How to be iritated in a Japanese office

A image representing talking from mcasteels flickr stream

I confess this is the first desk job I’ve ever had. One of the first things I noticed was the amount of chatter, not conversation – well not in the way I understand conversation. Rather muttering or talking to ones self. I know enough Japanese to understand pretty much what is said by my work colleagues and the chatter, I talk of, is a third person commentary on what they’re doing, minute to minute, second to second.

Perhaps I’m over sensitive but the inanity of it drives me to distraction. I want to leap to my feet and push over chairs and scream, “Think in your head! IN YOUR HEAD!” then “GRAAHARA” and run out of the building pushing as many things over as possible. The teacher next to me might come in saying, roughly in English, “It’s hot” then a few moments later “It’s hot” and again every minute or so for the rest of the summer that I’ll be working with her. I guess I can be consoled by the fact that if I lose all feeling in my skin, I will still be able to determine the temperature and be able to adjust my intake of thirst quenching tea.

Of course when winter comes I’ll be spared from the “It’s hot” updates. Unfortunately I’ll get the “It’s cold updates”. The word is “Samui” and on entering the room nearly all teachers will say it once and most will continue to say it throughout that day whenever it seems a little too quiet. Why? I don’t know.

Grraaahhh friendhpk's flickr stream picture of his roomate
Surprisingly an additional third person monologue can just about be squeezed between all the temperature reports. Things like “I’m sitting down.”, “Stapler” and then upon being unable to find the stapler it’s time to use the same approach as when losing a dog, “Stapler, stapler, stapler, stapler”. I’m somewhat disappointed when the missing stapler doesn’t run towards its owner and is instead found the old-fashioned way, i.e. by looking through every draw in the desk, then your neighbours draws, then your bag, the cupboard, phoning someone at home and finally sitting back down at your desk in defeat to see that it has been sitting in front of you, in plain sight, all this time.

“Tea, tea, tea”, “Paper, paper”, “Now I will mark”, “Pen, pen”, “First sheet”, “I’m marking” and on and on, until they stop to ask why I’m under my desk chewing pencils. The examples I’ve given, I’m sure sound absurd but it’s all true. Perhaps the translation is a bit off as Japanese usually relies on the listener to inter a lot of the meaning.

Read on about Japanese and inference.

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