Americans May have more Manners than the Japanese?

One of the more common adjectives associated with Japanese people seems to be “polite.” However, I have seen the dark side.

Yes, I have seen- and heard- Japanese like slurp their noodles at the table. Of course, these experiences happened 13 years ago. Some things may have changed.

Perhaps not as ferociously as this girl eats down below…

slurpnoodles.gif

 

That is NOT polite in the west. We actually find it a bit rude to slurp.

When I witnessed this as a child, I was very confused. Of course I asked questions. How come my mother told me to always excuse myself if I did such a thing, but in Japan, people were congratulated? Why?

Well, it maybe rude in the United States but in Japan, this is a technic that actually helps the noodles cool as they travel to your  mouth. Women also slurp. Men aren’t the only one’s who get to have the fun. Any you know what? It’s perfectly fine within Japanese etiquette.

Last week, when I visited my regional Japanese consulate to complete paperwork, a young Japanese father repeatedly said “sumimasen” (excuse me) when addressing the clerk. It was almost like he was apologizing to her for bothering her, even though her job was to serve him.

The image of the girl slurping her noodles at the table and and a guy repeatedly saying “excuse me” to a clerk may seem to be on the opposite ends of the courtesy spectrum. But in reality, even something considered rude in the west is still a show of courtesy and gratitude in Japan.

 

Go figure.

 

 

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Prepare to Live Abroad (For the Disorganized)

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So, I’m packing for my big move to Japan that will happen in a few months (Whoop Whoop!). So, much to do in so little time!

Pretty soon, I’ll start a career overseas. I will be the renaissance, carefree black magical curly- haired woman I have imagined myself to be ever since I was a young girl. (Well, not the curly-haired part. We may talk later about my once-upon-a-time inferiority complex of my now loved curls to the once adored idea of having straight Euro-centric hairstyles.)

Anyway.

Besides the stress for the most obvious preparation checkpoints (visa documentation, plane ticket, brush up on my language skills), there is a much deeper concern here.

I’m not a planner.

This, you may say, is no big deal. Just get a planner.

As a soon-to-be instructor of the English language to those who are learning the language as a secondary language, I need to get my ish together.

mess

Well, this is my journey I have been steadily attempting to wrestle with for the past several years, and there are some things I a slowly am figuring out for myself.

Let me share.

Desk Calendars/ White Boards

Now, I hear all of the praise of the use of a daily planner. All the time, my mother tells me to write things down to remind me of dates and times that have been scheduled.

But who will remind me to look at my planner? No one will be there to remind me months from now when I am living in a foreign country on my own.

More recently, I realized that I needed visual reminders. Therefore, I have a couple of wall calendars on the wall above my bed. That way, I don’t have to search to look at any scheduled appointments. Everything would be right in my face. No excuses.

A white board is great for many things. But for me, I decided to buy two small boards from the dollar store. With one, I create a daily to-do list. This helps me organize my thoughts so that I am not overwhelmed.

I also created a done-list with the other. Many times I am not done with all of the tasks that I have set for myself for the day. Seeing the done list reminds me of my productivity and not to be so hard on myself.

Down-sizing

I realized that I cannot own too many things. Honestly, I do not have a knack for organizing and decorating. I have too many things in my possession for no reason, and at times, I cannot figure out a way to have some organization that is functional.

My solution? Give everything away.

I can’t say I’m going the minimalist route (I have nurtured an alarming obsession with buying books). Many things may have to stay in storage during my time abroad (i.e. book collection).

As far as moving abroad, it’s best to pack the necessities. The general rule: if it’s something that can be bought at your destination and/or it is not a thing of high importance, don’t bring it.

I’m pretty sure there are more things to share with my fellow disorganized wanderers.

 

こんにちわー!The Culmination of 6 Intense Weeks

Can you read that?

Those strange characters say, “Konnichiwa.” That is a rough Japanese translation of, “Hello!” But you probably already knew that since the mispronunciation of this greeting could be heard on the radio. “Don’t Mind” by Kent Jones uses this phrase with a variety of others from other languages to make his point about his preference of women- or the lack of pickiness.

That is neither here nor there.

Right, the culmination. I use this term because the month of June has truly been a brutal month for me between starting a new job AND taking a six-week intensive Japanese language class. Hence, why I have not posted much of anything during that month. This past Friday was THEE last day for that class. Let me tell you: a three-hour class with three hours of homework that is scheduled Monday-Friday is NOT the business. Not with a job anyway. I was even asked to continue with the second half, which of course started the following week after the first one ended, but honestly I was just too tired at the end of each day.

However, with the sense of relief of finishing this class came a sense of sadness. I had truly enjoyed being in a classroom again. With the dream of one day traveling to Japan once more to live, there were days when I would come into class so excited- especially when I began to learn Kanji.

I had taken Japanese for two years in high school and a semester in college before. But I have never, never, NEVER learned all three writing systems.

For those who do not know, these are the three writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are more like phonetic systems. Katakana is generally used for foreign words and Kanji is a borrowed writing system from the Chinese language with different meanings. Before this class, I had only been trained to all of the first two previously.

My instructor had said that the reason for this is because of the complexity of Kanji. Americans are not considered smart enough to learn this right away. I am paraphrasing this but there you go.

I am about 50-60 Kanji characters in so far out of the hundreds of combinations out there, but it is a start.

All of the practice and frustration I had to endure are all the things I will honestly miss. The structure was exactly what I needed to hunker down and immerse myself int the language. Now I have to discipline myself in order to retain what I learned until I am ready to take another class. I will definitely let you all know how that works out.

Until then, しゃまたあね。 (See you later!)

 

 

I’m terrible at Communication and I’m paying the Price.

I like people. I really do. But that doesn’t mean that I have much of an easy time starting, and nurturing relationships- well the starting part.

You see, I’m an awkward human being, which seems like a redundant statement considering how many people claim “awkwardness” or any level of “weirdness.” Which I don’t think at all. I’m perfectly  normal no matter what anyone says.

But when I first meet people and for some time after, it takes me a while to be comfortable. I’m ‘quiet’ and ‘nice’; the complete opposite of what my close friends tell me. Except the nice part. Maybe.

Getting to the point: I fail to communicate.

Years ago- fifteen years to be exact- my sister and I moved internationally for the first time to Osaka, Japan. The second time, when I was ten, we moved to Okinawa Japan so that my mother could teach English. Homesick, of course, but we made friends, visited places- had a life.

Now, we never completed a full year for family reasons, but to make a long story short, we moved back to the states only after eight months. Complete severance of communication from the friends we had made there either time.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: That’s very rude to not stay in contact with people I called my friends. Basically pushed them to the back-burner.

Imagine my surprise when my younger sister was able to connect with an old Japanese classmate/friend on Facebook. My sister, the self-initiator.

There were many different things that I felt when this development occurred: surprise, excitement, nervousness, guilt. But there is a few things I want to clear up.

  1. As my younger sister and I have gotten older, she has been the self-initiator between the two of us. I’m learning.
  2. Neither of us had consistently studied Japanese. Consequently, I felt embarrassed that a few of our childhood friends’ English was much better than my Japanese. Consistency and persistence is key apparently.
  3. I’ve never been that great at keeping up with communication.

This J-Pop song!

So, I decided to look up some Japanese pop groups. Thinking perhaps this will help me with my Japanese study.

But now I’m OBSESSED with this J-Pop group.

FAKY.  Especially this song, CANDY.

Their music video can be found here on YouTube:

CANDY ~ by FAKY

Even if pop music isn’t your thing, you have to admit that this song could easily become addictive.

But, whatever language you’re learning, music is a great way to learn Japanese in a passive way. It’s always exciting to me when I start to recognize words in the song and able to translate them.