Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Will Miss #482 - offers of help

The short nature of a title will make this post easy to misunderstand if you don't read the body. Let me say that I don't mean to imply that Americans don't help each other. In fact, it's my feeling that Americans are more likely to pitch in and help each other in most situations because they are not afraid of taking charge of a crisis or problem. In Japan, the Japanese are loathe to help each other sometimes because they don't want to take responsibility for the outcome. The sort of offers of help that I'm talking about are specific to foreigners. If you are obviously foreign and stand around on a street corner or look at a map too long, there's a very high chance that a Japanese person will walk up and ask if they can help you. What is more, they don't just give directions, they often walk with you to your destination to make sure you don't get lost. They usually do this in English, which is what makes it all the more impressive.

From all of the stories that you've heard (from me and possibly others) about Japanese psychology, you may realize that they are often intimidated by foreigners and insecure about their second language skills. Despite these things, people will still go up to a foreigner who seems to be confused or lost and offer to help. Knowing that these offers require a Japanese person to overcome reservations that are unique to their culture makes their offers of assistance all the more impressive as acts of random kindness, and I will miss the experience as viewed through that perspective.