Friday, June 7, 2013


As I said in earlier post, it was inevitable that I would commit another cultural faux pas at work.  I was a bit late this morning and as I quickly walked in, I said my customary おはようございます (good morning) to my co-workers and hurried into the kitchen to fill my water bottle for the day.  As I came out of the kitchen, I walked by an old man I didn’t recognize (whom I now assume was a visitor or a donor) and one of my co-workers.  I quickly said おはよう to them as I walked back to my desk.  As I began to sit down, I heard my co-worker say かわいい (cute).  As I turned to look at her, she motioned me back over to her and the old man.

She explained to me that in Japan when you are speaking to someone who is older than you, you have to be respectful.  Since both she and the older man were older than me, I could not say おはよう, but I had to  おはようございます (the longer and more polite version).  I apologized the best I could and said  おはようございます to both of them and returned to my seat. What was more embarrassing than being told to say  おはようございます to adults older than me in front of all my co-workers, was the fact that I already knew this, but in my haste to begin working, I forgot. 

This event reminded me that I need to take time to slow down.  In my typical American haste, I offended not only a co-worker but also a potential donor.  This morning was a good reminder that I need to not only put effort into the physical work I do but also into my interactions with others.  In the future, I will do my best to be more conscientious of those around me.


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