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ATMs Are Not Always Working

, , , , , | Working | July 1, 2017

(There are only a few businesses open 24 hours in Japan, but there is one thing that really surprised me my first year there and still boggles my mind. It came up in my second year when I and some other teachers were answering some questions to some of the local residents in our area.)

Question: “What surprised you most when you came to Japan?”

Me: “Oh, that’s easy: ATMs close.”

(I proceeded to explain that ATMs in the States operate 24 hours a day, which they found strange. When I first got here, most ATMs closed at six pm; three pm on Sundays. Now they mostly stay open to nine pm except at the post office where they close at seven pm or so. On New Year’s the ATMs and banks are closed for about three days so you have be ready for it. Still confuses me as to why.)


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Can’t Flag Down The Right Answer

, , , | Learning | July 14, 2016

(I’m teaching a segment on counting in my English class where one of the exercises demonstrates counting from one to ten in several languages. I’m asking kids to identify flags before we start.)

Me: “Okay, great. Last one. What’s this flag?”

(I point to the flag of Spain.)

Student: “Los Angeles!”

(I had to leave the room to contain the laughter.)


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Happy Treason Day!

, | Learning | August 20, 2015

(I’m an American studying at a Japanese university. My Hokkaido history professor is English. The next day would be the Fourth of July. Class ends and I start inviting my fellow classmates of various nationalities to my Fourth of July party.)

Me: “It’s gonna be cool, guys! I know not all of you are American, but we can still celebrate! It’ll be a fun cultural experience and there’ll be sparklers and tons of food!”

Friend #1: “Cool!”

Friend #2: “What’s the holiday celebrating?”

Me: “The U.S.’s separation from England.”

Professor: *behind me* “Well, it sure is good to be rid of THAT troublesome country, isn’t it?”

Me: *jumps in surprise* “Oh, my God! Where did you come from?”

Professor: *laughs* “Only joking. Enjoy your Fourth of July party!”

Me: “Uh… thanks!”

Shogun The Way To Go Home, Part 2

, , , , | Right | January 29, 2013

(I grew up in Japan and am bilingual, even though I am Australian by birth. I am showing some Australian friends around Tokyo.)

American Customer: *to the station attendant, in English* “Hey, I need to get to Akihabara station. How do I do that?”

Station Attendant: *in Japanese* “Sorry, I do not speak English. Could you point it out?”

(As the station attendant speaks, he has a big map of the subway system and his gestures make it VERY obvious what he wants the customer to do.)

American Customer: *in English* “Are you deaf?! I need to get to Akihabara station!”

Station Attendant: *in Japanese, while gesturing at the map emphatically* “I don’t know English, sorry. Please point where you are going.”

American Customer: *in English* “Stupid Asians. Just tell me how to get there!”

(I intervene at this point as I feel sorry for the poor station worker.)

Me: *in Japanese* “He wants to get to Akihabara station. I know the way; I’ll explain it to him.”

(I explain, in English, how to get to the station, and tell him that the station attendant was trying but he doesn’t speak English.)

American Customer: *to me, in English* “These stupid [slurs] should learn English. Why couldn’t he tell me that?”

Me: “When Asians visit your country, you expect them to speak English, right? So it’s only fair when you come here you try to use their language. Plus, he was trying to help you, if you had just pointed it out on the map.”

American Customer: “Everyone should know English!”

(He storms off without apologizing or thanking me or the station worker.)

Station Attendant: *to me, in Japanese* “Thank you so much for helping. I didn’t know what to do.”

Me: “Don’t worry about it. He was just being rude. I feel like I should be apologizing for his behaviour on behalf of all foreigners.”

Station Attendant: “Oh, don’t worry, we get much worse. Then there are people like you who help convince me you’re not all bad. Thanks again!”


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Shogun The Way To Go Home

, , , , | Right | June 22, 2010

(I work at the local train station. Having spent half my life living in Los Angeles, and the other living in Tokyo, I speak both English and Japanese. The other station masters tend to bring tourists to me, since their English isn’t as good as mine. A tourist approaches me and speaks loudly, slowly, and with very large hand gestures.)

Tourist: “I’m trying to get to [Station]! Can you help me?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am. I actually grew up in Los Angeles, so I can speak English.”

Tourist: *still speaking in the same way* “No, I’m not from Los Angeles! I’m trying to get to [Station]!”

Me: “No, ma’am, I just meant that I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles.”

Tourist: “No! Not Los Angeles! [Station]!”

(The woman’s husband, hearing his wife shouting, joins us.)

Tourist’s Husband: *to his wife* “What’s going on?”

Tourist: “This dumb guy keeps asking if we’re from Los Angeles!”

Tourist’s Husband: “Why would he think that?”

Tourist: “I don’t know!”

Tourist’s Husband: *to me, speaking clearly, but not extremely slowly* “We’re trying to get to [Station].”

(I provide directions to the station.)

Tourist’s Husband: “You speak English very well!”

Me: “Thank you, sir. As I tried to explain to your wife, I grew up in Los Angeles, so I speak English.”

Tourist’s Husband: *sighs* “I’m sorry you had to put up with her. Thanks for the directions.”

(As they are walking away, I hear the woman proudly tell her husband, “I told you those Japanese lessons we took would pay off!”)


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