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Monday, July 25, 2011


Every time I visit Japan, I make at least one cultural mistake. Recently when I visited, George and I were invited to lunch. The lunch was buffet style. The host said, “Please help yourself.” I said, “Thank you” and proceeded to serve myself. The host’s jaw dropped in astonishment. I quickly asked what was wrong. She said, “You served yourself.” I asked if I misunderstood her when she told me to serve myself. She said, “You didn’t serve your husband first.” I made up an excuse and of course that made the situation worse. Well…I wasn’t thinking clearly after a couple of beers. I should have pretended and said, “Oops, I forgot. I am sorry.” Instead, I said, “He has two hands. He can serve himself. If I served him, he would have been obliged to finish up everything on the dish.” This was mistake number one. 

After a little more beer, somehow in our conversation, I said, “My ex….” She said, “Oh my God! George is such a sweet guy.” I asked, “Why?” She said, “Because he married you even though you were used.” George and I laughed out loud! I know that most Americans would have thought that she was rude to have made such a harsh comment. I would have thought so too if I didn’t have plans to move back to Japan. Well…this was mistake number 2.

Believe or not, I have made so many cultural mistakes. Either I can laugh or cry about them. I have been practicing the “Japanese smile” by opening my big mouth less.


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