This letter, from an American, is in response to a letter sent by a Japanese e-mail pal that I put in "Letter Letter V".
In response to your letter. It was very interesting to hear what the Japanese think of Americans and their being "friendly". I do not consider myself to be outgoing at all. Actually I consider myself rather shy around strangers, but I am not uncivil to people in public places. I will speak and converse when I am encouraged.
It would seem to me that the Japanese may "seem" rude, only it is their shyness keeping them from being civil. Thank you for letting me air my views.
This is interesting for me, because I hear "Americans are friendly" all the time. For the first couple of years I would sort of look blankly at the person who told me that, and I'd begin a long speech about how it all depends on who you're dealing with, but after all this time, I've come to see their point. Like the time I was with a Japanese friend in Shinjuku Station and I saw an American woman who had been on the CBS News the day before in a story about Americans working in Japan. Without thinking about it, I said "Hey! I saw you on T.V. yesterday!" And we talked for about ten minutes about what we were doing in Japan, and, that was it. I never saw her again, and I probably never will, but my Japanese friend asked me "Is she your friend?", and was very surprised when I said I had never met her before, but had just seen her on the news.
The point is, in Japan, somebody walking through the station wouldn't likely make the attempt to talk to someone they saw on T.V., and yes, I know, not everyone in the States would either, but certainly it's easier to do so in the States than it is here, and I think that's part of what people here mean when they say that Americans are friendly.
One more example: I bought some textbooks for one of my classes yesterday, and the woman at the counter seemed very friendly, so when I noticed her sniffling as I was getting my change, I asked her if she had a cold, and she smiled and said yes. I said "Me too." End of conversation. In fact, she was every bit as friendly as the woman I talked to in the station before, but had that same conversation taken place in the States, it may well have gone like this:
Me: Do you have a cold?
Clerk: Yes, I sure do. It seems to be going around...
Me: I've got one myself, so I'm happy to see I'm not the only miserable one!
Or something to that effect. Not that it means so much, but little conversations are easier to start in the States. In this sense, you could say that Americans are friendly I suppose. On the other hand, if you don't want to talk, it's easier not to in Japan.
And also from an American, in answer to "Letter Letter IV":
This is something that comes up often sometimes in conversations here. People ask me if America is safe, or they ask me if it's really so dangerous, and I end up going into a kind of lecture explaining that it depends on where you are, how you look, and how aware you are.
Well, that's it for now I guess.
And in closing, I have a couple of questions for everyone. How do you view America regarding public safety? Does it seem safe for the most part? Do you view America as a country of crazy gun-toters?
Also, do you think Americans are more, or less friendly than people from other countries?
If you have time, drop me a line.
Lyle Hiroshi Saxon< /html>