5 culture shocks Viktor encountered in Hasetsu
1. the sorting of rubbish
Look: Viktor was entirely aware that he hadn’t put on the ... the best showing, shall we say, when he’d first started courting Yuuri.
He didn’t need Swiss babies like one (1) Christophe Giacometti saying, “Viktor -- my friend, mein liebling, mon ami ... you do realise your courting strategy very closely resembles that of a creepy flasher???”
Especially not when he could tell Chris was wearing glasses. Chris always wore his glasses when he wanted to sound intellectual. He’d only started doing it when he needed to impress his strategic whatever of the Swiss Federation boyfriend at business meetings.
Chris was useless, anyway, because he only started laughing and repeating “Nips out! Dick out!” in between cackles when Viktor stooped to circuitously asking him for advice. Chris had netted his Swiss hottie, after all.
So Viktor, after having a little cry, sat down and used his brain.
(“Generations of Nikiforovs and the assiduous avoidance of in-breeding, Vitya, have ensured that you have a working brain under all that hair, even if you don’t use it,” said the Petra that lived in his mind. Petra was a bitch, but also the giver of good sisterly advice.)
He used his brain to figure out how the courtship should go, uh, moving forward. As Petra would say.
All of which was to say that Viktor decided that actions spoke louder than words, and that his actions would have to speak loudly enough to drown out his first few actions, and -- this metaphor was getting away from him.
As was the recycling situation in Japan. Viktor wished he had his choreography notebook on him. He should have know, when he’d offered to help to take out the inn’s rubbish, and Hiroko-san’s eyes had immediately gone round and they had to go back and forth at least fifteen times before she capitulated and then turned to Mari, who’d turned to Yuuri, who’d ... looked at him helplessly and with a deep pity in his eyes.
The pity was gone, now, as they stood over the clear plastic bags lined up against the back wall of the kitchen and Yuuri talked ... and talked ... and talked.
"-- okay, so you have to put the flammable stuff in the blue net and the aluminium in the green net and the food contaminated containers in the black net. Yes?"
Viktor blinked. “Um, yes?” The back of his left hand was already covered in notes and interpuncts.
“...right, so, um,” Yuuri hefted up one of the plastic bags. “Let’s try this out -- no, no, not that one, recyclable cans and things are collected on second and fourth Tuesdays only, so we can’t put it out yet.”
Plaintively, Viktor said, “I don’t understand.”
Half an hour later, Viktor was carefully sorting the clear plastic bags into their respective nets.
“Why —” Viktor paused to retie a plastic bag shut more securely when Yuuri emitted a devastatingly adorable noise of distress. “Why is this so important anyway?”
In hushed tones,Yuuri told him about Hoshigaki Takuya in the Southeastern ward, who had apparently been evicted because he never sorted his rubbish properly, thanks to a vindictive nosy old neighbour.
“Well,” Yuuri said apologetically in the way Viktor was coming to realise meant Yuuri disagreed, but was too ... too something to say so outright, “Hoshigaki-san was being very inconsiderate, though, wasn’t he?”
2. blowing your nose in public is no good
“Don’t --” Mari’s face was screwed up like she’d bitten into a lemon. “Please don’t do that.”
Viktor blinked at her through his watering eyes. Katya always told him if he blew his nose like an elephant honking he’d get a nosebleed, but it hasn’t happened yet. He only ever got teary. Know-it-all older sisters weren’t always right.
In this case, however...
“It’s rude,” Mari elaborated, “to blow your nose in public.”
It took a while, honestly, for that to sink in.
“W-wait.” Viktor sat up straight. “Oh my god, is that why Tanaka-san at Izakaya Mukashi hates me now?"
Unsympathetically, Mari said, “One hundred percent definitely.”
"But he has the best yaki-onigiri," Viktor mourned.
Yuuri, who was in the throes of the competitive season diet, said, "Serves you right."
God, Viktor couldn’t believe he was so in love that he thought Yuuri while hangry was still cute. No, wait -- he could.
"So cruel, Yuuuu~ri," Viktor moaned, and flopped over onto the table. He looked sadly up at Yuuri through his fringe, channeling Maccachin for all he was worth.
Yuuri was Unmoved, and vengefully crunched into another roasted edamame bean.
Viktor flopped over onto his other side — no dice. Mari was cold. Ice-cold. Lilia Baranovskaya would love her, probably.
Sighing in defeat, Viktor levered himself back up and put the crumpled tissue into his pocket. “Okay. How do I blow my nose, then?”
Mari’s eyes glinted with approval. “You go to the bathroom.”
3. eating as you walk is no good too
Viktor’d dreamt of this for a long time -- Yuuri’s hands on him, entirely voluntarily. He’d had it once, at Onsen!!! On Ice, and been longing for it ever since.
He looked down at Yuuri’s hands on his bicep and wrist, and barely bit back a protest when Yuuri let go, flustered and already turning red.
“Ah -- ah, sorry!” Yuuri stuttered. “It’s just that, um, we can’t eat in the street. I mean, while walking in the street, standing here is fine. Sometimes.”
They were at a street market, Viktor having declared an afternoon off and the desire to visit the famous covered shopping street of Hasetsu. It let out onto a gridded warren of narrow streets and alleyways, full of colours and enticing scents. If they couldn’t eat while walking around what was the point?
"Aaaaaaah, what am I supposed to do, then?!" Viktor flapped his arms in exasperation, also flinging bits of mitarashi syrup everywhere. “Oops.”
"Sit there," Yuuri said slowly, pointing at the little lean-to with padded benches next to the dango stall. "And eat."
One of the first few things Viktor had learnt to do in Japanese was whine, so Viktor whined, feeling slightly abashed: "Mouuuuu~" and sloped off to the bench.
"I'm so sorry," Yuuri said to Sakai-san, the garrulous proprietor of the dango stall.
Her entire face wrinkled into a beaming smile as she said in her loud, throaty voice: "Aaaah, it's okay. Gaijin will be gaijin, right? It's good to see you being strict with your boyfriend, Yuu-chan. It's important to be strict with your men, you know!"
Across the way, Yamashita-san hooted from just inside his dried seafood store: "Sakai-san would know, wouldn’t she!"
Face flaming, Yuuri inched away from the ensuing rap battle, retreated into the lean-to, and sat down a respectable foot away from Viktor on the bench. His efforts were ruined by Viktor immediately scooching close and offering him the last dango. There was sauce smeared all around Viktor's mouth and Yuuri ached to wipe it away.
But that was something a boyfriend would do.
"Were you talking about me~?" Viktor trilled, the pouting sulkiness of before all gone. "Should I apologise?"
Yuuri took the dango in lieu of answering, and had to close his eyes when the taste of it hit him: the slightly smoky flavour of the dango charred over bamboo curling over his palate, the sweet-salty mitarashi syrup perfectly balanced as always. He hadn’t treated himself to Sakai-san’s dango since coming back.
“No,” Yuuri breathed, once he’d finished chewing and swallowed. “It isn’t necessary.”
“Uh,” said Viktor, sounding a little out of breath himself. Weird. “O-okay.”
4. Unexpected commonalities
It wasn't all uneasy adjustments, of course.
Viktor was pleasantly surprised to observe the convergences of his and Yuuri's cultures.
The first time, he’d made a face in time with Yuuri’s when Mari was complaining in the private dining room about Westerner guests who wore their shoes on the tatami in their rooms and Yuuri had looked at him, surprised.
“We don’t either,” Viktor explained, feeling a lightness expanding like a balloon in his chest. “Wear shoes indoors, I mean.”
“Huh,” Mari said. “I guess not all Westerners are the same.”
“Well.” Viktor made a face. “Russians don’t really think of ourselves as Westerners.”
And then the time, very early on, when he’d had to do his laundry.
“This washing machine.” Viktor told Yuuri half-solemnly, as he discovered its delights whilst deciphering the hiragana and getting Yuuri to sound out the kanji. “I want to marry it.”
He changed his mind half a second later, of course, when that startled a peal of laughter out of Yuuri. He wanted to marry Yuuri again, and hear that laugh as much as was physically possible.
An hour later, when his load was ready, Yuuri’d said, “Ah! We don’t have a dryer at home,” very apologetically.
Viktor blinked at him. “Really?”
“No, we air-dry our clothes here.”
“Oh,” said Viktor, and patted the washing machine. “I just thought, you know, with all this technology...”
There was a crooked smile on Yuuri’s face — Viktor immediately added it to his mental rolodex of Yuuri expressions.
“Well, that’s Japan,” said Yuuri. “We do go to the laundromat for the bedlinens and guest things, though. I’m sorry for the inconvenience!”
“No, no,” Viktor said, smiling. “I don’t have a dryer either. We don’t usually...”
He really, really liked surprising Yuuri.
He also liked hanging up laundry on the bamboo poles in the inn’s courtyard together with Yuuri.
“We have a lot of sun,” Yuuri said as he flapped a pair of sweatpants vigorously in the breeze, “so it makes sense for us. But it’s so cold in Russia?”
Viktor shrugged. “The cold will dry things too.”
“I suppose,” Yuuri said doubtfully. “I just thought, after Detroit ... oh, well.”
“To be fair,” Viktor added, “many of my clothes I just send to the dry-cleaners. And my costumes.”
“Well,” and Yuuri’s tone held that delicious dryness that always sent a thrill up Viktor’s spine, “but of course.”
And then they smiled at each other over hanging up Viktor’s t-shirts.
This, Viktor was convinced, was going to make their future cohabitation so much better.
5. Kindergarteners going to school on their own
The best shock came when they were on a bus home from the beach.
“Yuuri,” Viktor whispered, feeling an antsy concern in his chest. “Is that child lost? Where is that child's parents? Do I ... should we go and ... ask?”
Yuuri blinked at him, and then at the little yellow-hatted girl with the shiny, patent leather backpack standing near the bus driver and holding grimly onto a pole.
He’d expected Yuuri to — well, say anything but: “She doesn't look lost; it should be okay.”
“Wh-what?” The girl looked no more than six, thought Viktor hysterically.
Yuuri gave him a concerned look, before sighing a little and laughing quietly. There was nothing funny about this situation, Viktor thought. “All right, since you’re so worried...”
It was fortunate that the bus wasn’t very full, so that they didn’t have to slip around anyone on their way to the front of the bus.
“Ah!” Yuuri exclaimed softly, and pressed the stop bell. “I suppose you’re right, Viktor.” He smiled mischievously, and set Viktor’s heart racing. “For once.”
Any protest was stolen from his lips when Yuuri crouched down and gently said something to the little girl, who reacted with outsize surprise, almost fell over but for Yuuri when the bus bumped to a stop, and then bowed at Yuuri and then Viktor and then the bus driver, babbling incomprehensibly all the while, before running out of the bus doors.
Viktor's heart probably grew five sizes in the span of thirty seconds.
“She almost missed her stop,” Yuuri murmured to Viktor when he stood back up.
"How did you know?”
"It was on that piece of paper stuck to the back of her backpack.”
“Wow,” said Viktor. “Amazing.”
He was treated to a Katsuki Yuuri special on Japan’s high trust society and independent toddlers for the rest of the bus ride home.
It came in very handy when Viktor, on an independent adventure in Hasetsu, got hopelessly lost. Like an oasis in a desert, he espied from across the street a shop with a sign in the window that, he was pretty sure, meant that lost kids could go in and ask for help. He thought maybe they’d be fine with an adult foreigner going in too. It wasn’t his fault Hasetsu was made up of five different towns that kind of crept together to form one city, after all.
Screwing his courage to the sticking point, Viktor ducked into the shop, putting his best puppy-dog eyes on, and said, "Ano ... Yuutopia ... doko desuka?"
The shopkeeper stared at him for three heartstopping seconds, before exclaiming, “Aa, Yuuri-kun no gaijin --” and then words Viktor didn’t understand. He had to look up kareshi before he forgot.
With the combined powers of Viktor’s piecemeal Japanese and the shopkeeper’s tourist-level English, Viktor walked out with a crayon-sketched kid’s map of Hasetsu annotated with directions and a puccha candy.
Unfortunately, the map was of little help, even though it was all written in hiragana, and that was one of the first things Viktor taught himself.
Taxis were for some reason in short supply, and so when Viktor finally found another shop with a map in the window, the candy was long gone, he was hungry, and the map he waved around was forlornly crumpled.
"Dekinai," Viktor enunciated sadly and badly. "Tasukete. Onegaishimasu."
Five minutes later, Mari was laughing at him down the phone. “Oh my god, you’re worse than a kindergartener.”
“I am, I am,” Viktor agreed, in the hopes that Mari would stop laughing and send help at some point.
“Yuuri -- Yuuri!” Mari called in English, because she believed in kicking a man when he was down. “You have to go save your idiot!”
Oh god, Viktor would never woo Yuuri successfully at this rate. Who wanted to date a man who had worse navigational skills than a toddler?
Half an hour later, it was pouring, Viktor was eating unexpectedly delicious cup ramen, and Yuuri’s silhouette was resolving into focus through the silvery curtain of rain sheeting down from the slanted awning over the entrance to Yamamoto-san’s shop.
Viktor let himself admire the way the rain-damp made Yuuri’s hair curl ever so slightly, and the beads of rain caught in Yuuri’s eyelashes as he made small talk with Yamamoto-san.
Forty-five minutes later, Viktor was huddled under an umbrella probably the size of a marquee with Yuuri and trying to flirt.
“I’m an idiot, aren’t I?” Viktor asked, heart beating high in his throat.
“Maybe,” said Yuuri, and laughed when Viktor squawked in protest.
“Well,” and Yuuri’s eyes sparkled as he looked up at Viktor, “or maybe not.”
Five minutes after that, they were shaking off rainwater in the tiled genkan and Viktor was definitely an idiot for not taking the opportunity to kiss Yuuri.
+1 time Yuuri encountered culture shock in his very own home
"Viktor..." Yuuri ventured. It was quiet, October-cool, the lamp on the coffee table casting its amber penumbra out into the pitch-dark of the room. Another late night talk, the both of them reluctant to exit this strange, liminal slip of time, despite their conversation growing increasingly disjointed with the hour.
His eye catching on that goddamn sculpture, barely visible in the edge of the circle of light they were sitting close in, Yuuri told himself that right there and then, nothing was real, and asked, "I've wanted to know for the longest time..."
Viktor's lashes were long and almost invisible this late at night, the mascara washed off with his bath earlier. Only the light glinting off them as he blinked owlishly suggested their frustrating existence. "Yes, Yuuri?"
"What..." Yuuri lifted a hand to point. "Why ... that sculpture?"
"Ah -- I'm sorry, what?" Viktor's blinking quickly, straightening up from his slouch over the table.
"The sculpture." Yuuri held firm. He'd come too far to turn back. "Why?"
Viktor's head swivelled, his torso twisting as he turned to peer into the darkness of the room.
There was a pause.
"Ah," said Viktor, face still turned away. He sounded a little funny. “Ah! That's my favourite ancestor!"
When he turned back, there was a smile stretching his lips.
Yuuri frowned at him. He'd thought they were past this.
Interpreting Yuuri's frown as something else altogether, Viktor went on, “Great-great-great-something-uncle Piotr! He was a general in the army and fought in many wars! This was before Europe came to its senses about wars, you know. But more importantly, he was in a relationship with his batman."
Yuuri blinked at him, frown melting into true confusion.
"Yes!" Viktor beamed. "I found out about it when I read his diaries. It was all very Owen and Sassoon. Except Owen wasn’t Sassoon’s batman. My point still stands, though, you know."
Yuuri did not know. Viktor was saying words, but the words did not make sense.
"Anyway, he brought his batman home with him and made him his valet or something, I don't know. One of those open secrets, you know?"
Yuuri was honestly still stuck on the mental image of Russian Batman in a homoerotic relationship with an older, more military version of Viktor.
"He's a hero to me, anyway, having done all those things -- he was in the parliament too! -- and having found -- um, his batman, and I feel like we'd have got on really well," Viktor babbled on, eyes faraway. "So when I found this bust of him at home, well -- I had to have it! No one was looking at it anyway."
Which just raised so many more questions.
"Why ... why do you ... what ..." Yuuri couldn't even formulate his question. "Doushite?" he lapsed into Japanese helplessly, gesticulating in frustration.
"Well, when I'm feeling like maybe I'm not making the right decisions --" a shadow passed over Viktor's face then, and made something in Yuuri's stomach curdle "-- I kind of, I don't know. I think what would Great-Uncle Piotr do, and then I feel better."
GREAT-UNCLE PIOTR SLEPT WITH RUSSIAN BATMAN!!!!! Yuuri shrieked mentally.
"I ... I'm glad," Yuuri said, for lack of anything else to say. Maybe he should seduce Viktor in a Batman costume???
Viktor beamed at him. "I knew you would understand."
But Yuuri didn't. Yuuri didn't understand anything at all
He understood even less when he Googled "Russian Batman" the next day, and found a whole series of articles about a Russian vigilante dressing up as Batman and taking down drug rings.
“PHICHIT-KUN!” Yuuri typed desperately. “I DON'T UNDERSTAND RUSSIANS AT ALL. READING ALL THAT PUSHKIN MEANT NOTHING. NOTHING!!!!!"
Phichit, usually so reliable, replied: “well you know .... in alternate universe soviet russia ....”
“Oh my god, Phichit,” Yuuri said to himself. “Get over multiverse theory already.”
Clarity came only three months later.
Three tumultuous months that had quite honestly wiped Russian Batman from Yuuri’s mind.
Anyway, clarity arrived by way of older sisters that Yuuri hadn’t heard about until three days before their arrival to help Viktor move out and also scope out the in laws.
“I just finished a tour in Somalia,” said the one Yuuri thought might be Katya. “You know, it’s very tense, even if all I was doing was vaccinating people. So I thought I could do with some hot spring goodness.”
“Kill two birds with one stone,” cheerfully said the blonde scary one that was probably Petra. She looked like Viktor, or Viktor looked like her. “Hello, Yuuri! We’ve heard so much about you!”
Katya said, “Not,” with heavy sarcasm.
“Well, I did,” Petra said.
Yuuri’d been naked on top of Viktor’s dick, and still he didn’t think he’d seen Viktor this overwhelmed before. Or at least overwhelmed in this way before.
“I — no killing!” Viktor cried. “And you were in Somalia! Oh my god!”
Mari, of course, got on with them like a house on fire, grinning lazily around an unlit cigarette when Petra and Katya spotted the bust in Viktor’s room.
“Oh my god, you brought Great-Uncle Piotr with you?” Petra said incredulously.
“I hate that statue,” Mari offered. “Creepy.”
“It’s such an ugly bust, Vitya,” Katya said.
“He slept with his subordinate,” Petra added.
Wait, what? Great-Uncle Piotr cheated on Russian Batman with a subordinate? Yuuri stared at the bust Viktor had hugged protectively to his chest, and then up at Viktor, panic rising in the back of his throat.
“Forbidden love!” Viktor protested. “Romance of the ages!”
“I,” Yuuri admitted helplessly, “am so confused. Wasn’t he sleeping with Batman?”
There was a long pause, pregnant with confusion, before Petra and Katya burst out laughing so hard they had to cling to each other for support and collapse in one hysterical heap of limbs to the floor.
At least when he looked at Mari, she looked lost too.
Viktor, though -- Viktor looked torn between laughing and crying.
“Darling,” Viktor let go of Great-Uncle Piotr. “Darling, he was sleeping with his batman. Not ... not Nanananana Batman.”
“His personal, ah,” Petra contributed in between giggles, “um, assistant?”
“Oh.” Yuuri went red, and yelled an aborted “Vitya, no!” as Viktor leapt at him, cooing.
“This,” Mari said from where she was still leaning against the doorjamb, “is the best day of my life.”