Recently, I’ve been working on a paper for a class on Sociolinguistics pertaining to intercultural ideas of politeness and cultural norms, and it got me thinking about the subtle differences between cultures that don’t always come up. Having been in Japan for over two months now, I’ve had plenty of time to adjust to many of the differences between my culture and the cultures of many people around, but I still notice new things frequently- often small things which can easily stay under the surface indefinitely, but sometimes large things as well.
One of the interesting things about Akita International University is how these things interact as well; for instance, from what I’d heard before coming to AIU, it’s considered rude to blow your nose in public in Japan. However, because of the mix of cultures, many people do anyway; additionally, it’s considered polite to wear a mask when you’re sick. Although many people adopted that policy, many simply ignored it, coming to class sick as if they weren’t. Some people weren’t sure about it, and alternated between wearing it and not wearing it, and one person I talked to mentioned that the felt like wearing it felt like a cultural intrusion, so they didn’t want to be rude by wearing it- but also didn’t want to be rude by not wearing it. (Side note: Japanese people generally want you to wear the masks if you’re sick.)
Some of the cultural differences I’ve seen don’t matter in the sense of politeness, but are interesting anyway; earlier (this Sunday), I was talking to someone from Europe about doing something later and said “next tuesday”. They reminded me that we were doing something in two days- because for them, the week starts on monday rather than Sunday, so their “next tuesday” was my “this tuesday”. Although these are just small things I’ve seen recently, I’m intrigued to see in what other little ways different countries differ in how they understand/perceive things because of how different concepts are systematized.