You know, there are some things that Western culture does that are just plain weird.
Take “bless you” for example. Why do we say “bless you” after someone sneezes? Are you showing your gratitude for the mucus projected into the heavens? Or are they in trouble?
Indulging further, why do Americans* feel the need to ask each other how they are doing as a ordained greeting? Most of the time, this conversation is with a stranger and an even bigger percentage of the time, neither party has any care to the response whatsoever. It’s just the polite thing to do! Let’s illustrate this insanity in dialogue:
“Hey, how are you doing today?”
“Good. Is that all for today?”
“Have a great day.”
Repeat this eight or nine times a day, and don’t forget to use soap. This is the underlying issue for people working in public relations! Stop asking how someone is – because if they’re an agent of satan – they’ll tell you!
Back to the point of this post, Japanese people are not immune to insanity. I’ve come across some silly examples myself.
Cashier Telling You What You Just Handed Her With A Tongue So Fast That It Could Invoke Thunder
Almost every single place I’ve been to, the checker verbally addresses each item that you’ve handed them in the fastest way possible; completely defeating the purpose of oral feedback entirely. They’ll respond, after a slight nod awake from their trance, if you’d like to practice some Japanese. Just make sure you know this before trying to discretely purchase something discrete, discretely.
Super Super Nice Service, No Matter Who It Is, or Who You’re With
Maybe I’m just lucky here, but for the most part I was never treated with any hint of discontentment. Are Japanese people actually robots? Are they robots that create robots? Probably. Also, they really didn’t want you to see that movie I, Robot. The AI was too primitive. They don’t actually talk that way.
Overwhelming Fear Of Anything Distressing (Especially to Others)
It’s like Japanese culture has D.N.A. embedded with Soteriophobia – fear of dependence on others. If you’ve watched any Japanese アニメ (anime) or 番組 (T.V. program), you will probably have seen a character go through a hardship that sapped everything out of them and they never asked for help or gave up. This is a core ideal. No matter the struggle, they will often refuse to talk openly about it. And even if you’re the person going through something difficult, they’ll smile and shout “頑張れ！”
There are plenty more oddities present in both these cultures, and it’s more obvious to the observer once they’ve spent time away from their own.
Let me know of oddities in your culture! Feel free to tweet me these too 🙂