Sure, so there are no convenience stores around which are open 24/7. Sure, the grocery stores close at 7 pm or so on weekdays, even earlier on Sundays. And sure, I don’t have my own car here, so mobility could be a problem (particularly when the weather isn’t cooperating!).
I miss the conveniences of living in Japan, so at first it was a real pain to adjust to the style of living here in the UK. And I hate to admit it, but it was so darn inconvenient during our first few weeks of stay here.
But in the end what I realized is this: if you’re new to the place, it does take a while to figure things out, but certainly there are ways to get around. As someone has emphatically reminded me, "You’ll just have to try a little harder." Just because things are different doesn’t mean that they’re bad or worse than what you had been used to. And sometimes, trying a little harder means getting information and tips from the people who actually live here.
Take groceries for example. First of all I learned that I could simply order through the internet. Hands down, this is the best thing that has made my life much easier. I just order my groceries through the internet and have them delivered to my home for a small delivery fee. No hassles in going to the grocery store, lining up, bagging stuffs and all that.
Just tonight, I’ve just had my groceries delivered by TESCO.
I’m already used to using the internet for shopping, but mostly for books, furniture and electrical goods. But I’ve never had the experience of ordering groceries through the internet in Japan.
Now here I am wishing that there’s actually something like that in Tsukuba. I’d experienced being a member of a cooperative before, and for a while I had groceries delivered to my home. But the ordering system was really inconvenient — I had to fill in a form and hang it out my door post by a certain day on each week, in time for the guy who collects the forms. Then the groceries get delivered on a specific day the following week. Aside from the inconvenient way of ordering, the items available are actually quite limited. So I still ended up going to the nearby store to buy certain items I needed. After a while I just gave up. I felt that I wasted too much time figuring out what things to order from the coop – it was more convenient to just go to the store and pick out everything in one go.
It would be quite wonderful if my favorite stores in Tsukuba like Kasumi and Kawachi could also open up their online stores. Kasumi stores usually have longer hours (there’s even one that’s open 24 hours), which is perhaps their way of offering convenience to customers. But really I’m one of those working parents who would much rather get rid of the weekly ritual of buying groceries. It’s not as if there is a very wide range of goods to choose from, anyway! I mostly buy the same stuffs, week in, week out.
And there’s paying bills online. That goes for any bill – utility bills, tax, anything. Pay by credit or debit card. In Japan, convenience stores are convenient places where one can go to pay bills (if you’re not on direct debit). But it sure is more convenient to pay bills without having to leave home!
Lastly, who has ever heard of buying bus and train tickets online? You can do that here, too! Okay, I’m not very fond of riding buses in Japan, so perhaps there is a system somewhere that allows one to reserve and buy tickets online. As far as I remember, I’ve always purchased my train tickets at the stations. Japan’s train system is very extensive and thus more complicated, so I imagine that it would be rather difficult to manage if everybody logged on and purchased their tickets online! Nevertheless, I wonder if something like that exists already. I’ve never really explored it. Anyway, here people do purchase their tickets online, and even get huge discounts for roundtrip tickets (unheard of in Japan; roundtrip ticket is always twice the cost of a one-way ticket) and family (again unheard of in Japan except for holiday seasons and special offers). And get this, you can even get cheaper tickets when you travel during off-peak hours! 😉
So I’ve learned a very important lesson: different countries, different systems. Different ways of making life more convenient.