Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Won't Miss #361 - rudeness (qualified)

Shhh. Listen carefully. Do you hear that rustling that sounds like fabric rubbing over fabric? That's the sound of dozens of Japanophiles', apologists', and assorted foreigners' underpants wadding up at the title of this post. They won't even read it before dashing off indignant e-mail messages about how Japanese people are less rude than most Westerners (and especially most 'merkans). Those who do read it are likely to demonstrate profound reading comprehension shortcomings, but for the rest of you, those with open minds, good comprehension skills and sufficient attention spans to actually read what I mean rather than infer, I will explain.

I'll start by saying overt rudeness in Japan is rarer than in some other cultures, especially America and China, and therein lies the issue. If the cultural norm is that people are rude to one another, people treating you discourteously is something that you can shrug off. You know that it's not directed at you specifically, but rather just a part of usual life in that culture. When rudeness is very atypical, you feel very personally targeted by that behavior. It's not just another part of life, but an overt attempt to single you out for bad treatment. The context and frequency very much matter in how you feel about how you are treated.

I won't miss how much more being treated rudely stings in Japan because it feels more like a personal attack.