The experience I talked about in my previous blog post is from the perspective of a very westernised Australian who has an Italian influence due to cultural background. Not only is my cultural background very different, my work life, university life and friendships have also shaped my life experiences. These aspects of my culture have contributed to shaping my experience in the Japanese restaurant and my perceptions of the Japanese culture from this experience.
Ellis et al (2011) states that stories enable us to make sense of ourselves and others. It is a way for us to understand our feelings and emotions and why we felt the way we felt. This experience has allowed me to understand the Japanese culture a bit more, not only through the food, but through the other aspects of the restaurant, such as the atmosphere and waiters. During my visit, I began to understand that my heavily westernised culture shielded me from fully experiencing this part of Japanese culture.
Furthermore, this relates to a concept within autoethnography called reflexivity. According to Wall (2006), reflexivity refers to the point in which ‘the researcher pauses for a moment to think about how his or her presence, standpoint, or characteristics might have influenced the outcome of the research process.’ I realise now that even something as small as ordering food was influenced by my culture. I walked into the restaurant ready to try all different kinds of food but when my friends and I ordered we stuck to the popular dishes or ones that I had tried before. I didn’t eat anything with raw fish because I don’t like raw fish and I didn’t try Ramen because my friend convinced me that I didn’t like it. These huge parts of my culture influenced the outcome of this experience. Additionally, the dishes we deemed popular were decided by western popular culture and a discussion with my friends and family and what they thought of as a popular Japanese dish.
Finally, within ethnography, writing is considered a method of inquiry. Wall (2006) suggests that ‘writing is a way of knowing – a method of discovery and analysis,’ and that by writing in different ways, we can discover new aspects of our topic and our relationship to it. I am not able to distinctively remember the details of my experience but being able to write about it in the form of a narrative has allowed me to relive my experience and reflect. Through this exercise I have learnt that there were limitations to my experience brought on by my own self and my unwillingness to be open to new experiences. However, I was able to involve myself enough in the Japanese culture in the restaurant to learn something new about the culture and myself.
Autoethnography allows the researcher to reflect on their experience and how certain aspects of themselves and their cultural framework influence their experiences. Through this reflection, I have noticed that certain aspects of my life, such as my culture and friendships, have a heavy influence on the decisions I make and how I take to new experiences.
Wall, S. (2006). An Autoethnography on Learning About Autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(2), pp.146-160.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview,‘ Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.
Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095