Monday, January 30, 2006


It's amazing that here in Japan the shop assistants really make an effort to welcome you into their shops. Or maybe it's not really that amazing, it's just that I was brought up in a society where people treat you like your some sort of annoyance when you enter a store. I was having this conversation with another English human being who'd just recently been back for a couple of weeks, and thought it strangely funny how we Brits are extremely rude with the whole customer service thing compared to the Japanese.
I remember my first day here in Hiroshima when I popped over to my 24 hour supermarket to food shop. As soon as I stepped foot into the vicinity I heard an echo of "Irasshaimase's" coming from all areas of the shop floor. I picked up a basket and strolled to the fruit & veg area where I was shocked to see that a melon cost over a fiver. In the same instance I received another "Irasshaimase" from the shop assistant standing right next to me, I turned to smile but she wasn't even looking in my direction. So I meandered round all the fresh food arangements still with an empty basket, and ended up in the 'bread' section. Picking up a loaf of bread (and when I say loaf, it's actually 5 pieces of bread in a bag) I dropped it in the basket and turned to move off when I got another "Irasshaimase" in my face. I was beginning to wonder if I was being spied on?! I decided to go and find the milk, and whilst pondering over what the differences were between all of the milks I sensed a shop assistant standing next to me and was waiting for the sudden outburst. Surprisingly this shop assistant said "may I help you?" as I was turning my head and responding with "no thank you" at the same time, he'd walked off. Now, I thought that was quite weird and stood there for a bit thinking he was going to turn around but he disappeared down an aisle.
I continued to walk around in my own little world, not having any idea what the foods were I was staring at, and every now and again jumping from the "irasshaimase's" coming my way. After about 20 minutes of food shopping (and all I had in the basket was milk, bread & butter. Oh the shame of it!) I headed for the till. There was one till open and one customer paying, so standing waiting for approximately 10 seconds, a shop assistant dashes over and opens up the till beckoning for me to come over. What I can't believe is, you would never get that at Tesco's. More often than not, you've got a trolley load of stuff and a wait of 7 people in front with just as much stuff, and as it gets to your turn to load your shopping on the conveyor belt the till staff stick a bloody sign on it saying "closed".

I'm now leaving the supermarket, stunned, just stepping out of the door and hear an echo of "arigato gozaimashta". The thing is though, I get this everytime I go (and so does everyone else). In all shops, people are genuinely welcoming you. I couldn't tell you if they actually really enjoyed their jobs, if they don't, then they're very good at disguising the fact.
When I was waitressing, I used to roll my eyes if anyone came into the restaurant and make them stand at the door for a bit until I'd finished my conversation with my mate of what happened in EastEnders the night before! Even worse when I worked in a clothes shop, I just used to lean on the clothes stands or pick up a selection of clothes and go to the changing rooms for a trying on session. Avoiding customers as much as I could, and basically try to do as little work as possible.
OK, another new determination: to be more good natured when it comes to work (and I'm talking about working back in England, as I'm working with kids here, so I'm constantly behaving like an imbecile - out of work too when I come to
think of it).


At February 02, 2006, Blogger Vernon said...

Ah yes, the mighty 5 slices of bread in a loaf! How about the 3 slice loaves - what's with that!!

As for behaving like children, is it really a bad thing? I like it and if you ever turn mature and unhappy or boring, I'm going to remind you how to behave with all your spontaneity and wit once again. Keep on dancing.



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