Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

28 Aug 2004, 3:20 a.m.

They Actually Do Say 'Arigato'

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2004 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Surprisingly, I now know about twenty words of Japanese. Two or three "excuse me"s and "please"s each, "me," "one," "ticket," "you go ahead," and so on. Steve pushes me, gently, to do the polite meeting/parting rituals, and I feel awful when I can't do it right. These strangers are laughing at me! No, no, they are laughing politely to cover the awkwardness of the moment and to indicate friendliness. No, they are laughing at me because I am a fool.

It has been years since I went to a foreign country on my own and gibbered in a foreign language. I had forgotten that this particular embarrassment can bring me to tears. But things are getting better. I'm sure I'll be over it by the time i leave.