Having stayed in Japan for the past week and a half, a continuous thought has amazed my mind: Everyone is just so nice. At first this was a simple pleasure to marvel upon, to enjoy the wide smiles, constant bowing and an evidently genuine eagerness to be of aid to one another. But soon it dawned on me that the very fact such behaviour amazed me likewise points to the unfortunate detriment of my own society. At what point did a cashier not only have to don their uniform but also a frown?
Before stepping into such waters I’d like to make it clear I’ve worked in retail before, I understand the woes of the aggravating customer and the boredom of long hours behind a counter. The Japanese I have met likely do too. Yet when anyone appears, they are extremely welcoming and helpful. My mother’s first experience of a Japanese chemists was filled with mayhem and bustling bodies, and rather than idly watch her struggle an attendant decided to make a path through for such a poor tourist to make her escape! I’d like to attribute this only to a particularly helpful worker, to perhaps save our own culture some credit for its comparative general lack of such kindness. But I simply cannot, for wherever I have gone I’ve been met with similar smiles and an insistence to help. Of the few Japanese words I’ve picked up, Arigato, or ‘Thank you’, has by far been my most used, and rightly so.
Now obviously I’m making some pretty wide sweeps of the brush here. Of course there are plenty who would love to help anyone they can within my society, (myself included I hope). However, something I cannot help but notice is simply how all of the Japanese seem so friendly. Everyone is looking to enjoy themselves. The misery of the London tube dweller seems an impossibility in the wondrous world of amusing images and grinning faces here. Which begs the question, why are we so miserable?
The weather. Everyone’s go to answer. With consistent cold and rain it’s hard to enjoy ourselves, it’s ok for everyone in the heat, they enjoy the rain.
But this is ridiculous, of course. The Canadians are renowned for their joy, and by British standards their weather should be driving them off the nearest bridge. What it boils down to is our expectations. We watch television boasting of sunshine attainable only for a price, leaving us ever wanting. From a young age we’re informed we can be whoever, and do whatever we want if we try hard enough. It’s no wonder someone working behind a till for hours on end watching rainfall loses the customer service smile, knowing too well that they could have been so much more should they just have tried harder.
But this is not the way to be. There is never enough. A cashier will dream of a lawyer, a lawyer of a judge, and the cycle ever continues. At what point do we realise that it doesn’t matter how rich we are, how much we have, so long as we enjoy ourselves? The Japanese seem to have this to a T, and this with living within one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet. So why can’t we?