I called Jikei Hospital today as my colleague is there this week for an ear surgery. I wanted to find out if I could send flowers (a friend had informed me that some hospitals in Japan have a no-flower policy due to pollen and contaminated water in the vase) and what address and room number to send it to. What was surprising was the initial conversation that I had with the receptionist. To those who are unfamiliar with the Japanese culture and language, I will explain further below.
Me: (slight pause) もしもし？ [Hello?]
Receptionist: はい、じけいです。[Yes, this is Jikei]
Me: えと。。。すみません、英語を話せますか？ [erm… sorry, can you speak English?]
[Sorry. Is there someone around who speaks English?]
Receptionist: ちょっと待って。[Wait a bit]
I had to wait a couple of minutes, but was then put through to a someone who spoke beautiful English and was very helpful.
I totally enjoyed that conversation for it is very rare for Japanese people to:
- Not use the honorific form whilst speaking to a stranger (it is sometimes considered rude);
- Speak in single word/pointed sentences;
- Be direct; and most importantly
- Say the word NO.
Thinking about it again, I wouldn’t be surprised if the receptionist turned out to be a foreigner. In fact, I am now convinced that she has to be a foreigner! I am just so excited to have had that conversation as it was such a breathe of fresh air!
Hah! You know that the world (in my head) has gone awry when I get as excited as a kid in the candy store when I have been rude to!