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Thunder, lightning and heavy rain greeted me this morning - setting the scene for the incredibly shitty things I experienced during my first few waking hours.

I debated taking a taxi to work, but thought better of it. Later, I regretted my decision as lightning flashed around me, thunder rumbled loudly over my headphones and torrential rain beat down on me on my way to elementary school. By the time I got there, I was soaked. Quite literally sopping wet.

As I was drudging through the hallways (squish, squish, squish), I left my trail of WET everywhere. I made my way into the staffroom and made a bee-line for the locker rooms where I could change. On my way, I ran into no less than four of my fellow teachers who all looked at me and laughed. "ARA?! IAN SENSEI! OHOHOHO YOU'RE WET!" "OHHH! DID YOU COME BY BICYCLE?! YOU'RE WET, AREN'T YOU? HYAHYAHYA" "OHHHHHHHHH! HEHEHEHE DID YOU GET WET???"

"Oh yeah," I responded back with rainwater stinging my eyes. "Just a little, you know." I doubt they picked up on the sarcasm.

Luckily, I caught myself before I entered RAGE mode. I've gotten used to this whole Japanese thing of stating the blatantly obvious as a conversation starter. During the winter when I'm bundled up in 7 layers of clothing "Ohhhh Ian Sensei, are you cold? Hurhur" In the summer when my hair is hanging limply on my head, bogged down with sweat and my shirt looks as if I've done a backflop into kiddie pool: "Ohhhh hurhur Ian Sensei, it's hot isn't it??"

Really, it's just a way of starting conversation. They all know that I ride my bike everywhere. But this whole stating-the-obvious thing isn't meant as an insult to my intelligence. It's just how shit is done here. Luckily I remembered that before I flipped out and caused an international incident.

The thing that's possibly more aggravating though, is the nervous laugh. I've recently noticed that several of the Japanese people I interact with laugh a lot. At least when they talk to me, they laugh a lot. They giggle or snicker or chuckle all the time. This can only be described as a nervous laugh.

It's almost like they don't know exactly what to say to me or whether or not I'll even understand them - so they just laugh. This one weird office lady at my elementary school does it ALOT. Instead of the normal "konnichiwa" or "Otsukaresama desu" in the hallway, she'll just look at me and laugh while bowing her head slightly. Sometimes she'll combine it with one of the above words - turning it into some strange mutation like "Otsukaresamahahahaha" or Konnichiwahahaha"

Another one of my teachers at elementary does the same thing! I'll ask him a question and his face will scrunch up into a fake-ass smile and he'll just giggle and nod. Never really responding to my questions or pleas for him to control his class and explain things for me.

Whether or not this is a real 'thing' or not, I'm unclear on. In my area, at least, it's prevalent enough to where I noticed it and think it should be filed under: Cultural Difference.

Anyone else in Japan notice this?

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Genki Rocket

July 2012

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