“Ethno” is derived from the word ethnicity; “centric” means centre, the only one, universal. Therefore, an ethnocentric person is one who views the world and others based on the values of their own culture and upbringings as the standard and only way. “Ethno” is derived from the word ethnicity; “centric” means centre, the only one, universal. Therefore, an ethnocentric person is one who views the world and others based on the values of their own culture and upbringings as the standard and only way.
When I first stepped foot into a public washroom in Japan, I believe this was when I arrived at the airport, I was confused by all the buttons and functions at the side of the toilet. There are some with music notes, a spraying illustration, and others which I can vaguely remember because there are few western toilets where I live now. I later learned that the different buttons had the purpose of added courtesy and customer service. With a push of a button, the toilet can play music, but most of the time it just makes a constant flushing noise. Apparently it is impolite if the person neighbouring you hears the natural sounds so this camouflages it. And the spraying button does exactly as it illustrates. It actually sprays your buttocks. All these additional buttons puzzles me. Back in North America hearing someone else pee isn’t even given half a second thought. Nobody cares. But considering it to be impolite just humors me a tad. But that’s just my ethnocentric side speaking.
I’ve had my fair share of working in the customer service sectors back home. But customer service in Japan is spectacular! And even at times, excessive. When I go to almost anywhere to make purchases the person at the cash register announces every item that I buy and the price in a robotic, monotone fashion. I have such sympathy for the people at these registers. Although I appreciate the gesture, I cannot imagine doing this work ritual to every customer, every single time. Perhaps this is why their voices are so robotic and monotone, to preserve whatever they have left, to continue this routine until the end of their shift. As well, every single time that I enter a store I am always greeted with “welcome” in Japanese. But nearly every single time that I hear it, their voices are again, robotic and monotone. They have no passion, no sincerity. Although it is part of customer service to greet customers I sometimes doubt whether or not I am truly welcomed. They probably dread having to ring my purchase and say each item anyway. If I were them, I’d dread business as well. But that is just my ethnocentric side speaking.
I am in awe of the level of obedience in this country. If I were part of law enforcement my job would mostly be spent giving foreigners directions. I mean, the crime rate in Japan is about 2% – ”or so I’ve heard. Police officers don’t even carry guns around! Which is why when in a rut, this becomes a problem.
But honestly, Japanese people are extremely, extremely obedient to the law. This is a wonderful thing! Perhaps we may actually reach World Peace if everyone universally is like this. However, this has a downfall as well. There is almost a loss for a sense of adventure, and to some extremes, a loss for a sense of freedom. People are so confined to laws and social norms that the line is so black and thick the other side is never viewed as greener, nor is it rarely crossed. This is why alcoholic beverages and cigarettes are sold so accessibly. They are in vending machines everywhere, and in all convenient stores and supermarkets. No one will make these purchases until the second they turn the legal age. This is truly remarkable.
And in my own personal experience, this phenomenon becomes almost unbelievable. As part of celebration for one of my colleague’s birthday we bought fireworks to set at a park. We had a local friend along with us. But the moment we started to set those fireworks she told us to stop and to hush. Unfortunately we cannot control the volume of the fireworks, and it was truly hypocrisy that it is illegal to set fireworks when they are sold in every supermarket imaginable! She almost cried from guilt for holding onto a sparkler. And to be honest, everyone knows that she enjoys being a little bit “rebellious” and stepping outside her Japanese confinements. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to individual expression, to know when it is appropriate to live within – ”and out – ”of boundaries and law, but that is just my ethnocentric side speaking.
Even in the romantic sphere, people are obedient to societal expectations. Kissing in public is practically forbidden! It is an unspoken rule, but it is certainly out there and in effect. If a couple is seen kissing in public, some people even go to the extreme of telling them to stop. I seldom see couples hold hands or perform any form of affection for that matter. Which always keeps me guessing: are they a couple or siblings? But this could also be the case that I live in the countryside and the population of people in my generation is far less than a big city. But I also managed to meet a young local couple here. They both speak English very well, which is the only reason why we can become friends in the first place. They deny their relationship, but they are definitely a couple in my book. You see, they both work at the bank and are colleagues at a bank. They are afraid of making their relationship official because their superior may move one of their locations to a different branch. It is taboo to date your colleague because it may affect your concentration at work. This is one of the reasons why they are afraid of starting their relationship. Another is because they are both elders in their family. In a Japan home, the eldest would have to take care of the parents. So if their relationship were to ever advance into the stage of marriage, this would cause a lot of turmoil. The level of obedience to the rules and conventionality gives this country great pride, but if this ever compromises something as natural and beautiful as engaging in a romantic relationship, then this is certainly their tragic downfall. But that’s just my ethnocentric side speaking.