Tag Archives: people

The Culture of Politeness

Canadians are known around the world for their politeness. So are Japanese. And the British (to some extent).

Americans are not known for politeness. Neither are Chinese. Or French.

320px-Flag_of_Canada.svgIt’s interesting to notice attitudes about these people. As a Canadian, I can confirm that Canadian society is polite, in general. There are rude people, as in any place you may visit. But Canadians are more likely to help a stranger who’s in distress. They’re more likely to run to the aid of a person who has fallen in the street. They’re more likely to smile at a stranger on the street and say hello. There’s a genuine warmth there. There’s a joke that if someone steps on another person’s foot accidentally, both people apologise. One apologises for being the one at fault, while the other apologises for the situation existing in the first place. Canada’s a society that says sorry whether it’s an actual apology or a way to relieve whatever tensions there may be.

320px-Flag_of_Japan.svgIn Japan, customer service is incredibly polite. The customer is always right. The customer is not always polite, though. I have witnessed outraged customers shouting at staff who are only following procedures, yet they continue to apologise for the inconvenience, even if they’re not at fault. Whenever there’s a problem, there’s always an apology. If there’s an accident, there’s an apology, repeatedly. Japan likes its efficient train system. If it’s disrupted even by thirty seconds, there’s an apology. Like Canada, Japan apologises, but it tends to be one way. People are generally polite to each other, but that’s to maintain harmony. It’s not because of genuine concern for one another. I have seen elderly people fall in the middle of the street while every single person walks past ignoring them. That’s to prevent the elderly person from being embarrassed. In Tokyo, people ignore each other. It’s crowded, and they just want to get where they’re going. Eye contact is not polite and avoided. But most people I have met are wonderful people. Very kind and friendly. But there’s one thing you’ll find about Japanese people. They’re not direct. They take a minute to say something that would normally take a North American ten seconds to say. Politeness is how they communicate, how they maintain the peace, not how they feel.

320px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svgThe British are a curious case. The image outside of the UK is of a country that is cultured and polite. But then speak with someone from the UK, and you’ll notice that they may be friendly, but many can swear like a sailor. And don’t get me started on hooliganism. I know people from both sides of the coin. There are those who are incredibly polite and friendly. And then there are those who are incredibly blunt and show a large amount of confidence.

320px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgAmericans get a bad rap, mostly because of the foreign policy of the government. They’re viewed as the police of the world, and thanks to some bad apples, the tourists are viewed as boorish, loud, and self-centred. There’s a sense of self-entitlement. However, I find that it depends on where they’re from and their background. Most Americans I’ve met are pretty much just like Canadians. Friendly, open, and polite. But thanks to the image and some tourists, all the stories you hear about are of Americans who say, “I’m ‘murican! Why don’t you speak ‘murican? We saved your ass in the war. You should give us what we want. Why are there so many Mexican-speaking people in Spain? Go back to Mexico!” Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but there are some people who have that attitude. You can thank Donald Trump for making this stereotype even stronger. But really, if you go to the United States, you’re bound to be greeted by friendly, polite people who will go out of their way to help you if you’re lost. At least outside the big cities.

Flag_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China.svgThe Chinese are notorious for being bad tourists. But it’s not entirely the people’s fault. The government actively tried to get people to stop being polite because they view it as too western. From what I’ve heard, before the revolution, the Chinese were very polite, hardworking people. But when the revolution happened, things changed. There seems to be an attitude of defying everything that is not Chinese. There are territorial disputes with nearly every neighbouring country. They don’t back down, even if they really have no claim to the territory. There’s an image of Chinese people always being angry, speaking angrily, and always shouting. I’ve heard about how drivers will run over people on the road, then run back over them to make sure they’re dead so that they don’t get sued by an injured victim. Dead people don’t sue. I’m sure that’s not always the case, though. From what students have told me, they’ve met some wonderful, polite people in China. I have known very friendly and nice people from China. Again, you can’t assume a group of people isn’t polite based on a stereotype. There are genuinely good people in China.

Flag_of_France.svgThe French are very well-known for their food, the beautiful landscape, amazing cities, and an incredibly strong pride in their language and heritage. This pride can come across as being rude, especially if you try to speak English first while you’re in France. But from what I’ve been told, if you try to use French, they’ll appreciate it and then try to help you out in English. Doesn’t seem that bad, does it? But sometimes it goes too far. And this is actually a French Canadian example. This is an unconfirmed story about some French Canadians criticising French pilots of a French airline in France using English to speak to air traffic control. They said something along the lines of, “If they’re in France, they should speak French!” Sorry, my fellow Canadians, but it’s international aviation law that requires them to speak English. It’s to prevent unnecessary deaths and destruction. But to be honest, I haven’t met a French (or French Canadian) who was rude. They’ve all been polite, normal people.

It doesn’t really matter where a person is from. I’ve heard people in Saudi Arabia are extremely generous and hospitable with guests. The idea that Germans are unsmiling robotic people is shattered by Oktoberfest. The lingering impression that the southern United States is racist is destroyed by stories of incredible hospitality. The opposite can be true for anywhere, as well. You find all kinds of people, rude or polite, friendly or angry, reserved or brash. Every place has every kind of person. I think we need to drop the stereotypes and actually meet people from other countries. Then we will know what the world is really like.

Have you had your stereotypes shattered? Or have they been confirmed? Share your stories in the comments below.

Who Am I?

This is in response to Solveig Werner’s interesting post. She described herself in the form of a poem, and it was a nice and simple way to state who she is. I’m not a poet by any means, so I’m not going to tackle this with poetry. That would just be awkward coming from me. I’ll do it in my own way.


 

I am…

a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, an uncle, a friend, a man, a Canadian, an Albertan, an Edmontonian

I am…

a teacher, a mentor, a writer, a blogger, a YouTube content creator, a tourist, an explorer, a worldbuilder, an artist, a thinker, a planner

I have…

a daughter, a wife, a mother, a father, a sister, a niece, many friends, many cousins, many aunts, many uncles, many students

I study…

science, life, writing, languages, the land, the sea, the sky, the mountains, the planets, the stars, the universe

I was…

an elementary school student, a junior high school student, a high school student, a university student, a classmate, a data entry operator, a call centre team leader, a tour guide

I am…

a walker, a hiker, a birdwatcher, a photographer, a nature lover, a lifelong learner, a book lover

I was…

a golfer, a skier, a hockey player, an ice skater

I love…

good food, summer, animals, plants, a starry sky, thunderstorms, science fiction, fantasy, art

I hate…

tomatoes, injustice, bullies, the cold, false accusations, bad drivers, arrogance, know nothing know-it-alls, the smug

I had…

a dog, a Sega Master System, an Apple II/e, an Atari 2600, a ladybug record player, a Superman cape

I will be…

published, an author, a father again, a grandfather, a world traveler, bilingual, trilingual, multilingual

I could have been…

a palaeontologist, an astronomer, a scientist, an architect, an artist, an athlete

I have…

hopes, dreams, desires, goals, regrets, fears, worries

I am a human. I am only one, but I have the power to affect many, even if it’s in only a small way. I respect others by default, but I will not respect them if they disrespect me. I am sympathetic and empathetic.

Small gestures can make my day. A hug from my daughter, a thank you from a friend, a kind comment from a reader.

When it comes down to it, I only need a few things. My family, my friends, a home, my writing, and the world.

I am Jay Dee


 

Who are you? I can’t wait to see your responses. But please link back to Solveig’s original post if you write a response. Comments are always welcome.

Adventures at the Coin Laundry

In Japan, there are many little laundromats called coin laundry. They’re open twenty-four hours. I’ve encountered strange people there before. And right now, I’m in the coin laundry washing and drying something.

A man came in and angrily tossed his laundry into the dryer. He slammed the washing machine and dryer doors, and stalked out of the coin laundry. Not sure what he was angry about. I guess I’m waiting for the laundry to finish instead of going home while it dries.

Other times, I’ve been stared at by old men while I loaded the dryer. And on one occasion, a couple old men started talking to me. I think they were testing my Japanese, because they seemed very interested in my brief replies. They were impressed by simple answers. I didn’t really want to talk to them. Their attitude was a bit odd.

So now, I’m sitting here with another man who’s drying his clothes. He’s concentrating in his phone, so no problem.

Ever have strange encounters at the laundromat?

Kind Train Driver Makes Kid’s Day

On the train I’m riding in, there was a boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old, riding with his mother. They got off the train, and as we’re in the front car, they stood near the driver’s window and said, “Arigato gozaimasu.” That means “thank you” in Japanese. I didn’t expect what happened next. The train driver very briefly used the train’s horn. The boy then mirrored the motions that the driver does, and he seemed very seriously into it.

Train driver, you just made a little boy very happy. Here’s a photo of the train. He’s in there somewhere.

20150909-123738-45458525.jpg

I love seeing things like this. Have you seen anything recently that makes you think humanity isn’t all that bad?

Who Do I See?

I’m on the train right now. It’s only a short ride. But who do I see?

A woman standing across from me looking at her iPhone with a Minnie Mouse cover. Two young girls about 6 and 8 years old are standing and wearing hats. A man is sitting and doing some kind of number puzzle I’ve never seen before. Next to him is a woman doing sudoku. There’s a man standing without holding onto anything while reading a book. Two men sitting next to each other are complete opposites, one is rather large and balding, the other is really small and has a full head of hair. A woman is standing nearby with a shirt that says “Manhattan Brooklyn New York.” The mother of the children I mentioned before is wearing a yellow Minnie Mouse t-shirt.

Any one of these people could have a fascinating story to tell. I wonder about each one.

Do you ever watch people and try to guess who they are or what they do?

Reading about Aboriginal Cultures

When I was in grade three, we studied about northern Alberta’s native life and history.  It was interesting, but it was so long ago, I can’t remember much about it.  In grade four, we studied about the Australian Aborigines.  That was also interesting, but my memory is mostly about art on rock faces.  In grade six, we studied about the Aztecs.  Now that was absolutely fascinating.  I remember a lot more about that.

As I read Deadhouse Gates, I have come to notice that there are a lot of different tribes of people in the area the story takes place.  It got me to thinking that learning about aboriginal groups in the world would not only be interesting, but would give a good idea about how different kinds of cultures lived in the past.  This could potentially be useful for writing fantasy and creating believable native cultures.

So, I’d like a little help.  Do you know of any websites that are good resources for learning about different aboriginal cultures?  Please let me know in the comments below.

The Importance of People Watching

Any writer knows that to write fiction, you need to understand human behaviour.  What can be better than people watching?

I’ve always been a people watcher.  This doesn’t come from being a writer, this is a side effect of my introversion.  I watch many aspects, like how they walk, how they talk, body language, posture, how they interact with others, and so on.  It’s one of my strategies for dealing with others when I have to speak with them.  And I speak with many people every day in my job.  I’ve learned to adapt how I speak with others depending on what kind of person they are.  I can usually get along with anyone, even people I don’t like very much.  While others may get into arguments with that person, I seem to be able to diplomatically defuse situations.  Of course, this only works if we speak the same language.  I know when to let the person talk, and I know how to interrupt them.  A lot of this comes from years of experience in both teaching and customer service.

All of this is important for writing, because if we don’t understand how people behave, characters will end up being very unnatural and stereotypical.  When reading a serious novel, stereotypical characters turn me off.  I don’t want cookie cutter characters, I want well-rounded people. So what you need to do is not only watch how people move and behave, but also listen to conversation.  How do they say what they say?  Take notes about figures of speech, natural phrases, and how people respond in conversation.

If you can’t get out and are stuck in front of your computer, try watching some YouTube videos.  It’s best if they aren’t staged, acted, or a monologue in front of a webcam.  Look for those candid videos where someone just happens to be recording what’s happening.  You can get real behaviour and conversation that way.  Do you want to write a fight scene?  Watch a video of an actual fight in public.  For research, not entertainment, of course.  Don’t watch a movie fight scene.  Those are choreographed and not realistic.  You can also find good arguments on YouTube.  Listen to what they say.  Listen to how their language changes.  It’s quite different than their usual calm language.

There are many ways to observe people. What do you like to do?