Monday, April 10, 2006

I’m a Dumb Redneck

I admit it. I do my best to be sensitive and open to other cultures, partially because I’m afraid of publicly making a complete fool of myself (especially in Umezono, wherein I might find the future Mrs. Zorzan), and then I go out and, quietly and politely, make a complete fool of myself.

Let me back up. Saturday’s Japanese class went fairly well, despite my brain working slower than normal due to the FECKING TIME CHANGE! AARRGH! I HATE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT! Anyway, one of my classmates is a nice guy, but I get the feeling he contributes to the poor American image when he’s abroad, which is a lot. For one, he makes loud jokes about other people’s accents and culture when they’re close enough to hear. Our teacher was late Saturday due to power outages and debris in the road from our latest storm, so another language institute employee – a Frenchman – dropped by the class and explained the situation in Japanese. When he walked away (but had not gotten more than a few steps), the other student said “A Frenchman speaking Japanese. I didn’t think they liked to speak any language than their own.” Note – I’ve also spoken to the guy in German, and he’s much better at both languages than me, although I’ve still got him in Engrish English. Okay, maybe I have been immersing myself in J-culture a little too much.

Another thing about the other student is that his girlfriend is Japanese and so is the company he works for, so he has spent ample amounts of time surrounded by J-peeps and in their country for extended periods, usually weeks at a time. So why is he in Japanese 101? Because, despite the immersion in their culture, he has had no desire to learn anything from it. He admitted that when he travels to Japan, he brings enough prepackaged American food in his suitcase to get by until he locates the nearest McDonalds or other outpost of American food. Gotta love the irony – the guy with no interest in other cultures is dating the J-honey, working for the J-company, spending time on the company yen in Japan, etc.

But he has picked up a few things about their culture; mostly negative comments, but at least he shares them with the class. One of these is that the Japanese don’t pour soy sauce on their rice. I already knew this from the book I read, so I just assumed they dipped their rice into the dipping bowl with the soy sauce, but this is not the case. The other student said that in Japan they eat the rice plain and freak out (not that he cared) if you add soy sauce to it because that is a homemade recipe for cat food.

The first time I ate at Umezono, they seated me at the sushi bar which had a dipping bowl in front of each chair. The next time I was with a friend, so they seated us in a booth with no dipping bowls. I wondered how I was supposed to dip my food into the soy sauce without one (since I already knew I wasn’t supposed to pour it directly on my food), and I hit on the idea of using the lid to the miso soup bowl. I’ve always been more of a “whatever works” than a “what’s the proper way to do this?” kind of guy, although I honestly thought that’s what it was there for. The next time we ate there, the waitress-usagi took the lids away before we filled them with soy sauce, thereby letting me know I had screwed up once again. All this time I’ve been sitting there hoping they find me attractive and may want to have sex with me and I was unwittingly A) turning the delicious food they prepared for me into cat food, and B) eating the cat food. If they like me at all, it’s because I make them laugh.

Again, let me state that the other student really does seem to be a nice person, it’s just that his mannerisms probably contribute to the Ugly American stereotype, whereas mine just make us look like stupid cat food eating rednecks. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is better.

Final note – somebody answered sensei-usagi’s question of “How many teachers are in this room” with “ikko,” which is the correct number if you’re counting small, rounded objects. Sensei pretended to be indignant when she responded “I’m small, but I’m not round.” She hates me, but at least she’s entertaining.


Ayako said...

Hey =) thanks for your 2nd well-wish for my exams =) I see that you're a fellow Japanese learner~! How's all that going?

BBB_0202020 said...

kudos for trying to be open to other cultures, i would love to learn like 3 other languages!

Prata said...

*chuckles* Rice and soy gross lol.

I was under that impression as well for a while before I really started spending time in other countries and learning a few things.

Oh, and doesn't it bleeding SUCK that guys/girls get the C/J/K/V/T-hotties, the C/J/K/V/T-time and the C/J/K/V/T-whatever and yet don't seem to really immerse themselves in it and love it? I swear it flippin' blows.

c/j/k/v/t == Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese/Thai I couldn't go on with more limited space and all lol

Seven said...

There are rednecks.
There are dumb people.
A dumb redneck is kinda scary!

Anonymous said...

...perhaps it doesn't matter whether or not one immerses himself/herself in the culture or language of the "C/J/K/V/T-hotties"...what matters well said person immerses himself/herself IN THE HOTTIE.

:O ;p ;D

Anonymous said...

oh dear redneck. The crux of american culture which we see eminating all over our travels is their arrogance. If you are sincere in your efforts to understand other cultures, nothing is unforgivable.

Don't worry about Jap customs, they're just anal. Chinese put soy sauce in everything and Viets do the same with fish sauce.

Go the french guy!

The funny thing about travelling is, when i went to antarctica, my american friends were saying; American 'travellers' don't agree with america either. Especially not american 'tourists'.

Tai said...

I wonder how moose tastes with soy sauce?

Cariboo medallions are divine with a rich port reduction sauce, THAT I do know.

Grant said...

ayako - it's going fairly well, although my brain hurts after each session. I've only had ten lessons so far.

tigerkiss - I alway say the world would be a better place if everyone could speak one extra language and be able to make music.

prata - Japanese cat food rulz, although I'm going to eat it plain in the restaurant from now on. I'm just now learning to appreciate plain rice.

rick - as opposed to an intelligent redneck? We have such a thing? Note - I go with Jeff Foxworthy's definition, that a redneck is anyone with a glorious lack of sophistication.

hdd - so you wouldn't find it offputting if a guy eating cat food flirted with you as long as he was hot?

aka fatty - nothing? Thanks. "I'm sorry, but I kill and pillage all the time at home. I didn't know you considered it rude here. My bad." :p

tai - mmm...mooseburgers.

Anonymous said...

The "hot" was poking fun at Prata's "C/J/K/V/T-hottie" comment.

...and No. I don't consider myself one of them.

BTW: I will occasionally put soy sauce on my rice and I tend to be turned off by stereotypical "hot" guys.

PBS said...

I like soy sauce on plain rice, but was also told that it's not the thing to do!

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Oh great! Now I find I've been eating cat food for YEARS.

Thanks for the tip, Grant.

patti_cake said...

Too funny! Surely these women recognize what a gem you are!

hellbunny said...

Rice is so dry without soy sauce.I did know they eat it plain.But its got no flavour to it.

One good thing though now i can lay claim to knowing a dumb redneck .

Grant said...

hdd - judging from your profile pic, you're a little young for me anyway. Let me know when you've finished teething. :p

pbs - I'm learning to enjoy plain rice, which I could never do before.

pq - just meow through dinner and you won't have to change anything.

patti_cake - if they don't, I'll send them to you so you can straighten them out.

Anonymous said...


Hah! I'm SO NOT hitting on you Grant. You're too Japanese for me ;p.

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