The Financial Times has great story about that profoundly strange and beautiful country, Japan:
In Japan, the trees are blue. So are the traffic lights, even though they look decidedly green to uninitiated outsiders. The Japanese do have a word for green, but when it comes to foliage and traffic signals, blue is the preferred term.
Blue trees are not the only initially puzzling thing about Japan. In a hundred tiny gestures and assumptions, Japan can seem just slightly out of kilter. When Japanese people refer to themselves, they point to their nose, not their heart. Many restaurants have no chairs. The Japanese count in units of ten thousand, making the population of Japan one-thousand-two-hundred-and-fifty ten thousands, not 125 million as you might have thought. The calendar is different, too. Circular not linear, time tracks each imperial reign – I am sending this dispatch, not from the year 2008, but from Heisei 20.
These are superficial differences to be sure, tiny variations of the sort found in many places a western-centric observer might consider ”odd”. But even experienced Japanologists can find Japan a topsy-turvy place. Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish-Greek who pitched up in Japan in 1890, only a decade after the country opened to the west, wrote: ”The outward strangeness of things in Japan produces a queer thrill impossible to describe – a feeling of weirdness which comes to us only with the perception of the totally unfamiliar.”
I think I may have found the name for that strange breed of (mostly) men that find themselves in far flung places, marry locals and end their days there after going native: Lafcadios .
I have met many of these people. They are very often hybrid Third Culture Kids that have grown up to be global nomads. They wander the world, falling in love with a succession of strange countries and peoples, eventually settling somewhere very far from where they started out. They are the “local foreigner” you find in may small towns or the source of red hair in a remote Nicaraguan village.
Look out for these people next time you find yourself far from home. They often have fascinating stories, and now they have a name too….