Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Spouse Not Included

*telephone rings*

Me: Moshi moshi.

Man: Konbanwa. This is Mr. D from City Hall.

Me: Hi Mr. D!

(insert small talk with Mr. Dedicated, a.k.a Board of Education Unofficial Translator Unofficially Yoinked From His Work and Given the Unofficial Responsibility of Taking Care of the Assistant Language Teachers)

D-san: I’m calling to tell you about the annual year end party. It will be held on the 27th of this month.

Me: The 27th?

D-san: Yes.

Me: I’m sorry, we won’t be able to make it this year. We will be gone.

D-san: Oh, is that so?

Me: Yes.


D-san: Where are you going?

Me: We will be in Hawaii.

D-san: Oh really? Wow. That… that’s wonderful.

Me: We’re really looking forward to it.


D-san: Just you?

Me: Um… no, both of us.

D-san: Oh. Your husband is going?

Me: … yes, he is.

D-san: Ah, okay.

Me: Sorry we won’t be able to make it.

D-san: No problem, have fun in Hawaii. Good-bye.

Me: Good-bye.

I hung up the phone feeling as if we’d just committed some sort of faux pau. This is entirely possible since it’s considered part of your duty as an employee to attend company parties, although nothing would ever be said out loud.

More than anything, I was a little bemused by yet another natural assumption reversal that brings my ever evolving mental image of Japan closer to the Twilight Zone. Back home, it’s abnormal to go on vacation without one’s spouse, and the unspoken state of togetherness goes unchallenged unless otherwise stated. Here it’s the other way around; to not actively mention the accompaniment of your husband or wife means just that- they will be elsewhere.

Mr. D isn’t the first person we know of to operate from this plane of reality; another Japanese friend of ours travels to a different country every month or so, and she’s just as likely to be with her husband as without, and vice versa.

The head tilt I tend to do when something catches me by surprise is getting quite a lot of practice these days.

we’re not in Colorado anymore

1 comment:

Hiro said...

Chuckle... It reminds me of some American social study teachers often talked to me about Japan's lower divorce rate and how that might be an indication that Japanese culture tends to enforce happy marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth...