Monday, January 18, 2016

A Culture of Polite

I had a Japanese friend tell me before I visited that the Japanese are not very friendly. She said that they like to keep to themselves. This meant I wasn't too sure how I would be received.

I went into this thinking that I might not warm to Japanese people too well. The exact opposite turned out to be true.  Meg was right that Japanese aren't so friendly as to say hello to strangers on the street, much like Americans. However, after nearly every interaction with a Japanese person I often walked away squealing like a little girl about how sweet and nice there were to me. 

Many of my interactions were with restaurant employees, cashiers, and attendants at train stations. Everyone was extremely helpful. The first time I made a purchase in a store I was confused by the numerous coins in my hand and the number on the screen that was my total. As I struggled to sift through my handful of coins, the women at the register took it upon herself to pick through and select the coins that it took to make my total bill. 

Tav and I ate in a soup restaurant while traveling. When we left and were about 500 feet down the street from the restaurant, I received a light tap on my shoulder. The waitress has just run down the street to return my cheap throwaway pen that I had unknowingly left behind. I found this to be an incredibly sweet gesture.

When I would interact with a cashier, they would be talking the entire time. I had no idea what they were saying because I couldn't say more than hello and thank you to them. 

I also was bowed on many interactions. I really enjoyed this. It made me feel very special, welcome, and respected. I enjoyed the opportunity to bow back to them, an act that would look strange in American culture. 

I saw all Japanese people conduct themselves and others with a lot of respect and self-control. I never saw one parent raise their voice to a child, never anyone yell on the streets, no car honk its horn (even in Tokyo!) People respected lines and I was never pushed or shoved in any public area. In fact there are even bird sounds playing in all train stations as I assume it is supposed to soothe people.