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Amparo Bertram

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05:38 pm: Who knew it was possible to be too early in Japan?
Today I had the afternoon off work to attend a meeting of the International Exchange organization. I was told "be there by 2" so I showed up a little before two. When I entered the room, however, the reception lady rushed up to me and said, "You were told to be here by two!"

I checked my watch. Still seven minutes before the hour. What was the problem?

She showed me to a seat at the back of the room. The meeting that was scheduled before the introduction of the foreigners (the exchange students and me) was still in progress. At about five past, the organizer came in with the three exchange students. She said she had waited for me by the front entrance, but I had arrived too early and she missed me. I hadn't realized being too early was a problem in punctual Japan.

As soon as the meeting ended, they introduced the four of us and had us each give speeches. I had been told in advance that I was supposed to give a speech, but I didn't want to bother making one up in advance because then I'd have to go and memorize it, and I'd probably get mixed up partway through anyway. So I just made something up on the spot. I can't vouch for the quality of my Japanese, but I think I did all right.

Afterward we sat around and had snacks for a while. When it was over, they rewarded each of us with a small basket of cookies and a potted flower. (My poor flower got a bit roughed up on the bicycle ride back. I swear, for a country where so many people ride bikes, they haven't grasped the concept of smoothly ramped curbs. It's rare that I can ever make it back from the grocery store without at least one cracked egg.)



[User Picture]
Date:May 20th, 2005 09:07 am (UTC)

attitudes about time

On time, (too) early, (too) late...

What complicated mores! I remember being confused even in the USA with Grandma Marie's notions. If we weren't at least 10 minutes early, we were late in her mind. Nevertheless, we'd leave early for church service, say, and then wait in the car in the parking lot (in the wintry cold snow and all), until several other people arrived and went into church. *Then* we could go in, too.

It must feel terrible, realizing how welcoming the hosts usually are in Japan.
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