I’m starting this at the pharmacy.
Between jobs today I had my asthma/lungs/allergy checkup. What have I won? I’m taking home more allergy medications because cedar season is about to start. Woooooooooot!
Cedar is particularly horrible in Japan because a massive monoculture of cedar was planted for timber but by the time the trees matured the timber industry had aged out of it being a viable option to fell the trees. It’s cheaper to get them imported from elsewhere. Each year trees vomit out pollen that no other trees want and we ( humans and now a few species of monkeys) suffer horribly for two months.
Walking to the pharmacy with my prescription I saw another foreigner asking questions to the general drugstore staff. He was holding two near identical boxes and showing a picture of a similar box on his smart phone.
It reminded me of pictures I’d taken to write about here.
When I moved to Japan 16ish years ago I was more helpless than I am now. I also watched Japanese tv a great deal. Commercials were my in as to what OTC medications fit my symptoms when I got sick. Person suffering with a cold mask gets blasted with ray guns of relief and can now breathe? REMEMBER THAT PACKAGE.
Suffice to say that if I hated asking questions at a drug store, I also wasn’t great about going to a doctor and using my second language.
Now I’m less helpless with the language, slightly less anxious and there’s google image searches! I read well enough that I know the layout of drug stores, can check for matching active ingredients in generics and so on but image search often helps me have
more visual information when I want to feel prepared…in a lot of situations, not just shopping.
To explain to you all this workaround the example I decided to use was rubbing alcohol.
First I used a dictionary to find the Japanese word for rubbing alcohol.
When I found the word I copy and pasted it into google images to find packaging that looks like what I’d find at my local drug store and took screenshots of the results.
Because I can read I noticed that some of the containers show are rubbing alcohol and some are denatured ethanol…and some are just hand sanitizers. Googling informs me that denatured ethanol and rubbing alcohol are nearly the same thing but have slightly different chemical structures. Rubbing Alcohol is generally used more for sanitizing and disinfection but denatured ethanol is used more for industrial cleaning. Seeing that I want to use this for removing doll makeup, I opt for denatured alcohol… up in the future may do a comparison of the two products.
And thus, I am armed with a visual to bring with me to a drug store (or wherever the product is sold, info I often can get by clicking through the resulting image and finding the page it is on) to help my find my item.
I’m pretty sure the man asking questions needed to know the difference between two very similar boxes.
Not all Google searches are this easy. Two years ago I had to find a place to buy small velcro pads made for fitness club wireless mics used by instructors. When teaching larger classes you bring your own mic cover and padding for sanitary reasons. The person informing me of this didn’t know what the item was called in Japanese (and I don’t know how to describe it in simple English) by I was shown the item.. it took a lot of googling and Japanese Amazon searches of different wireless headsets and “customers also bought” to find the product I needed.
And this is but one workaround when dealing with a second language.