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Improbable Japanese People

Mikawa Ossan

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Maciamo said:
I have no doubt that there are many very kind and truly polite people in Japan, but what characterise better the majority is to be conventional and non-confrontational (which isn't the same as truly kind).
Yes, and I hear the same is true of Korea, too. However I've noticed that there seems to be a growing population of people who have realized that they can take this inclination for nonconfrontation to their advantage and purposely confront people to get their way. For example skipping in a long line to get into a restaurant. If someone politely mentions that the end of the queue is w-a-y o-v-e-r t-h-e-r-e, the skipping culprit will get angry and yell at the unlucky person trying to do everyone a service. Of course he backs down and the skipper gets his undeserved place in line. It's not common, but I do see things like that from time to time.

Maciamo said:
Don't even get me started on that. Education in Japan is lamentable, and people are usually disinterested with learning for itself. Typical Japanese prefer what is easy, simple and cute. This strongly contradicts the image of high-tech and hard-working country ("long-working" would be more appropriate, or even "long at waiting in the office for the boss to finish his work and hanging with colleagues in bars after work, and so comes back home at 1am" type of society).
I understand it's very easy to get jaded after living here for several years, but please remember that you're talking about the average person. There are plenty of people who are more "enlightened" so to speak, and like learning difficult things. People from my native country (USA) on the whole are no better than Japanese on the whole. Or at least that's in my experience. You might say that I have very low expectations of Japanese people, but no lower than I do of anyone else. If you want to find intelligent people, you can find them, but when you talk about people in the aggregate remember that what you say can only ever apply to a certain percentage of the population. Please don't get too jaded, Maciamo! :(

As far as the hard working mentality goes, every Japanese person I know above a certain age laments the exact same thing. I think there's a certain lack of direction and a certain amount of soul-searching in the country as a whole behind this, though.
 

Kara_Nari

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I understand the helping out friends who do a certain service, which you sometimes require. When hairdressing in NZ, I wouldnt cut my western friends hair for free, unless it was my mother or boyfriend. My Japanese friends wouldnt pay, but they wouldnt come to my work either, instead they would give me gifts or take me out for dinner.
I think its insulting that my friends would expect a free haircut. My best friends were the ones that I would have been more willing to do it for, but cutting hair for free is something that you do when you VERY first start out hairdressing. Yet my best friends would pay knowing that they were getting a good price compared to what they got in the salon.

As for queue jumping, aaarrrgghhhh I havent had it done in Japan, but in Korea... even at the drug store, when the chemist is explaining for me how to take my medicine, which is important when it takes me a bit longer than natives to understand. People will just come in, not caring that the chemist is busy and start yelling stuff at them, or demanding things. Its also common to just wander in somewhere without looking if its busy and just yell out your request to anyone in particular.
Havent seen anything close to that in Japan.
It doesnt bother me that all the irrashaimase, and arigatou gozaimashitas are superficial, at least they are acknowledging that you are there, or that you are leaving. Nothing worse than going somewhere and being ignored. Also they arent pushy and dont follow right up your arse when you are just looking.
Ugh I just dont think I want to go home tomorrow.
 

Maciamo

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Brooker said:
Being polite and kind are two very different things. I think being polite means acting nicely towards someone when you really don't want to. By this definition, the Japanese are very polite.

To me, being kind is being nice just because you want to.

I know, but there are things that fal in either category, such as keeping the door open for the person that follows you, letting elderly people sit in the train, or letting someone with just a few articles pass before you at the supermarket casher when you have a full shopping cart. These are usually considered polite in the West (at least well-mannered), but they are rather unusual in Japan.

That is why I say that many Japanese (with the notable exception of my wife) are polite superficially, but in fact quite selfish and not really kind once it comes to situation they aren't used to (as if they couldn't be kind/polite in situations they were not taught, because they cannot put themselves in someone else's shoes, it seems, or just don't care).

I don't know how things are in the US, but compared to Belgium or other EU countries where I lived, I found it much rarer for the Japanese to help each other spontaneously.
 

Maciamo

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Kara_Nari said:
I understand the helping out friends who do a certain service, which you sometimes require. When hairdressing in NZ, I wouldnt cut my western friends hair for free, unless it was my mother or boyfriend. My Japanese friends wouldnt pay, but they wouldnt come to my work either, instead they would give me gifts or take me out for dinner.
I think its insulting that my friends would expect a free haircut.

Usually friends help each others. So in exchange for a free haircut, you'd do something for them whenever they need it. In most cases the free service takes less time and energy than help people emotionally (e.g. in hard times, after a break up, when someone died, etc.). Naturally, I am talking about close friends that meet quite often, not just ordinary friends we meet once every blue moon. I French there are two very common words for friend : ami and copain. The former refers to a "real friend", while the other refers more to "regular" friends, workmates, classmates, or even acquaintances.

As for queue jumping, aaarrrgghhhh I havent had it done in Japan, but in Korea... even at the drug store, when the chemist is explaining for me how to take my medicine, which is important when it takes me a bit longer than natives to understand. People will just come in, not caring that the chemist is busy and start yelling stuff at them, or demanding things. Its also common to just wander in somewhere without looking if its busy and just yell out your request to anyone in particular.

Interesting. I know that Chinese people tend to be more like that (i.e. manners are relatively unimportant). It's not even that they try to "cheat", but rather that they don't think about manners at all (i.e. don't get shocked if a Chinese guy put his elbow in your face while rasing his hand to attract someone's attention and don't even notice you).

Havent seen anything close to that in Japan.
It doesnt bother me that all the irrashaimase, and arigatou gozaimashitas are superficial, at least they are acknowledging that you are there, or that you are leaving. Nothing worse than going somewhere and being ignored. Also they arent pushy and dont follow right up your arse when you are just looking.

I don't mind this superficiality, except when the shop attendant sound really bored and you feel they are just saying it as a duty. I also don't like when they follow you around and keep saying "irasshaimase" 2 or 3 times to say "I am watching you". That just makes me want to leave the shop in disgust. (I have no tolerance for thieves, and even less for those who behave as if I were a thief - thereof my utmost contempt for Japanese policemen who stop me on my bicycle in the middle of the day).
 

Brooker

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@Maciamo...
I was taught by my family to open doors for women and let old people sit on buses and things like that. Maybe if I hadn't been taught that, I wouldn't do it. So maybe we're all trained for what polite things are expected of us.

I think it may also have something to do with how the Japanese feel that you must "repay" a favor if one is done for you. In the example of letting someone go ahead of you in line or letting someone sit on the train, that might be an awkward situation for the receiver of the favor because they'll really have no way to repay the favor. And the giver of the favor might rather spare the receiver of that awkwardness. I'm not making a judgment call here, just taking a guess as to what might be going through their minds in this type of situation.

I offered my seat to a few people in Japan, and, although I'm sure they appreciated it, they all seemed very uncomfortable about it - maybe cause it doesn't happen often, maybe cause I'm gaijin, or maybe because of my repayment theory.
 

Kara_Nari

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I hate when I give up my seat for the elderly, and then there are still school kids, who have actually been brought up to respect elderly and just leave them to wobble around right next to them.
One time I actually hit a kid on the head because he was blatantly looking away while an old Korean man was trying hard to balance right next to him. It makes me so mad.
The elderly seem to get such a shock when a non korean does acts like this.ツ Maybe secretly they know how the ajummas push and barge, and dont expect this to happen? Nah thats just me being silly. There is nothing wrong with common politeness.
Maciamo your comment on 窶嘖窶塒??壺?ヲ real friends and other friends is exactly how I look at my friends, and its changed considerably since coming overseas and realising who can be bothered to remember you exist. I dont care though, the people I cared about most came through.
 

Maciamo

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Brooker said:
I think it may also have something to do with how the Japanese feel that you must "repay" a favor if one is done for you. In the example of letting someone go ahead of you in line or letting someone sit on the train, that might be an awkward situation for the receiver of the favor because they'll really have no way to repay the favor. And the giver of the favor might rather spare the receiver of that awkwardness. I'm not making a judgment call here, just taking a guess as to what might be going through their minds in this type of situation.

I offered my seat to a few people in Japan, and, although I'm sure they appreciated it, they all seemed very uncomfortable about it - maybe cause it doesn't happen often, maybe cause I'm gaijin, or maybe because of my repayment theory.

I was taught that true kindness does not need anything in exchange. Maybe it is a New Testament value (and I am not Christian), but this value has become ingrained in the culture. I have never been taught to let people pass in front of me at the cashier. People do it, and if someone ever do it for you, you feel that you should also do it for others next time. As for letting the elderly/disabled sit in trains, there are signs telling people to do it in Japan (in the priority seats area), but some people won't do it eventhough, because they are too selfish. So, even though the authorities try to change the mentalities, there seem to be a strong resistance from a big part of the Japanese population (there are exceptions, such as my wife, as I said).
 
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