Those American People and Their Parties…in Japan

Nothing stays the same. This is the rule of life. This is also the rule for parents throwing kid-parties. You morph, adjust, “x-nay” the petting zoo or four different home made birthday cakes. If you’re a person living abroad, your birthday partying, as a whole, changes. Not everyone celebrates the same.

No one knows the mores, the typical birthday party ideas I came to Japan with except for other expats, and they each, with their cultural and linguistic backgrounds, have, perhaps, a whole other set of expectations.


While a birthday is just a birthday–that is, pretty simple, right? It’s not. Not really. You navigate every ritual, every rite of passage from your culture and belief with wide-eyes, perhaps, in another culture. Nothing can be assumed. Not a house warming gift, not a birthday, not even a “welcome to the neighborhood” greeting and gift. You can do you own thing, sure, but…it’s better to know the deal–how things are and how you’ll likely be perceived.

I learn this here, every year. Not to sound overly stressed! We learn and then still choose how much “ourselves” we’ll act. What kind of party, how I’ll dress, it’s all the stuff of life.

May I present the first post in a series about raising kids internationally, specifically, The Birthday Party? (Rhetorical question. It’s a blog).

Of course, this could also be a series about ways we anticipate a wedding or baby, because those occasions also widely differ. I’ve got stories about that, too.

I do know one thing: everyone seems to like a good ol’ pinata. More on that later.

One thought on “Those American People and Their Parties…in Japan

  1. As Catherine Snow says, “Successful comprehension skills reflect the accumulation of all the knowledge we have access to” and that reading skills reflect all the conversations children have had, their access to the curriculum and every life experience they have ever had. I think the same is true of life in general: we are the sum of all our experiences, and living in multiple cultures gives us unique perspectives that we cannot shed. We cannot un-know what we know – we can only add new layers of knowing. I look forward to reading your series!

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