Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm afraid of Americans. Japanese kindness. The confusion which is my skin.

Let's talk about driving in Japan first.  It's not new news to anyone forced up on my new posts on facebook, that I have recently obtained my Japanese driver's license.  I have a bad feeling that this has put a target on the Scott family's back for the USAF, but anyone who knows us knows we don't do anything, NICE and eeeasy,  (Okay I will refrain from inserting Tina Turner lyrics) and in order to work off base, I need this little white piece of paper.  Am I getting used to driving on the left side of the road? Yes, I am doing pretty well.  Some friends and family have asked, "How is it, do you like it?" To this I answer not at all for several reasons:
  •  I am now grabbing for everything on my left side, which is weird to me.
  • I literally feel like a brand new driver, never having done this before.
  • My fellow Americans can't drive and cut me off and pull in front of me, so I am very afraid of being in an accident.
  • Accidents are bad here because multiple drivers can be found at fault and even if my fellow American pulls out in front of me and I hit him, I could be at fault as well for not letting them out.  Accidents can get expensive fast!  Insurance and chances are the person you hit or hits you will file a claim against you.
  • The roads are made by mixing in coral from the ocean, this makes things very slick when it rains, which it does ALL the time, and though I and the Japanese slow down, my fellow Americans do what they do at home when it rains and snows....go faster.
I will have to get used to all these things, and I feel that I am, slowly, very slowly.  I start work on Monday, so that will be my 1st day driving solo without Mark to guide me and whistle like the the person in front of us can hear him if they cut me off.  If I have learned anything so far on the Okinawan roads it's drive it like you stole it and be patient and polite to the nationals, because that is what they are used to.

Speaking of being polite.  The Golden Rule really means something in Japan.  Oh if we could all turn Japanese.  Wait a minute, don't get all jumpy.  The Japanese are so polite and have everything down to an art.  I wish more of our customs were like theirs.  Though we might be gaijins (non Japanese, American trash), they smile a lot, make you feel welcome,  and take their time with all they do, it shows.  The service and the end product trump the speed of getting something done.  They do things the efficient way, whether you like it or not and I am okay with that.  For example, having a meal at a restaurant run by the Japanese:
      You come in and they seat you or you seat yourself and you are always greeted by more than one person that works at the restaurant. You are brought  little glasses of water, a pitcher to refill your glasses when you need to and there is no waiting for water, and menus.  The more the place is used to having English speaking customers, the better the chance is that they will read our minds and give us English menus without even having to ask for them.  You look over everything and when you are ready to order your food, you slip up your hand, and believe me they are waiting for it, and say, "Sumimasen".  Most of the time if you are not Japanese, you don't even have to do that.  They come over, take your order and review it with you.  It is normal to say the quantity after you order something.  Then they walk off or punch it in at the table and you just sit back and relax.  You are brought things to munch on depending where you are and when they bring you your food you also receive your ticket.  What if you want to order something else?  Put your hand up and they will just add it to your ticket most of the time by stapling another ticket on.  When you are finished, you go up front and pay for your meal, then leave.  You are never waiting for your waitress or waiter to bring you your ticket so you can leave.  Efficient!  Not just with food, with everything.  Machines or you don't do the work that a person could do for you because again, service and presentation are paramount...guess what, they still have full service gas stations!

I have finally given up on caring if people care or are just curious about the color of my skin and my heritage.  I have finally learned to lighten up.  *applause*  Now it still grinds my gears when I hear a person with a southern draw ask, "ARE YOU MIIIIXED?"  Cause you know it takes us 5 years to say our words.  I have realized, some people are just curious and are going to be.  It's not just Tennessee, the Okinawans sometimes care too.  I have had a couple of Japanese ladies I have had the honor of meeting ask me if I was from or part Okinawan, as well as some AF gentlemen.  I have realized that my kind of beige is the type that wherever I go, people think I am from that place.  American, we know you are not just white or black, Hawai'i, some kind of Asian or pacific islander, Okinawa, Okinawan and something else.  So whatever, as long as people aren't jerks about it, I will talk about it.  That is what helps us learn about one another, right?

Things I have learned in Japan:
The Japanese are polite, and it's beyond wonderful.
You better NOT wreck and goodness forbid you hit a national.
Everywhere you go you get the little hand towels before your meal.
There are many ways to say, "thank you."
There are seasonal dishes at restaurants that you may only see a certain time of year.
On a walk, some Japanese will greet you just as we would back home, so you better have your konichiwa or konbanwa ready!
The Japanese may coo over your child, saying hello, little tickles, even the men, this is normal.

Sayonara from the Scott's!

1 comment:

  1. Talya,
    I raised my girls to consider people by the content of their hearts rather than by the color of thier skin. My two eldest girls each maried out of their race or rather without consideration of race. 5 of my 6 grandchildren are bi-racial.
    The lesson for them is to be loving and forgiving to the people they will meet who hold lesser values. I would say to you , as I say to them, "You are beautiful and you are exactely who God intended you to be." PAstor Gary