Alright, winding down on these topics. I believe there is one more after this. So, let’s go….
Social norms there and how they differ from here (most important what *not* to do there if you’re an American to prevent making a scene or getting arrested).
The simple answer to this one is this, don’t act like you’re in America. I understand you have patriotic pride and all, but people need to realize that this isn’t America and things aren’t done here like they are there. You don’t walk into someone’s house without taking off your shoes. You don’t act a fool in front of your superiors……drinking parties void that rule, matter of fact it’s encouraged at that time. You don’t litter. You don’t spit on the ground. You don’t fart in an elevator and giggle about it. The worst thing that could happen to you in Japan, besides possibly falling off a cliff, bouncing off the rocks on the way down, and landing in a pool of rubbing alcohol seeping into your wounds, is to be shunned by the group. If you’re out, you’re out and it will take a lot to get you back in….not that us round eyes are really in anyway. No matter how long you are here you will always be “Gaijin”.
I hate that word, Gaijin. In Japanese a foreigner is called “Gaikokujin”. Gaikoku means foreign country and Jin means person, so basically it means person from a foreign country. Back in the day it was shortened to Gaijin, which means outsider. If you look in a recent dictionary you’ll probably find it saying foreigner, visitor etc… but in reality it means outsider, someone who doesn’t belong. Granted, I don’t think people in this day and age think that far into it, but to me, it’s same as if you called a black man a nigger. I don’t like that word and whenever I hear someone say it I quickly correct them and request that they say “gaikokujin” instead. I’d also like to note that I only used the N word to get my message across clearly. I don’t like racism. Being on the receiving end of it has taught me a lot.
Anyway, off my rant. If you come to Japan, just try to come with an open mind. Keep your manners in check and respect the people and surroundings you’re in. If you just follow the basic common sense rules you’ll be OK. But you should be prepared to come into situations that will make you want to pull your hair out. Try ordering something that isn’t on the menu, or change something that is on the menu. You’re in for a treat on that one. You’d think it would be a simple task to just remove the mashed potatoes and put corn on instead, they’re both on the menu, Uh-huh, yeah. Give it a try. Oh, here’s a story for you. I went into McDonald’s and ordered a double cheeseburger set. The sets here are probably the same everywhere, burger, fries, drink all for one low price…..although if you do the math it comes up the same if you ordered them separately. Anyway, so I order my set and when the girl brought it to the counter I asked her for some ketchup, for my fries. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights. She scurried around for a few seconds then came back and told me that there was no ketchup. My God, I’m the deer in the headlights now. I said to her “This is McDonald’s, you have to have ketchup” but she stood her ground and told me that there was no ketchup. I pulled my burger off the tray, pulled the paper wrapping off, lifted the bun and pointed at the ketchup and asked her “What’s that?” I had her there, she answered “Ketchup”. So I told her “Wherever you got that, go get me some more”. She went back and consulted with the manager for a second then she went back further into the kitchen. I knew I had won, she was going to get me some ketchup. I wasn’t prepared for what came next. She came back with this little, tiny plastic cup, about the size of a 50 cent piece, with a tiny dab of ketchup in it, probably about a teaspoon full. Now, my deer in the headlights expression is back because I’m looking at a teaspoon amount of ketchup next to a large order of fries. I will apologize beforehand for any profanity here, because I wish to keep my blog safe for all ages, but “YOU GOTTA BE SHITTIN’ ME!!!” Did she not think about the amount of ketchup -vs- the amount of fries? 2 or 3 fries was going to wipe that right out. I wanted to tell her to go back and get me about 20 more of those but she was already in a shambles so I let it go. I just kind of looked at the situation on my tray, smirked a little, looked back at her, thanked her and walked away. Ever since that day, almost 20 years ago, every time I walk into that McDonald’s they have ketchup ready for me. It’s weird, the staff has changed 10 fold over that time, but they still know to give me ketchup. It’s almost like it’s been passed down through the generations of McDonald’s workers. I sometimes wonder if they have my picture hanging on the wall in the back room with “Ketchup” written underneath it. You should really think about that though, 20 years later and they still know me and what I want. The Japanese are great people that don’t just brush you off. I applaud them for that.
If I sit back and really dig around inside my little pea brain I can probably come up with a billion little tales like that one. Good and bad. Japan is a wonderful country with wonderful people. For all the bad/weird thing that happens there are a dozen great things. One thing is for sure though……”We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”.
Y’all come back now, I’ll leave a light on for ya,