Thursday, September 2, 2010

Japanese Manners, pt 1

I think the thing that has tripped me up, and sometimes tripped me out as well, more than any other in my life in Japan has been manners. You know, those little things your mom kept trying to drill through your thick skull as a kid. The ones you ignored or dismissed as “sissy” until you discovered the opposite sex, and saw the revulsion as you hawked a big loogie (or, ladies, scratched yourself in public..).

Now, most people know about the shoes, right? Well, just in case - when you enter a private building or home, or any of a hundred other types of place, you take your shoes off at the entrance, and put on a pair of painfully-small plastic slippers. Then you spend the next hour doing the granny shuffle, raising enough static electricity to give a poodle an afro.

But did you know that you then have to switch slippers if you want to relieve yourself? Leave the house slippers outside the bathroom threshold, step into the wooden clog-type slippers inside the bathroom, and try to keep the door from swinging shut and braining you in the bargain. Oh, and as all you ladies know, men have shitty aim, so to speak, so you really don’t want to miss the slipper…

And students wear their own shoes to school, then put on slip-on ‘inside-school shoes’, then have to don their slip-on ‘P.E. shoes’ when using the gym, but wear their outside tennies if it’s an outdoor day. So your kid has to have three pairs of shoes every day, plus you should have extra pairs of tennies because their shoes will get very wet walking to school on rainy days (which average about 1 out of every 3).

Blowing your nose is another big one. Remember mom always embarrassing you by wiping that snot off your face when you were a kid? Telling you to “use a tissue, don’t sniff”? Not here…

Blew my mind, the first time a really pretty, fashionable, sexy student did a Hoover, plain as you please. SSNNNnnnnnnnNNGH! I think my eyebrows crawled above my hairline and hid behind the scant cover of my male-pattern receding hairline. Then people looked at me like I had puked on the puppy when I blew my own nose - even now, kids laugh and cover their ears when I take out a tissue.

Of course, I could do like your average little old JapaGranny, and ‘Farmer John’ it. You know, place your index finger to pinch the right nostril closed, then lean forward and play the trumpet - Fortissimo!

Switch sides, repeat.

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