Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Let's Talk about Trust

Last Friday I got a somewhat frantic email from an acquaintance. She wanted to know if I was free the next day, Saturday to help with a cooking class. The person originally scheduled to lead the class, another American, had called to say that he was ill, but still wanted to go. She told him they'd reschedule and then emailed me.

Fortunately for me, I had time and I knew the group of people. It was a hectic time, but I think that everyone had a nice time...or at least they said so. After cleaning up and getting a ride back home from the lady who contacted me, I heard a bit more about the original "teacher." 

On the ride there, I heard about how that guy had requested that day for a class, but then double-booked himself on an outing with friends. On the ride back, I heard about his drinking, his broken promises, his childlike behavior...Not that he wasn't a nice guy, according to her. But, this is the thing about Japan...maybe anywhere; everything you do counts.

If this was the U.S., people might think, "That guy is flaky." Or, they might not care. ("Oh, you want to cancel our meeting to go to Vegas? Sure!") Trust is something that takes a long time to build up here, and it brings a lot of sacrifice. There are days when you don't want to go out to a musical concert or an outing with a family that isn't yours. The expectations are high, just as high as if you were family or even Japanese.

And really...some things are just common sense. If you make a promise, keep it. If you are asked to be somewhere at a certain time, get there 5 - 10 minutes early. And if you think you are going to be late, call as soon as you know. If you're meeting someone at 2pm, don't wait until 2pm to call them and tell them you'll be late. Don't blow off promised meeting times, don't make sudden changes... Many of these are fine to do in the U.S., some people might not blink an eye. Yes, it's unfair that Japanese people would think that Westerners (Americans) are untrustworthy because of what seems like trifling things, but they are a big deal to Japanese people!

And for heavens sake, West Coast people, stop coming to Japan! Your flaky reputations precede you! I've met too many West Coasters (California people, I'm especially looking at you!) who have a very obvious disregard for anyone besides themselves. If you don't like making time for people, if you don't like being tied to obligations, if you don't like people relying on you...don't come! Ijou desu!

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