Monday, September 26, 2011

Back in the USA

First of all, I should apologize for the lack of posting recently, it looks like September might hit an all-time low in number of posts for a given month... Really sorry about that and rest assured that it's not because of a lack of ideas, inspiration and willingness, these last few weeks I have had to do some travel in Japan for business where time to blog has been quite limited.

Yesterday I arrived to the USA for a week of meetings in the corporate head office on the east coast. A time difference of 12 hours gives it a slightly surreal feeling as the days have turned completely upside down.

So far I am already getting slightly annoyed with the cheery waiters/waitresses and gotten served a portion of food large enough to sustain 4 Japanese salarymen for the better part of a month. I've also gotten ripped off by a taxi driver who sensed that I was just fresh off the banana boat and getting annoyed with the tipping custom here in the US... More to follow later on....


Chris said...

"served a portion of food large enough to sustain 4 Japanese salarymen for the better part of a month."


I miss pasta servings that could fuel entire sports teams and the sauce was vinegar base NOT sugar based like the marinara over here.

jlpt2kyu said...

Tipping and excessive service from waiters, yep that sounds like America.

me: "Green Salad Please"
waiter: "Sure, would you like that large, medium, or small?"
me: "Medium"
waiter: "What dressing do you want on that?"
me: "Don't know, what is there?"
waiter: "we got cezars, french and mustard"
me: "OK french please"
waiter: "and would you be having it with rocket base or green lettuce base"
me: "Grr...I guess lettuce"
waiter: "would you like that with a special smile and hive five?"
me: "whats that?"
waiter: (sensing my lack of american personality) "ah, never mind its just a... Special Service that we provide to our Most Special Customers, Sir"
me: "thats all."
waiter: "And would you like it tossed or shaken?"

aimlesswanderer said...

My mum and her friend were over there last year and said that the entrees were large enough to be main meals.

Not to mention that finding relatively health food was difficult at best. Is it any wonder that most Yanks are so fat?

kathrynoh said...

Come to Australia and you will get negligent and surly service. I've missed that so much.

Theresa said...

The tyranny of forced cheerfulness. Whenever I go back to the States it takes me weeks to stop jumping every time a stranger startles me by greeting me in an alarmingly enthusiastic manner and inquiring just how my day is going or how I'm doing or wasn't I enjoying this nice weather or some such question. Oddly, if I launch into a description of how the night before I suffered from a bad case of indigestion from the large portions and richness of American food and am still a little gassy today, or that I actually prefer cooler, rainy weather, they don't seem particularly interested. In fact, they seem downright frightened.
Always, so many questions. In restaurants it's endless. In supermarkets, plastic or paper? How would like to pay? Must there be dozens of choices for every single thing? Is this why Americans still believe they live in a democracy?
I try to avoid situations requiring tipping. I attended an American public school, I can't do math. I also don't understand why people can't be paid a decent wage for these jobs. Even real prostitutes don't have to depend on tipping to make a decent wage.
I resent having to act tough in public in order to not seem like a target for the ripping off.
I will say, though, that for non-visitors to the U.S.(visitors must stay in hotels), the large restaurant food portions are taken home, the leftovers providing at least two more meals. It's quite economical.

April said... all the America bashing?

TheStrawMan said...

I don't think it's bashing, except for maybe the "all Yanks are fat" snark.

A lot of these are things that I, as an expat American living abroad and visiting home once a year or so, have noticed myself.

Although, maybe because I usually visit on vacation, and spend most time resting at home with my family, eating home-cooking or the occasional Indian takeout, I don't get overwhelmed by the overly cheerful/familiar wait staff or numerous selections that need to be made (not to mention the huge abundance of things/goods to choose from in the supermarket, etc.)

Therefore, for me its more of a welcome thing.

For example the middle aged sandwich counter lady in Detroit airport, who after I ordered a roast beef sandwich asked, "would you like a pickle with that, hun?"
No one had called me "hun" for years, it was nice.

Also, I was sitting in a cafe reading a book I'd brought from Japan, the waitress noticed it wasn't English and asked what I was reading, I explained, and to make a long story short she mentioned that she had come to the states from South East Asia as a child etc...

I'd say that's what I miss most about America, living in Japan, and what I enjoy when I return for a visit, not the forced "how're you folks doin' today" but the actual, genuine, interest and curiosity in you as a human being that can be shown by complete strangers.

Once I was sitting on the New York subway reading another book I'd brought from Japan, this time in English, the Structure of Dependence (Amae no Kozo) by the Japanese psychoanalyst Takeo Doi.
A man sitting across from me said, "are you enjoying that book?" turns out he had read it, and was a psychiatrist who had visited Japan twice previously on professional study-exchange tours.
We had an interesting chat.

These kinds of things never/rarely happen in Japan, and if/when they do they invariably revolve around one's foreignness, where you are from, why you can speak Japanese etc.

Two natives would never strike up a conversation about a book one of them was reading, and with the use of book covers here, 90% of the time you wouldn't even know what it was they were reading...

canthushme said...

I for one don´t mind the over cheerfulness...I think is nice

jlpt2kyu said...

This is a great parody of American people by British comedian Harry Enfield:

(the sketch starts 10 seconds into the video)

Martin said...

I sure hope there are more frequent posts in october...

(Maby i really like your blog or perhaps i´m just complaining?)

drich said...

Hey, it isn't just Americans who have huge portion sizes, check out this maki from Anjo City!

Admittedly I have to agree with you. I may live here but that doesn't mean that I eat more than half of whatever is on my plate when we go out. If you really want to see excess, go to The Cheesecake Factory while you are here...

Mr. Salaryman said...

Chris - Yeah, the portions at most places over in the US are HUGE, but as the prices are for the most part reasonable and they package the leftovers nicely in a doggybag, it's hard to really complain. A waste though when you're living out of a hotel and really can't bring anything back with you.

Jlpt - Yeah, I do find the forced "service" and friendliness from the tip dependant waitresses and waiters quite exhausting, not to mention that most places we went to managed to mess up our orders anyway in the end...

Aimless - There's quite the selection of healthy stuff as well though (at least in the area I went to) but it doesn't help if you order a huge portion of unhealthy extra cheddar cheese stuff...

Kathryn - Australia is more like good 'ol Europe. Nothing like the feeling of a waitress that treats you as a nuisance that should be taken care of as quickly and with as little effort as possible.

Theresa - I agree completely and will do a post about it when I get around to it. There's a lot of stuff that I like about the US and the people there, but I do find the forced cheerfulness really exhausting and in business it can sometimes be a bit too much... The whole tipping culture is also a mystery to me...

April - Relax, I don't think there's any serious US bashing going on here. Personally I like the US for the most part, but there are some parts of US life that can be a bit funny when looked upon from an outside perspective.

The Straw Man - Yep, I agree and I think it's just a matter of such a "simple and basic" thing as culture, I won't elaborate more about it here since I'll do a post about it later on.

Canthusme - To each his own, but yeah, given the choice of over-cheerfulness and over-hostility I'd go with the cheerfulness!

Martin - I'll do my best!

Drich - Yep, as long as you can take stuff home there's really no waste in the large portions, just too bad when living out of a hotel.

aimlesswanderer said...

I think that the aggressive search for tips is easily explained: minimum wages which you couldn't live off if you worked 24/7.

Rydangel said...

most tip jobs get paid less than minimum wage($7.25hr), don't come with health insurance,sick leave or retirement fund. because they are suppossed to receive tips they get $3 hr. tips have to be reported on your income tax.most high class restaurants and bars automatically include a 15% tip to your bill. but the rules for tipping are as follows:
fast food or takeout = no tip
sit down restaurant where your food is brought to your table= 15% of bill, more if you have large party more than 5 people,demand alot of extras(refilled,napkins,condiments etc.) or make a big mess(spill stuff all over floor table requiring mop or vacuum) . tip less or not at all if the waiter doesn't greet you and bring your drinks right away,serves the food cold or wrong order, can't be found when you actually need them, or is rude.
buffets where you fix your own plate: it's polite to leave a dollar for having your drinks refilled.
Hotels: should tip $5 a day for the maid at nice hotels. at cheap budget hotels only if you ask for extra towels,soap etc. the cleaners aren't. suppossed to give extra and can get in trouble, so a tip will get you extra stuff for free.
Porters,skycaps,shoe shine persons, should be tipped. and taxi drivers,chauffeurs depending on the quality of service and if they carried your bags from the car to the curb/ door
at Christmas, you tip your postman, and garbageman,paperboy,lawn guy babysitter,hairdresser,nail lady,
it may not matter to tourists because you won't be coming back, but for regular customers tipping(to insure prompt service) is a must to make sure you get good service.
People who have never worked service jobs don't understand how much hard work and abuse you get doing these jobs. you are looked down on and get yelled at and you just have to take it with a smile. nobody wants to do these type of jobs, but not everybody has a choice, and somebody has to do them.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Hi Rydangel! How nice to see that you still check out this blog from time to time! You always write these long interesting comments which I feel I should respond to properly but then time and band memory comes in the way... But so you know that I appreciate and enjoy it! This was actually really helpful! Thanks again and happy 2012!

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