Monday, October 13, 2014

Lots of cute comments on this one: Mothers react to being called by their first names after years of just being 'Mama'

Mothers react to being called by their first names after years of just being 'Mama'

I suppose Japan can feel rather impersonal at times.  You go to work and everyone calls you Mr. or Ms. Whoever.  People tend to want to be familiar with me because they know I'm a friendly American and we're all casual like that, but I don't encourage it.  I can be Mr. Bryan among the Suzuki-sans.  Or Bryan-san, which I prefer while I'm here.  I don't get angry when someone slips up and says Joel or simply Bryan, and I don't correct them.  But when I'm asked what I prefer, I tell them I want to be called what you call any other co-worker, as if I'm Japanese, too.

After all, I'm largely expected to follow Japanese office protocol.  I could probably demand a foreigner's pass, but I haven't and won't.

Even your friends might call you by your surname (although I do have some close friends where our relationships are friendly enough we use cutesy nicknames for each other, which I will not share with you).  In English class kids are so reluctant to put each other on a first-name basis.  Halfway through the year, you're asking them, "When is your friend's birthday?" and they're still telling you, "Miss Nakamura's birthday is June 15th."

"Thank you.  And your friend's?"

"Miss Naito's birthday is September 20th."

And these are best-friend pairs.

This respectful distancing even extends to families, where you're called by an honorific based on your relationship to the person addressing you.  Oto-san, Okaa-san, onii-san, one-san, ojii-san, obaa-san.  Father, mother, older brother, older sister, grandfather and grandmother.  You might be "kimi" and your husband "anata."  Literally, "you."

The reason for all of this escapes me.  And, to be honest, I don't really care why.  I don't mean to judge it one way or another.  It simply is.  One person might feel happy if  you break the honorific barrier, another might feel offended.  My wife and I use our first names and she calls my mom by her first name.  She asked first to make sure it was okay.  I use Japanese family honorifics with her family.  I don't feel this is unfair or unequal.  It's simply in the nature of blending families and cultures.

Anyway, the comments at the bottom of the story tell a different tale.  Everyone has their little pet names and some of them are pretty funny.  I love reading about other people's experiences being married in Japan.  I wonder why.  Maybe it has something to do with being married in Japan.

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