Thursday, September 04, 2008

People, food, a dog, rain, a thank you

Here in Penang we keep bumping into people again and again. I suppose this is not really surprising, since it isn't a very big place really, but still, it was particularly surprising to bump into that Japanese guy again after we had already bumped into him twice, and the second time we said goodbye because he was leaving for Thailand today. Turned out the trains weren't running. I thought I'd read that transportation was back to normal, but when I read the paper carefully I saw that trains were running again everywhere EXCEPT in the south of the country. Oh.

He didn't seem too worried about it, though.

Last night when we were eating dinner at a food park conveniently opposite where we are staying, we, or rather The Man, started chatting with the three men at the next table. They turned out to be an Indonesian, a Korean, and ... er, a Chinese? I forget. Anyway, the Korean was the only one who spoke some English, and he was reading a book about Hideyoshi, which led to he and The Man having a little discussion about that, and then forming a mini-UN and smoothing over Japan-Korea relations. When this discussion finally ended, and we were about to leave, The Man pointed out our hotel over the road, and it turned out they were staying there too.

So I suppose it isn't all that surprising that we bumped into them again.

Tonight we went to a rather good Chinese restaurant in Cinta Street, and ate until we almost burst. Walking back, we could hear music coming from somewhere, and then spotted a dog dancing all alone in the middle of the road, in time to the music. A moment later it was clear the dog was, in fact, trying to scratch a hole in the road, but the first impression was truly amazing.

Just as we got to the Internet cafe, it started to rain. Now it is raining VERY HARD so I will have to make this blog entry a little longer, to give it time to stop. It has rained a lot since we've been here, this year, and so has been much cooler than we were expecting. I don't think I have ever managed to sleep without air conditioning in Penang before, but so far we have turned off the air conditioner every night.

Yesterday when The Man came back from somewhere to pick me up at the hotel, he called me from the front desk rather than come up. He asked me to bring something for him, and before hanging up, thanked me. When he got off the phone everybody was staring at him.

"You THANKED her?" they asked, and told him that Chinese men never thank their wives. They were astonished at our politeness with each other. The Man told them that actually Japanese men don't usually thank their wives either. He is an exception.

When we were coming home in the evening I insisted that we should hold hands as we walked through the door, to give them something else to be surprised about. I am fairly sure they get pretty bored down there at the front desk. We have been staying at this hotel every time we're in Penang for the last ten years or so, and they have always treated us well. It's nice to think we can provide a little something in return, in the form of entertainment.


Keera Ann Fox said...

Two questions: Do Japanese (or Chinese) wives thank their husbands? Did The Man have this habit before marrying a Westerner? It sounds like he did.

Keera Ann Fox said...

I meant: Did he have the habit of thanking before he married you?

Clear as mud.

StyleyGeek said...

I went to a conference talk once on the practice of thanking family members across cultures. I don't remember what they said about Japanese and Chinese (if anything), but the speaker was Russian and explained that in Russia it is very RUDE to thank a family member, because it implies that you have some doubt that they would do as you had asked. Especially if you are a child and thank a parent for something basic like buying you clothes, or cooking a nice dinner, that's like saying, "Wow, I didn't expect you to provide for me this time, because usually you are such a crap parent."

Megane~kun said...

Wow, didn't know that!

Hmm... now that I think about it, I haven't heard my dad thank my mom without sounding sarcastic. My mom does though.

But I saw on anime/J-dramas that sometimes Jap couples thank each other. I usually hear, "Arigatou mama" or "Arigatou papa". But these are often done in front of their children; maybe to instill values and such?

Wait... Couples holding hands surprise them...?

tamakikat said...

Never thought saying thank you to your spouse would be such an issue. Personally I'm all for it.

Funny to think that Penang is cool. I was there 3 weeks agao and found it so hot.

BTW why weren't the trains running?

Badaunt said...

Keera: Most Japanese men do not thank their wives, that I know of. And at least the Chinese people at the hotel found it surprising, so I suppose it's not a Chinese thing either.

And yes, The Man has always been like that. He also helps people if he sees them struggling with luggage at the train station, and things like that, which causes inordinate gratitude from Japanese people (usually women, but sometimes elderly men as well). This is not a Japanese custom.

I remember when I went to Europe I was shocked at how I NEVER had to carry my heavy bag up or down stairs. I'd forgotten this particular habit - I've been in Japan too long - and when some random guy would just step in and help out I found it almost overwhelmingly wonderful. (I am not a helpless female but I am a smallish one, and a useless packer, which means my bag is always way too heavy for me. When some guy effortlessly whisks it up the stairs I'm not going to complain!)

Styleygeek: I don't think that is the thinking here so much (or at least I hope not). It's more like 'You're my wife and therefore I expect you to do everything for me coz that's your job." There is also the whole 'giri' thing. Don't help a stranger, because then they'll owe you and feel uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels like Japanese people walk around with account books in their heads, with exact details about how much they owe any person they happen to encounter. Everything is situational.

(This drives me nuts, quite frequently.)

Megane-kun: I don't think they were so surprised by the hand-holding thing. I'm not sure, though. We didn't get to see any reaction, but after the lift doors closed they COULD have been all agape. Who knows?

Tamakikat: Penang had flooding, even. But I'm sure you saw that in the news.

The trains weren't running in the south of Thailand because there was some kind of strike or something. It was all to do with the protest against the PM. Apparently all public transport was affected briefly, but only in the south it carried on for longer.