Thursday, June 4, 2009
I am Salaryman of Japan. Resistance is futile
I have, as people who followed this blog probably already figured out, worked in Japan for almost ten years now and frequently acted as the liaison between the Japan organization, potential partners here in Japan and the head office. I have worked here so long that some people in the head office probably perceive me as more Japanese than Swedish most of the time, and some people seem to have this idea that all Japanese are connected to each other through some giant hive mind, communicating to each other through wordless means such as scents, sweat glands and pheromones.
Granted, most people realize that I'm not fully Japanese due me speaking English fluently and also not behaving like a purebred Japanese business person to them, but some of them still seem to believe that I am connected to this giant Japanese hive mind through my racial half-Japanese heritage.
A little while earlier I was participating in a meeting with a Japanese company and some people from the head office, the Japanese company was clearly not very interested in what we had to offer and showed this through stone faces and general disinterest. As we were sitting in this slightly uncomfortable meeting, one of the head office person tries to discreetly nudge me and whispers to me "what is he thinking?" referring to one of the stone faced past middle-aged salarymen across us. It was pretty obvious to everyone that they were not really interested and the only I things I could imagine him thinking were "I can't wait to get wasted with my buddies tonight", "How am I gonna find time to watch through all the porn I've downloaded last night?" or maybe "these guys just don't realize when to stop talking and go home".
Ok, there are some cultural wordless means of communication, but not to the point where we are all connected to this giant hive mind coordinating our plans for world domination and even if something like that exist I'm obviously not connected to those plans. The simple truth is that Japanese are as much individuals deep down as any Westerner and that misunderstandings between Japanese people happen at least as often as between Westerners, probably more in my experience...