Monday, May 11, 2009

Life & Culture of the U.S. vs Japan

Photo courtesy:

When Kevin and I have the chance to go back to the States, I often end up over-analyzing and making comparisons of every-day culture and life in the U.S. to life and culture in Japan.

Case in point: On our recent trip to Hawaii, we went to a fine-dining establishment at our hotel to have dinner. To be honest, this restaurant (I'm not going to divulge the name of this restaurant because the name of the restaurant isn't the point)wasn't a 5 star restaurant. But....still it was supposed to be a somewhat upscale restaurant as there were linen tablecloths and napkins at every table. The restaurant was crowded with guests, so I was greatly surprised when our waiter came to take our order. Let me just preface this by saying that I've worked in the restaurant industry myself. I know how important hand-washing you can imagine my utter surprise (& disgust really) when I saw the hands and fingers of our waiter. His hands weren't covered with dirt or anything...but what I DID see amazed me....As our waiter took our order and brought a basket of bread to our table...I noticed that he had black dirt embedded under his fingernails....Most people probably wouldn't notice this small little detail, but I did. And all I could think of was how this waiter could not have not known his hands and fingernails were dirty. Did he not wash his hands? Did he not care that he worked at an upscale restaurant that prides itself on its reputation?

In Japan, presentation and appearance is key. You can walk into a fast-food restaurant and easily see how clean and orderly everything why isn't this kind of behavior and focus on appearances present in the U.S? It's possible our waiter worked another job as an auto mechanic or something, but still....hand-washing is not only sanitary, it's important for appearances.

Kevin and I did end up ordering from the menu, but each time the waiter came to our table, all I could do was stare at his hands.

Now that I'm living in Japan, sometimes I can't help but make comparisons like this. If outward appearances and presentation are so imporant in Japanese culture, why can't it be important in American culture? Hmmmm?

If you have thoughts or comments on this subject, please share!

~Chrissy :)


Blake and Hollie said...

Yes, here is my comment....GROSS!!
LOL! Totally disgusting, but you are right. I make the same comparisons and almost daily.

We stayed at a very fancy hotel here and they were running to meet our every need. Everything you ask for around here they are running, literally running (when we are always yelling at our kids to stop running). That is the difference though. In American we ask for something and we might get attitude depending on where we are. In Japan you don't have to worry, you are FIRST and customer service is excellent!!

Let me add one more thing. kids have visited many schools since living here and they are in shock the respect for teachers that the students display. Cleaning classrooms is an everyday task for them. In the US you ask a student to mop the classroom floors and you might get some fowl language thrown at you. Very respectful for the teachers and the schools.

Maybe this is just Okinawa, I don't know but one more reason I am going to miss it here. Have you also noticed how much cleaner the roads are? Must be from all the recycling and respectful people who don't litter :)

Mary and Sean said...

We talk about this one a lot too-- especially service and quality of food in restaurants. We've come to the conclusion that the value system here places importance on training a process and way of doing things and is very detail oriented such that every person performs in the same manner. In other words, if you go to a bar and order a drink, that drink will taste exactly the same regardless of who the bartender is.

In the states, I think the focus is elsewhere, maybe on just getting the job done, and there seems to be tolerance for individual nuances.

We actually said the other day that we're kind of spoiled here not giving tips anymore!

Jeannine said...

I cannot compare the US to Japan, but living in Germany for more then 20 years, I can give you my two cents. We have become a "I don't give a you-know-what" nation. Sorry to be so harsh, but seriously whether you talk about the parks, taxes, buses, restaurants, gardens, cars or the type of shoes we wear out in public, it is quite obvious that many Americans take no pride in their appearance anymore. In Germany, my husband used to go crazy because I made him sweep the sidewalk every Saturday morning, along with all of our other neighbors. He always thought it was a law, but it is not. Appearance is everything there too, and people take pride in their belongings. He never realized how important things like that were until we moved back to the US. The roads were cleaner, the sidewalks, and the people. It is so sad, but what could possibly cause this, and what can be done about it?

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