Misako Kamamoto, chief of the Japan Travel bureau recounts her experience guiding Japanese overseas:
«When I take a group of Japanese tourists to a restaurant in Europe for the first time, I make a point to advise them in advance as follows: ‘’ Quite apart from the problem of whether the food suits the Japanese palate, you must be resigned to the fact that it takes a good deal of time to have a meal in a European restaurant.’’ …some members of the party are bound to start complaining despite the warning that I have given them. ‘’Why are European restaurants so slow in serving us? Please ask them to speed up the service.’’ Some get so impatient that they stand up and leave, saying, ‘’I don’t want to wait for dessert or coffee. I can’t stand a restaurant which gives such bad service’’.
In a European restaurant, the essence of good service is to give the guests plenty of time to enjoy conversation together with the meal. So it makes sense that dishes are served with long intervals in between.
Japanese tourists who go shopping in Paris invariably return full of complaints because they were not treated like ‘’gods’’ as in Japan. ‘’The sales clerks tale the attitude that they are doing you a favor by ‘’allowing you to buy’’. They are so curt. What do they think customers are, anyway? The sale clerks have absolutely no interest in doing business. When I asked a clerk to show me something of a different color or different size, she acted annoyed and said brusquely, “We have none’’. She didn’t even try to search.’’
In a Japanese bank, the clerk counts the notes by himself and puts them all together in a tray for the client, … few Japanese take the trouble of counting the notes on the spot… The Japanese usually consider that it is impolite to distrust anyone and believe that the other party will most naturally live up to the trust placed in him. In restaurants and hotels, Westerners do not make payment until they have thoroughly examined the bill, item by item and make sure that the sum is correctly totalled. In contrast the Japanese have always believed that restaurant and hotels bills are correct. Therefore, even when they are ovreseas, they assume the same and make payment without examining the bill. This habit sometimes becomes a trouble.
When they travel by train in Europe, the Japanese are struck by the quietness of the stations which are so unlike the noisy Japanese stations. There is no bell or loudspeaker signaling the departure of a train. Their first reaction is, “It’s so nice and quiet’’. But this soon gives way to anxiety. ‘’Why is it that there is no bell notifying us of the departure? It would be a lot of trouble if we missed the train’’, some say… Whereas European railways give priority to silence and their rule is to have travelers enjoy a quiet journey, Japanese railways seem to think that their mission is to provide passengers with all kinds of information via blaring loudspeakers.’’