英語科主任 興野 美穂
スピーチのタイトル： Customary differences
How many times do you say, “I’m sorry” in a day? In Japan, we use this word very often, when we make a little mistake, even when we are not to blame, and also we use it when thanking someone, too. However, when we Japanese are seen in point of view of foreigners, this habit seems to be very weird. Foreign people often think it strange that Japanese use the word all the time, because they don’t use it so often.
In this way, your habit or custom in this country may seem strange and thoughtless in the world. Since you are studying English in this school, you had better know the differences between our “customs” to make it easier to understand each other.
First, let’s talk about body language. For example, you often make a peace sign reversely and take pictures. This pose is popular in Japan because if you put it around your chin, your face looks smaller. But in foreign countries such as England or Australia, this pose has very insulting meaning. If you do this in front of people in these countries, they would be surprised or shocked. Another example is this. You put your open palm beside your face
as a meaning of “stop!” But in Greece, this means, “you are stupid.”
Are you surprised? Body language can help communicating, but also disturb it.
These cultural differences are shown not only in body languages but also in food manners. Slurping noodles is only accepted in Japan, and many other countries think it vulgar. English people especially hate it. When you eat noodles with foreign people, you’d better eat silently. There are more examples. When you eat hot soup, you often blow on the soup and make it cooler and easier to eat. But this blowing is bad behavior. Foreign people usually wait for a few minutes or use the back of their spoon and cool it.
Furthermore, in China or Korea, you should not eat all of your meal. When you eat it all, this means, “It’s not enough for me. I want to eat more. Your service is not good.” So you should leave some food to show the meal you had was great and thank the restaurant for its hospitality.
I have explained some examples of taboos in other countries. You may have thought them strange or couldn’t understand why they are bad. But our country, Japan, also has behaviors that seem to be bad but other countries think them natural. For example, you should be quiet in public places such as on the train or the bus and you shouldn’t eat or drink in such places. Of course you know it is bad manners, but it is natural in foreign countries. Speaking about public places, it’s better for you to give your seats to the elderly, the pregnant, or someone who looks sick. This custom is very different from other countries’, and acclaimed by those countries. Also, Japanese people don’t like getting so emotional. So, many people in Japan don’t shout or use offensive language in a loud voice. In Japan, people think they should not stand out. This rule connects to the Japanese silence in public places, too. For foreign people, Japanese habits are strange and novel, but they think them magnificent habits. One American person who knew the Japanese taboos said, “These Japanese habits show how Japanese people are vigilant for their surroundings and other people.” And another American person said, “The more I know about Japan, the more I love the small country. These habits are all reasonable. ”
From these things, Japanese habits seem strange to people in other countries, and we have the same feeling toward foreign customs, too. But our customs are one of the most important things that we have to save. Our differences of habits are made by differences of cultures. You should treasure your culture, and your habits as well. Every country in the world has its own culture and own rules and people follow them unknowingly. This is the reason why when you see someone with bad behavior, you feel disgusted.
In this school, you study English and how to communicate with each other in foreign countries in foreign languages. You may be studying English because you want to work abroad or live in other countries someday.
However, language is not the only way to communicate with people abroad.
Your behavior may be more important rather than languages in term of communicating because it’s easier to judge people’s characters by checking how they behave than how they speak. So, if you want to go to other countries, the first thing you have to do is to know about the countries’ culture, and habits. And the next thing you have to do is to try to follow them when you are in these countries. If you want to get along with someone abroad, your manner plays a very important role.
As the proverb says, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”