As an outsider…

I have spent a total of a little more than 1.5 years of my life living in Japan. Now I have been in Paris for just about 3 months. I can’t speak French. I have never really experienced Japan from anywhere outside of Japan itself, or the US before…

You may have read my other entry about the movie “Stupeur et tremblements” that was in the theatres in France a while ago. It may have been the first time I have seen a film that was neither Japanese or American about Japan. It is very interesting to hear how other cultures view Japan.

Many many times since I have been in France, my co-workers, or other French people who find out that I live in Japan have asked me how I liked living in Japan. Usually the conversation goes something like this…

“You live in Japan? Wow! You can speak Japanese? Isn’t it hard?”

Harvey makes some comment…

“So how do you like the food? You like sushi?” …
“Are the people nice? Do you have Japanese friends? I heard that Japanese people don’t like it when foreigners speak Japanese… How is Japan anyway? I heard it was very strange… Aren’t the Japanese people so bizzare?”

Today one of French friends told me that many Japanese who come to live in Paris can’t take it and go absolutely insane because of some of the cultural differences. She went as far to say that she has heard that Japan and Paris are cultural opposites, on totally different poles.

I would be very interested to read a book, by a French author, in French, about the Japanese people… I wonder what they would say…

One of my Japanese friends summed up one tiny instance of cultural difference quite nicely when she said…

“In France I feel like I have to beg in order to spend my money at a store…”

I’m sure anyone who has been to Paris will know what I’m talking about. In Japan, before you even set foot in the restaraunt, or store, the employees are yelling “Irassyaimase!” to welcome you into the store, and grab your attention. If you can manage to sit down without the waiter noticing you, which is probably impossible… you can be -sure- that you’ll have a menu in less than a minute.

In France, you could go to a cafe, sit down with three friends, read a paper, chat, and leave 20 minutes later without even seeing a waiter. It’s like they don’t even care if you buy anything or not.

It’s as if the waiter has to go out of his way to take your money in exchange for goods and services… Sorry to bother you, but, I’d like to buy something…

This is good in way… you can spend 2 Euro on a cafe in Paris and spend 5 hours there if you so desire. I don’t think that would work in the states… however I think it would fly in Japan in most places… Unless of course the restaraunt is crowded.

Alright. It’s past midnight. The thought train has derailed…