Musings on Japanese...
It is considered offensive to blow one's nose in public!  The strange aspect of this is that the Japanese are so health conscious and very aware of personal hygiene.  Constantly you are confronted with people on the streets handing out packages of TISSUES!  Unlike just normal pamphlets that you shun on the streets of London or elsewhere, here they give you packets of tissues with the advertising on a sleeve on the inside of the package.  And yet if you do actually want to blow your nose, you should wait until you are in a private place to do so????  Hence these very hygienic people wander around preferring to sniff endlessly rather than risk offence at taking out one of the their multitudes of tissues.  Perplexing!

The efficiency of the Japanese is amazing.  There must be such minimal unemployment here because there is a job for everyone!  The other day I was in a department store and we were being ushered into the lifts (busy as they were) by these beautifully dressed Japanese ladies, whose job it was to determine which lift was overcrowded and which one was fastest and so forth.  And there was a posse of them!  After herding you on very gently (not like the famed Rugby commercial in Australia) she explains where you are going and delivers the normal tirade of pleasantries and thanks and then gives the entire lift a very low and humble bow – and holds the bow for a good couple of seconds.  You sort of feel trapped because you can’t bow back as the lift is too full but here is this woman, prostrate in front of you in a deep sign of respect and all you can do is smile sweetly!  Also you notice on the trains that there is not just one conductor at the helm driving, but three! Perhaps they are just there to jump in in case the first driver feels a headache or something!  I don’t know how it works but they are all clad in suits and gloves akin to an airline pilot...makes the London tube look like a heap of ruffians; which lets face it, they are anyway!

Even the grocery stores have 2 girls at every checkout, one to do the scanning and the other one busily wrapping everything up.  AND BOY DO THEY WRAP.  If you buy something glass, it gets wrapped in a separate plastic bag so as to avoid breaking or spilling, and each piece of fruit is wrapped in a separate paper bag, and most bags are double bagged, and presented to you with lowly bows.  Honestly, Coles and Sainsbury’s could learn a thing or two! This is just buying groceries.  Forget trying to refuse extra bags because it just doesn’t happen.  The good thing is that they use a lot of paper bags more than plastic so the recycling has some hope!  I am sure I am going to suffer culture shock in terms of customer service when I return to the western world.  

Even being a stupid westerner and not being able to speak Japanese is not a problem for these people...they all try to translate something as simple as PRAWN for you and if they can’t, they will get books and papers and try to draw or show you pictures of what it is you might be buying!  The length they go to to help is quite inspiring!  

AuthorPeter Furness