[The American Years]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Posting once a day has been fun. I think I will have more material than days when the month is over. Today's topic: Why "Don't Break the Set"?

Aunt Sue from Bakersfield asks. And she wasn't the first. Grandma Betsy from La Crescenta spoke up first, I think. People who have been here understand immediately.

Things come in sets in Japan. A set menu, a set course on a tour package. And you can not change what is included. Case in point: I love the half-portion curry dish at our favorite Curry Restaurant (Coco Ichiban). I get the half the rice of a regular curry dish and then load it up with add-ons like garlic, corn, spinach, etc. The half curry order comes with a drink included, but only certain drinks. Ice coffee is among the choices. Hot coffee is not. Milk? OK. OJ? NG. And though it might be the same value to get hot coffe instead of iced, and the same amount of work for the employee and in all other ways exactly the same, you can not substitute.

You can not break the set.

Allow me to generalize. Americans are set breakers. We have no problem standing out and asking for special treatment. Japanese find it loathsome.

Let's compare some cliches.

American: "The squeaky wheel gets the oil."
Japanese : "The nail that sticks up gets the hammer."

Almost the same meaning; standing out will get you some attention. But the Japanese expect the attention garnered will be in the form of smacks. I really like the 'nail that sticks up' analogy. In fact, that was the title of this blog for the first couple of postings, until I found that someone else was using it.

If anyone is a nail sticking up, it's a 2 meter tall foreigner whose head you can't see on the subway because it's above the posters that hang down from the ceiling. Yours truly.

Veronica's "fingers are members of the family" song. Even though she only remembers 2 of the 5 verses, you get the idea. (The idea is that she's pretty cute singing in Japanese.)


Mata ashta.

(Avid reader Gramps from Camarillo typed 'mata ashta' into Google and this very blog came up as hit #4! I might get higher if I actually spell it right. What I mean is that if you are using the phonetic alphabet, the 5 characters would be Ma Ta A Shi Ta. But the 'shi' slurs into the 'ta' when pronounced, making it sound like only 4 syllables. And spelling it my way keeps my MPAA rating solidly in G, if you catch my drift.)



Giddy said...

Overnight I dreamt about us coming to visit you in Japan. You and Kathleen and Steve and I were all hanging out in some kind of arcade-like place, and there were Xmas decorations up and we were marveling, "hey, he's right, they ARE big on Xmas, even in March!" and who knows where the kids were....anyway, I guess my subconscious was responding to your comment that Daniel was your ONLY visitor.... We visited...in my dreams! And it was good fun; wish we could have done it for real.

Angie said...

Eric, I bow before your blogging prowess. Daily updates are very nice. Mata ashta, indeed!

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