Donate If You Enjoyed

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First Impressions Are Important Especially in Japan

First Impressions are Very Important in Japan!

That's not me for your information.

If you were under the impression that first impressions are not important in Japan you are wrong.
First of all let me set the record straight about a few things. Since I've made a mistake here or there a few times, while in Japan. Well, maybe not ONLY in Japan, but anyways...

No matter what culture you are in, first impressions are important. It sets the tone for how you feel about a person and how things with that person are about to unfold.

Well, let me tell you a few stories about making the wrong first impression.

The first time I went to Japan, our Japanese teacher, a Canadian guy was trying to tell us how to be introduced to a Japanese family, what formality level to use etc. I couldn't really care less. I recall him saying something about an entrance way at a Japanese house being important and slippers or something.
I figured at the end of the day what is the worst that could happen? Japanese people are polite and I'm generally a polite kid, what cultural mistakes could I possibly do? The answer to that, is a lot.
First off I was stuck with a family that spoke no English. Perfect immersion I thought, although since I barely knew 10 words its going to be difficult. Secondly, I had a book of Japanese jokes that I started off with them as soon as I met them. "Grading tests is terrible" I said. They halfheartedly laughed. I wondered if it was funny.
According to the book the words grading papers is terrible or "Saiten wa saitei" is funny. It has to do with a play on words. The first part of the words are the same. I didn't get it and I took it by their fake laughs neither did they.
Oh well, I thought at least I broke the ice. Things will only get better.
We arrived at their house. I noticed the entrance way. I guess in English a better way might be to say alcove or something around those lines. Its a place to put your shoes and hang up your jacket. Whatever, who needs it I thought. My hostmother pointed to the floor, sandaru. I didn't know what that meant, but she was pointing at some sandals. I smiled and answered "No, I'm good, I have shoes on, thanks." It didn't occur to me that I was still wearing my shoes still, let's blame it on the jet-lag. As she pointed out my room, I saw Japanese tatami reed mats. I walked into my room with my muddy shoes on. At this point whatever my hostmother was trying to hold back came out! "NO! AHHHH NO!". I thought someone had got injured. I realized for the first time my shoes were on and I was tracking mud into the house and including the tatami mat floor. Whoops!
Mistake number one.

Notice the pointy tips? Don't eat those ok?

I wasn't great with chopsticks, but I had eaten enough Chinese food in Canada to know in theory how it worked. I wasn't great, but I could get the job done, if I ate slowly. The first night my hostmother had prepared a massive feast of sushi, sashimi and pork cutlet! Yummy! The only problem was, I had to use chopsticks. They told me they had bought me special chopsticks. With the help of a dictionary they explained they had gold inlay and real pearl in them. I was like Ok cool.
As I started to eat, I noticed the sashimi was pretty crunchy. Why so crunchy? Its raw salmon. What the heck? I kept chewing because I was hungry. Pretty tough on the teeth I kept thinking.
After dinner I went to pass my chopsticks to my hostbrother for cleaning. He said something in Japanese which I didn't understand.
His mother said something I also didn't understand.
At that point I looked at my chopsticks and realized I had eaten them. To be precise I had somehow managed to bite the pointy tips of the chopsticks off. That explains the crunchiness.

Mistake number two.

My hostmother had setup a Japanese boy day display in my room. It contained some samurai armour and an elephant tusk. Actually the elephant tusk wasn't part of it maybe, but was still in the same room. Who doesn't have an elephant tusk in their room?
I took out the ornamental sword and pretended to decapitate my hostbrother. So funny I thought, my hostmother looked upset as I was using her family heirloom that was probably 500 years old was being used to pretend cut her son. Whoops! Oh well, its a cultural experience, kind of.

Mistake number three.

To top it off it wasn't until a few trips later that I totally botched things up.
I started going to my school to teach English in the summer. The only problem was there was no kids in class. Since it was summer holidays there were only doing sports and no classes.
They told me although I can meet the teachers and talk to them the formal introduction wasn't until a month later. No biggie I thought, its not like I'm going to wait a month to talk to them. I did my Japanese introduction and figured, if I did it to a few of them and saw them all everyday, why bother doing it "officially".

They told me that the school day started at 815AM every morning when school started, but because it was summer I could show up at 830AM.
I was on time everyday and never showed up past 830AM. My American co worker would come to work at 9AM each morning. I had beat him everyday and I felt good since I wasn't late.
The most important day had come. The first day of school!
I somehow managed to sleep in. Only on that day, and it was the only day my American co worker was on time. I peddled my granny bike as fast as I could in my suit in the humidity and arrived at the school 30 minutes late. I had slept in. The principal had already introduced the American guy and he was trying to introduce me, even though I wasn't there and technically I had already met everyone.
The principal looked at me and said "First impressions are very important in Japan, you should show up on time!"
F##$! I thought.

If you found anything above amusing or even slightly funny help me out and click one of those boxes above or give me a Google +1 or something. Might come in handy in the future. If only it could make me some money. That would be even nicer!

Other funny stories from this blog

My blog about everyday life (not Japan related)

My Youtube Channel 
(makes no sense just like my blog)



  1. You ate your chopsticks! You foreign beast. -- Anthony

  2. Yes and sadly they tasted almost as good as the sushi.


Blog Directory Top Blog Sites