Because my parents and in laws live in Japan, we usually spend Thanksgiving with friends in the area. What makes the holiday so special is that we get an intimate glimpse of someone else’s family life and gain a deeper appreciation of our friends when we meet their sisters, parents, and cousins. Conversation flows, we all learn a little more about ourselves, and for that we are thankful.
Last night, after the 8th bottle of wine was uncorked, the conversation gets more intimate and personal. This year we were talking about cultural differences and social norms. An observation was made about how people on the West coast tend to gloss over difficult topics and dance around controversy to avoid conflict, especially compared to what we were used to from our friends from places back East. Izumi, my Japanese wife, is sensitive to this as in Japan the line around what you say to others as opposed to close friends and family is particularly well-defined.
In Japan, directness is a privilege reserved for only your closest friends. This gets Izumi in trouble sometimes because she might say something to someone that puts them off when she was only trying to get a little closer to them. She says she comes off sounding “mean” but it’s not intended and this is especially hard for her to nuance because English is her second language. While explaining this, Izumi blurted out, I’m mean but I mean well!
A perfect bumper sticker is born!