Not So Easy-Peasy Japanesey

, , , , | Friendly | January 10, 2019

(I go on various forums for expats living in Japan, looking for advice.)

Me: “Hello. I am a woman from Latin America moving to Japan for work. The company hiring me already told me I should bring fitted sheets from home since they are very expensive in Japan. Are there any other things I should bring, so as to not make my move too expensive?”

Person #1: “Japan is a first world country; you can get anything here.”

Person #2: “Japan is way more technological than that.”

Person #3: “Japan does have some things that are more expensive, but you can get anything here.”

Person #4: “There are more things here than where you live, lol.”

(So far, not one useful answer.)

The Customer Service Is Not Always Write

, , , | Working | November 21, 2018

(My car needs to get an oil change, so I take it to the dealership. My aunt drives me there since I can’t drive because of a recent operation. My car is VERY dirty because it has stayed parked for two months, and I was regularly going on nature adventures before the operation. I am a woman, and so is the representative at the dealership.)

Dealership Representative: *checks the car for bumps and hands me a paper* “Just sign here, and we will call you when the car is done.”

Me: *looks at the paper with scribbles all over it, written by hand* “Excuse me, but what is this?”

Dealership Representative: “Just an overall check of the car so that there are no misunderstandings if you find a scratch after you get it back.”

Me: “Okay, but I can’t read it. What does it say here?” *points to first sentence*

Dealership Representative: *sighs and goes to my left car door* “If you see it against the light it has minor scratches. It says dirty and scratched.”

Me: “Okay, I totally get it, but could you please write, ‘lightly scratched.’ I don’t want to come back to a giant scratch and them to tell me it was there.”

Dealership Representative: *starts getting visibly agitated* “Well, it’s dirty.”

Me: “Yeah, I know. Just put ‘lightly,’ so that I can be sure there are no misunderstandings.”

Dealership Representative: “Fine!” *snatches the paper from me and writes something*

Me: “Okay, thanks.” *leans over her to continue reading* “What does the second line say?”

(She starts shaking and angrily going to point each flaw in my car. She keeps insisting I “come see” it closer than I am and getting super agitated the more calmly I try to tell her I understand but need to understand what is written.)

Dealership Representative: *visibly shaking in what appears to be frustration* “I think what we can do is I won’t wash your car for the checkup.”

Me: *trying to act super calm, as I feel like she might attack me if I don’t* “Please don’t get defensive; I really only want to understand. I don’t mean to attack you or anything. I just need to know what I’m signing.”

Dealership Representative: *screams for a girl to come help her “deal with me”* “Well, I’m sorry you can’t understand my writing. Look…” *points to a word* “There it says, ‘dirty,’ D-I-R-T-ammm… There it says … emmm.”

(She continues reading the whole thing to me like this. Sometimes not even she can understand what she wrote. Some are apparently abbreviations, and some are in English, and others in Spanish. In the meantime another girl is “standing guard,” but she seems to be telling her to calm down and smiling at me.)

Me: “Thank you.” *to the other representative* “I really meant no harm; I just wanted to understand. You see, you guys trust that you mean no harm and I trust I mean no harm, but if I sign something I need to be sure.”

(The first representative was now shaking in pure anger and just got in my car. The other girl thanked me and explained when I could pick it up and such. As I walked away, I could hear the first one talking about me to the other. I get it that some people are annoying with these things, but you can’t get angry and mean when someone just wants to understand what they are signing.)

If You Like Piña Coladas, And Getting Caught In Small Talk

, , , , , | Right | November 1, 2018

(I live in Central America, and I work for the US branch of a famous online retailer. We’re halfway through the call and I’m waiting for some changes to go through in the customer’s account. The customer then asks me one of the most dreaded questions all off-shore customer service agents fear.)

Customer: “So, where are you located?”

Me: *groans inside and braces for the worst* “Costa Rica.”

(We’re heavily encouraged to not lie, even though a great deal of customers react negatively.)

Customer: “Oh, wow! I’ve heard a lot about Costa Rica from my friends who have been there for vacation!”

Me: *relieved* “Oh, really?”

Customer: “Yeah! They loved the beach and the jungles! Can you see the beach from where you are? I’d love to be able to watch the beach from my office. Do you guys even have computers and Internet? I’ve heard cellphones are new to you!”

(The customer then rants about huts, lack of electricity, and mosquitoes carrying deadly tropical diseases.)

Me: *laughs nervously and tries to butt in* “Sir, the changes went through. Is there anything else I can assist you with?”

Customer: “No, no! Thank you! You guys have fun. I hope to join you one of these days! Bye!” *hangs up*

(The customer must have thought I was assisting him from my private office on the second floor of a palm tree holding a banana to my ear, accessing his account on my fire-powered coconut computer and palm screen, and joining the nearest pool bar for piña coladas between calls. As sad as reality was for me, I hope the thought at least brightened his day.)

There Was A Reason Mama Left Her With You

, , , | Learning | October 19, 2018

(I work at a kindergarten. It is the first day of class, and some kids tend to cry because they don’t want their parents to leave. One tiny four-year-old girl is in my arms, crying softly. But when we get to the classroom, she suddenly launches backwards headfirst. I barely hold on to her before she hits her head. She starts screaming like a banshee, and kicks me repeatedly, so I lay her as carefully as possible on a rug. She keeps screaming, dropping on the floor, hitting her head, leaving hundreds of scratches on her own chest, and banging her head some more against a door. I try to get her to sit on a chair, but she jumps down so hard it flips and almost impales her. If I try to talk to her, she gets even more angry. We call her family, but no one picks up. And by the end of the — short, thank God — day, she is covered of scratches and bumps, but calm and laughing. I am extremely scared that I will get in trouble, though. I explain everything to the girl’s mom when she arrives.)

Mom: *laughs and smiles* “I have five kids, and they have all been like that on the first few days of school. Don’t worry.”

(This happened for one whole month until the girl and I bonded, but my coworkers and I still remember her as Demon Spawn.)

Speech Therapy: There’s An App For That

, , , , | Related | October 17, 2018

(I teach in a low-income area, where lots of people live around a small school designed to care for the children of working families. We make sure the kids have all their needs met and recommend extra help if we think the kids need it. We have a very important rule, though: nothing is free. We charge very little for everything, but the idea was to avoid people thinking of it as charity.)

Me: “[Student’s Mother], we have assessed that [Nephew that lives with her] and [Son] will both need urgent speech therapy. Now, we went ahead and got a fantastic therapist who is willing to come here and do it for 2000 colones each kid per week.”

(That equals about four dollars.)

Mother: “Oh, no! Can’t she do it for free? Remember, [Nephew] was born with hydrocephalus; he is special needs.”

Me: “Yes, this is exactly why we got this fantastic therapist. But this community is too far away; we need to, at least, pay for her gas money.”

Mother: “This makes me so sad… I guess we won’t be able to get them the help they need.”

(Then, she proceeded to place her newest iPhone on the table as she picked up and left. At the end, the kids did get the help they needed, but I had to actually sit with her and go through her finances so she could see where she could cut back in order to pay for therapy.)

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