In Japan...

"Hey, is that a ninja up there?"
(Japan, Aug 20 - Sep 19, 2011)

November 21, 2010

Language and culture

So before coming to Japan I was rather anxious about a number of things, but one thing I could console myself with was the fact that because I do not look Japanese, and Japanese is a very difficult language to pick up, the locals would not expect me to converse in Japanese. I was incorrect. In situations where it is clear that I have no idea what they are saying to me, they continue, trying to say phrases in a slightly different way and by gesturing or pointing at things. In fact, the last thing they try to do is use a semblance of English, despite the fact that they learn it from a relatively early age now.

Nevertheless, they are still very polite, even in the face of extreme confusion/misunderstanding, and will keep trying until the situation is sorted out. This is a major difference to other foreign lands, where the people either happily try to speak to you in English (e.g. Sweden) or are so fed up that you can't speak their language that they stop talking to you all together (e.g. France). You go Japan.

Differences between Japan and the West: No. 4)
Japanese people actually value their jobs. Whether a doctor or a convenience store worker, the Japanese are proud of the work they do. I have yet to see someone slacking off and I have yet to be served by anyone with an attitude.

Another thing that has shocked me, is that I have been here for over 2 weeks and no one has so much as batted an eyelid at me and my hair! I thought I would stick out like a sore thumb and be made to feel as such, considering my rather unique look with big curly hair and being that I'm taller than 90% of the population (and I'm what, like 5'10"?!), but it's totally not the case. In Japan they are so reserved in public; the most you interact with a stranger is a polite nod of the head.

I was disappointed to be honest. It was only today that I finally received some attention: as I squeezed past three girls in the entrance of a store they giggled. I turned around and one of them was about to pat me on the back of the head, but got my face instead due to the turning. Highly embarrassing for her, highly amusing for Max.

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