EA 125/225
Foreign Language Pedagogy
Akemi Morioka

An Example of Cultural Difference

Let me introduce 4 people: Mr. Tooru Nakamura, a section chief in a Japanese company, and his inner voice, Mr. Steve Smith, a section manager of a U.S. company, and his inner voice. Mr. Nakamura came to Los Angels on business and spent a night at a hotel. On the following day he was picked up and brought to the U.S. company. Mr. Nakamura speaks English, though he has never been to the U.S. before. Mr. Smith does not speak any Japanese, though he loves sushi and eat it at least once a week for lunch.

(Knocking softly twice)
...S: I wonder if it is the visitor from Japan. Why is he knocking the door so softly?
S: Please come in.
N: Hello. (Bowing)
S: Hi, Mr. Nakamura. I was looking forward to meeting you. (Shaking hands)
...N: Gee, He can't pronounce my name right. Why does he shake hands so hard? He almost hurt me.
...S: Gee, what kind of shaking hands this is! So limp! Besides, he does not even look at me.
N: How do you do, Mr. Smith? I am very happy to meet you. (Giving his name card)
S: Why does he keep bowing? Do I have to bow to him, too?
S: Very pleased to meet you. Please call me Steve. I hope you had a pleasant trip.
N: Yes. (Nodding and downcasting gaze) But the plane was shaking so hard that I got sick. When I arrived in L.A., I was a little tired. (Smiling)
...S: Why is he smiling while talking about the unpleasant incident?
S: That's too bad. Are you rested well now?
N: Yes. (Cocking his head and scratching it.)
S: That's good. We have lots of agenda to cover today. I have next appointment in one hour. So shall we start now, if you are ready?
N: Yes.
...N: Gee, he already wants to start the business without serving even a cup of tea. Besides, I came all the way from Japan and he scheduled another appointment in one hour. How inconsiderate he is!
S: There is a conference table there. Please move over there and wait for me for a few minutes. I will get some documents. I will be right back.
N: Yes.
S: Shall I get you anything to drink?
N: No, thank you.
S: All right. I will be right back.
...N: What? He asks me only once? I should have accepted his first offer. It's too late now.
S: Fine. Then I will be right back.
...N: I wonder where I should sit.
S: Thank you for waiting, Toru. I hope you don't mind if I call you Toru. (Sitting next to Mr. Nakamura)
...N: Why does he call me by my first name? No one but my father has called me by it. Even my childhood friends called me 'Tooru kun' or 'Tooru chan.' Besides, he pronounces my name 'Toru' which means to take/steal. I don't like it. Why does he sit next to me? I wish he sat across the table.
N: Yes, go ahead.
...S: Did he say 'yes'? Maybe he minds my calling him by the first name. I'd better clarify it.
S: Do you mind?
N: Yes, I don't mind. Oh, I meant it is all right.
...N: Oh, that's right. He asked me a negative question. I should have said 'no, I don't mind.' I knew the grammar, but I couldn't use it correctly.
S: Oh, O.K. Then let's begin.
S: So far what do you think of our proposal?
N: It looks great.
S: Then can we sign a contract to do it together?
N: Oh, no. I have to talk to our company first and I will get back to you.
...S: I thought he was a section chief who is in charge of this venture. I don’t know why he has to go back and discuss it with others. He seems to like the proposal.
S: Sure, then when do you think you can get back to me? Can you call them?
N: No, I will take the information to Japan and discuss it with others. Then we will contact you.
...N: Why is he in such a hurry? I need everybody’s consent in our company.
S: Do you have any idea how long it might take?
...N: I don't know. It all depends on the situation.
N: I hope to do it as soon as possible.
...S: Maybe he has objections to the proposal and he doesn't want to tell me.
S: Well, I hope to hear from you as soon as possible.