The magic of a bow and a smile

It has been a while since my last entry and for a good reason. Thomas, my partner has arrived in Japan and been traveling with me now for a week. It is his first time in Japan and I have to admit, that I was a bit anxious for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, you either love or you hate Japan, there is no in between, and if you hate it, 10 days can be a very, very long time.

Secondly, it is our first long trip together and that can be (I speak from experience) the breaking point of a relationship.

Furthermore it is his first real holiday he takes in a long time, nine years to be precise.

So obviously I was eager to have everything sorted and smoothly prepared because the culture shock being in a country where you do not speak or are able to read a single word can be severe.

So far nearly everything worked perfectly, except for one thing, I have no whatsoever command over the weather.

Either it is raining, sometimes cats and dogs, while it is HOT or the sun is burning down, while it is HOT.

But I have to admit that he takes it in a stride and happily enjoys the food, the long walks (31km was the longest so far) and even carries some of my things while I hike up a mountain to get my temple stamp, whereas he takes the flat route to the next city. He started smiling and bowing when it seems appropriate and I love him for this.

The most exciting thing for me though was the question what he thinks is special and seeing Japan through his eyes. I am “betriebsblind” and really can’t see things fresh and without my very own idea of the country.

So while having dinner or a coffee I will ask him what he likes or thinks is special and love what he answers, as it deepens my understanding of this place I love.

One thing he pointed out was how relaxed people are. And ist true, especially here on Shikoku. We are not talking busy Tokyo or Osaka. It is a quality, that will stand out even more so when we return to Berlin, well known for people being rude, though they are wonderful people deep down.

Here you solve problems with a bow and a smile, even if it is an unidentified, but very likely baby cockroach in the milk for your coffee.

Trust me, it was disgusting and I could have thrown a tantrum in front of all the other guests. Instead I just took the saucer with the cup and the poor dead animal, which obviously drowned, to the counter smiled, bowed and quietly pointed out what has been in the milk. No fuss, no discussion, I only had to pay one coffee instead of two and none of us lost their face.

It works in Japan, mostly it does not work in Germany, though it would make our lives so much easier. Don’t have a go at the other person, try to understand their position and show them a way out of the dilemma, be prepared for a compromise. You will be surprised how thankful your vis-à-vis will be. Nothing in our day to day life is worth fighting over. We live in freedom and wealth and there is nor need to be thrifty or revengeful. No need for envy or hate.

Just try -if not visible at least in your attitude- the magic of a bow and a smile.


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