Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Japanese vs American Etiquette

Salt Takoyaki (Fried Octopus balls) and Shouyo Ramen
Takoyaki, octopus fried in a batter that gives the food a round shape. Can come in many flavors, and many Japanese make Takoyaki machines (like Americans waffle makers) in their house. Shouyu Ramen is soy-based broth, and instant Ramen does not compare to the glory that is Japanese Ramen. 

Look mom, I can now loudly slurp my soup, hold my dishes when eating and greet with gestures in two languages!

   When two cultures collide, especially etiquette, it can be strange yet interesting. Many times I have bowed in greeting to my Japanese friends but also shot up my hand in a wave. It usually ends in an off-beat salute, but, I my friends usually get that I am attempting to greet them. As for slurping and picking up dishes, it actually a Japanese cultural thing. To show that soup / noodle dishes are delicious, one must slurp rather loudly. Being the American I am, my mother always scolded me when I slurped due to it being bad manners in America. So, trying to catch on to Japanese customs and I have been practicing slurping, a harder task than I had previously imagined! The same goes for hands at least touching the dishes you’re eating from, a daily Japanese custom. While it is considered polite in Japan, it begs the question, “when was the last time you ate?” at my home in America. So, to urge my hand to be on the table was another task I was not expecting to be difficult in Japan. Here, I thought learning the Japanese Language would be the hardest task!

Soba Noodles with Shiitake mushroom
A type of noodle soup that has thick broth (almost gelatin like) and thick noodles. Can also be cold served cold.  Excellent for cold weather! 

   While my Japanese friends cannot tutor me in how to slurp, bow without throwing my hand out there, or holding my dishes, they are kind enough to continuously help me with Japanese. Here at the University of Shiga Prefecture (USP) in the Communications department, everyone is friendly and helps whenever requested. Whether it be the correct Kanji order, or sitting with me for ten minutes pronouncing a seemingly silent “n” I was astounded at how kind the people are here. While opening the door for someone is not a “norm” here, people go out of their way to treat you kindly. For example, I was taking on my largest task in Japanese (as of yet) and writing a journal entry. When my friends Chisato and Yumeno saw I was struggling, they looked over it for me and explained how some sentences would sound more natural, and how to better phrase things. I took up a good hour of their time, but they weren’t impatient with me at all.

At an earlier welcome party, see a familiar face? Why It's Mineka! She studied at CC in 2014.

  That is another thing I have enjoyed about this exchange program; seeing friends that I met in America in their home prefecture.  Madoka, Chisato, Haruna and Yusuke, previous Columbia College (CC) exchange students came home this semester! I just about tackled Madoka when I first saw her again, and I was able to go to Nagoya with her. Hanging out and having the complete reverse situation is so very eye opening. Seeing how hard it must have been for them to come to America, and realizing how hard they studied really made me appreciate them. When I see any exchange student at CC again, I will definitely go more so out of my way to help them, like everyone here has helped me.

My friend Momo being gracious and helping me with my Japanese homework!

  I’ll be going to Kyoto on a field trip this Friday, so I will update you all with plenty of photos of the trip!

-Gabriel (Gabby) Lewis 
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