed into one of the best countries. I was extremely impressed by this nation, and very fortunately, I got a chance to experience Japanese culture through the AFS Intercultural Program. The selection process started across Pakistan, conducted by Learn Smart Pakistan.

Now I am in Japan, experiencing Japanese culture and representing Pakistan. I am making memories I will always cherish, and learning from experiences by embarking on a journey I otherwise would have never thought was possible.

During the starting days of my exchange, when I knew little about the ways Japanese respect their elders, a rather funny incident occurred. A junior of mine was walking ahead of me. Before walking through the door of the dormitory’s dining room, she turned around. Saw me. There she stood beside the door. Bowing her head, a bit.

Confused, I did the same. Turned around. Found nobody. Standing beside the door, I also started bowing my head a bit. She began laughing like a hyena. Utterly confused, I too started laughing. After taking some deep breaths, she asked me, “Who are you giving the way to? There is no senpai behind you.”

My cheeks grew red with embarrassment, and a state of realisation came over me. Woah! That was a complete revelation at first, but she went on to clarify how seniors are respected in this way. She explained that she wanted me to pass first, since I was one year senior (senpai) to her.

While sitting in the lounge with your family and friends, would you blow your nose in front of them? The Japanese don’t hesitate to do so. At least around me, I have observed this extremely often. When I inquired about this, they responded, “It’s a natural act, why go to the side just to blow your nose?”

Haha, fair enough!