Culture this week:
- How to say No in Korean at a meal (though most of you won’t need this)
- And A better version of Tatemae, Honne and Wa explanation (’cause I still feel I botched it.)
- Oh and I can’t really do Chinese culture… still don’t have enough data on the range. And the range is vast. If you think it’s a long way to the chemist…
The only one that finished this week was All About my Romance, which firmly stayed on back burner for me.
The only other one I watched was Cyrano… which I’ve voiced enough of the negatives about taking agency away from the woman and putting it all into the men.
I haven’t changed up much this week. I need to catch up with Tsuma wa Kunoichi, but I need the right mood to watch that.
I’m still waiting for the crackfest drama that will knock me over from laughing…. I’m hoping Heirs or Masters Sun will do that.
How to say no in Korea at a meal. (I had a better version of this post stored somewhere, but I can’t find it… it has the specific words one used and the order. Remembering it backwards is harder since it’s just all no in translation…. If I find it, I’ll post it.)
If you have issues saying no and have Korean relatives, well, look no further than Korea. Of course they won’t do this to people they aren’t close with.
My brother once observed, “There are so many ways to say no in Korean.” And I thought he was kidding. But there are and I know why, just for this event alone. (I joke…) This is one thing dramas don’t alert you to.
How to start the meal:
You say, “I’m hungry.”
Then you go to eat.
Then you are sitting down.
Then you start by declaring loudly how full you are.
“Ah, I’m getting full.” This is a lie. Someone did this in English and I didn’t understand why until I had Korean relatives push food on me.
Then the other people will start adding food, “Try this.” This is a road to indigestion, upset stomach and feeling dead, because remember, you have to walk a mile afterwards. They add the guilt trip, “But you’re so skinny… have you been eating only Ramyeon? You should eat rice.” (You know the meat and potatoes of the West.)
Then you start saying soft nos to people pushing food onto your plate/bowl. anniyo. anni ya. anni. (Getting more and more informal as you’re losing your patience with the food pushing.
Now your bowl is becoming empty. OMG. More food. And if you’re American, you’re having this voice like, “I have to finish this.”
So halfway you’re dying already, and now, you have to start announcing loudly no and stop it. Keumanhae is the final no. Means stop. And then you start protecting your food bowl with your life. You have to loudly announce also that your stomach hurts because you ate so much.
And then afterwards you’re like rolling, but then your relatives tell you that if you don’t want to get fat you have to walk off the sleepiness. And then the bathroom trip. *cough* Korean dramas don’t lie on that one. Only in Korea. That’s why the bathroom humor works so well.
Then you find out LATER that your relatives say, “You eat so much.” and then say things like how you eat.
–;; So in another words, “You are so skinny….” is a kind of hospitality… as in I can feed you more if you need it.
Japanese communication: Honne, Tatemae, Wa
‘Cause I think I botched it and I think if I explain it correctly, some of the conventions in Japanese dramas will make a lot more sense.
Note American in this case refers to SAE… which is mostly White Middle Class American. I’m not covering sub groups. Too hard and too long.
Japanese is a conceptual, communal language. (As supposed to English which is precise, and individualistic.)
Japanese women teach this children language in groups of mothers. So a bunch of mothers might hang out together and have their children play together. In order to correct their child, they will do two things:
1. Dame yo!
Which roughly translates as “No good.” Or more conceptually, “The action you are taking is no good.”
2. Talk about the emotions of the people or object that the child has not acted upon correctly.
So for example, if a child tries to rip the teddy’s arm. The mother will sit with the child and talk for the teddy bear and talk about the teddy bear’s emotions. Or they will talk for the train.
“I hated it when you ripped my arm. It made me say, ‘Oww.’ cause it hurt.” (I know Americans will think this is the ultimate in guilt trips… but Japanese don’t see it that way. It’s teaching consideration for other’s honne.)
This emphasizes community and to think of other’s feelings before one’s own. The group setting also forces the children to play together and share toys.
The feelings communicated and being guessed at are the “honne” of the say, the teddy bear. This is often said in Japanese dramas, where people will lecture to other people about feelings or that the person must have guessed the feelings or not thought of the feelings of the other people first. It’s a bit strange from the US perspective, since sometimes you’ll get male speech, which is considered street slang tough along with swearing… and then a lecture about feelings in the middle with questions, which is tough to translate because the male speech makes it tough, the light swearing (like crap), the feelings make it seem “feminine” in the West’s eyes since that’s delegated to females. And the questions are indirect speech, which in the West is attributed to females. (How do you translate that mess?)
The second layer is the tatemae. The honne are considered fragile and something you don’t want to impose on other people, so you protect yours behind a mask. You don’t want to run over someone else’s honne–it’s rude. It’s like suddenly showing up for a visit at someone’s house. You don’t do it. In order to be really considerate, you hide your feelings and spend a long time trying to figure out the other person’s feelings. This part is considered as deep consideration.
This figuring out is something that Americans never seem to quite get. So they see this as a “double faced” rather than trying to keep one’s shirt properly tucked in, your pants up so you look proper in public. This is why Japanese tend to view Americans as loud… and rude. (Like talking loudly on trains–which some Japanese Brazilians do… and Japanese start calling them the rude word for foreigner…)
You can see this manifested in many dramas as the person who knows a bunch of things, but they say they want to make sure before saying anything. In another words, this is the Tatemae step. The tatemae step of this, feels like walking on eggshells a lot from the person speaking. Whereas the person listening is supposed to get from the context and the concepts talked about what the feelings of the person are and to not impose. The person listening is listening carefully and trying to reach behind the wall of the other person. This is why Japanese if purely translated has a lot of indirect speech, especially at higher speech levels. There is always an escape route in Japanese because the speaker isn’t always sure. “Kamo”. Statements as questions. (Many translators make them statements, especially on men.) “tabun” “Desu yo ne” rather than plain “desu” etc… this way the other person can softly disagree if the other person guessed their honne wrong. Direct contraditions are frowned upon because then you’re stepping on the other person’s honne…
Who knows what she’s thinking the American will say. (’cause in America you’re not supposed to conjecture–the whole individualism thing.) In Japan you’re supposed to know and shape your speech around those possibilities in the first place. The context will tell you and you’re supposed to be like that mom with the teddy bear, but not voice it.
From the Japanese perspective, this creates a sense of “Wa” or harmony. In this way you never trespass someone’s house of feelings. It’s deep, deep consideration for others.
So, the final step is romance… the idea in Japanese romance is that the person who knows your inner feelings the best and can guess them the best will win you. If they can accept your inner feelings better than their competition, they will win you. (The idea that you can be yourself at home). Princess Kaguya (the fiarytale) makes a whole lot more sense in this context.
This goes to the other things that Americans tend to hate. The instant! lecture on feelings which makes American men go a little nuts. (Feelings???!!) (You can spot this in about every school drama ever. Just watch for the fight scene and listen for the word “Kimochi” and “kokoro”–Kokoro can means spirit, thoughts, feelings–there isn’t a separation between thoughts and feelings in Japanese in the same way as in English. Often both are meant.) The wise girl who won’t say anything (Biblio)…. the open endings on dramas/anime… the selfish people you are told you should be thinking about their feelings on (See Monster Parent…)… the double-faced girl from the US standpoint–Switch Girl and Hotaru no Hikari (also explains why Buchou wins) Yamato Nadeshiko, also kinda explains the mothers… and the whole lecture about you are supposed to know. The whole time the audience is listening for the honne, leaving the majority of foreigners in the dust who want “proof” for everything. Everything played out. Everything direct. Sorry, Japanese isn’t like that. There are a few exceptions. Aomori dialect is supposed to be a lot more direct. Osaka is a little less direct. But from what’s being said in both cases, the smack downs are mild even though there are far more statements.
The downside of this is that sometimes Japanese can play things out passive aggressive and alienate a certain person from the community systematically, but every communication style has its downsides, so I don’t think this is unique.
Personally, it doesn’t drive me that nuts, since from my Korean side I just readapt the noonchi and use it in the other direction. Since noonchi allows you to read other people, you just use it to *know* what the other person is feeling and shape the speech that way. You just don’t out it like in Korea (though that’s more for people’ you’re close to. Hwasin is so good for this. Hee Seon has a gift, I swear.). Korean communication is more like sorting. Japanese communciation is more like reaching behind a wall while stepping on eggshells, trying not to break them, while feeling guilty doing so.
Anyway, this is changing a bit with Japan’s falling birth rates (One child per household, with more women working later and later and no day care support by the government…) and Monster Parent boom. I also think it’s industrialization a bit too…. Industrialization seems to push towards individualism as families are often forced to become neolocal/nuclear rather than extended in one house. So there has been a clash between individualism and this type of socialization.
If you still didn’t get it, here are some things that Americans will not get about Japanese speech…
Anata means you. Anata is also used for “darling” among married couples.
If the person is dead You say “that person” “ano hito” which means you were once married to them, and they are no longer here, so in consideration, you don’t speak their name to outsiders.
I think those two conventions gives you a feeling for how the language works internally.