Oh ex-pat life… When living away from home, it’s easy to fall into the nostalgia trap. Yearning for homely familiarity, I’ve found myself tucked up in the corner of a Starbucks far too often. Scared to try new things my friends and I would end up at a Mcdonald’s, munching down on food we could literally eat anywhere else in the world. Humans are creatures of comfort and habit, drawn to what we know, like a moth to a flame. While indulging in a familiar coffee every now and then is forgivable, missing out on new and wonderful experiences is not.
A few months into my life in Japan, I realised I knew very little beyond my own borders. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and explore my new home. I wanted to give back to the community I had become a part of.
When we think of supporting our local community, we envision running charity events or choosing to buy our produce from a local farmer rather than the corporate supermarket down the road. While this is certainly a great starting point, another great way to give back is to support small local businesses. Whether it’s that niche second hand store you walk by on your way to work or your favourite cafe, your money is going towards building someone’s dream – and every customer is integral to making that dream a sustainable reality.
Supporting local businesses allows you to create ties with your community in a way that spending all your time at a large chain simply cannot do.
Nagasaki hosts hundreds of little cafes and shops, all tucked away down back streets and above hair salons and real estate agencies. During my first few months in this beautiful seaside town, I discovered ‘Nagasaki No Roujiura Cafe’, a small popcorn cafe hidden above an adjoining shop. Rina Fujiwara, who owns and runs this small business, has been making her own popcorn with unique flavours for over three years and has put in an astounding 2,000 hours of work into testing and perfecting them all.
Small and filled with soothing atmospheric music, this tiny cafe boasts the most delicious popcorn covered pancakes around and serves the best green tea I have ever had the pleasure of consuming. Everytime I order, not only am I getting the pleasure of eating this delectable dessert, but I know my money is going directly to Ms. Fujiwara’s livelihood.
This little place has so much meaning to me. It’s where me and my fiancé went on our first date and where I first felt at home in this busy seaside town. It’s a place filled with passion and meaning.
Supporting local businesses allows you to create ties with your community in a way that spending all your time at a large chain simply cannot do. Along with helping others keep their passions afloat, you are opening yourself up to exploration, meeting new people and trying new things. I have had many a fantastic conversation and made many a good friend simply by stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new.
No matter where you are right now, be it far away in a strange land or the town where you grew up; step outside. Step outside of your comfort zone and explore your area. Learn new things and support the people who make your home so colourful and unique, for without them, we would all just be living in one large carbon copy.
Photography: Naomi Louise Jenkins, Post-processing: Rae Tilly
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