Preached by a stranger?

19 Nov

It’s very rare in Tokyo that a stranger who happens to be seated at next table in a restaurant talks to you. But it just happened to us, my co-worker and I, while we were having lunch together during a lunch break. It was an old man that first talked to me if the dish was good. I answered with smile that it was. There was no problem if he only exchanged a few words like that with us.

But in fact, he kept talking on and on that seemed to be directed to us. We were not interested in having any further conversation with that stranger. So both of us just ignored him, and we continued our own conversation. In the mean time, he stopped talking.

It took a while until our tea/coffee were served after the meal. So we urged a waitress several times to bring them to us asap as we had to go back to the office before lunch break was over. I started to feel irritated as time for drinking tea/coffee would not be left even if they were finally served. My co-worker and I were joking with laughter that I’d rather take away my cup of coffee or I’d ask the waitress to stop serving me coffee and instead I’d ask a cashier to deduct that amount from the total. (I was not serious, not intended but just joking.)

Then the man next to me suddenly started to preach us that it was not nice of us to laugh like that and get irritated with not being served promptly, when the waitresses were doing their best under the circumstances. OK maybe he was right. But my co-worker and I were about to tell him to stop talking to us as he has nothing to do with us or whatever we are talking about. Let alone we were not there to listen to his preach! Yet, at the same time, we knew we had no intention of having a quarrel with him for such a stupid matter. So we kept silent. We ignored him, having only half cup of tea/coffee to return to the office promptly, before it got too late.

It was quite an unpleasant lunch time after all. I guess he would complain that the young people are really rude and inconsiderate today. Or is that our lunch break that is too short (60 minutes)? Have you had such an experience before? As it’s not normal that a stranger speaks so much, he must be weird. What do you think?

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32 Responses to “Preached by a stranger?”

  1. Shimin November 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    It's kind of common here in Singapore 😑
    Last month I was waiting for a bus, and this random uncle came up and spoke to me about various random topics. From languages to war times to finance. Luckily his bus came and he left, leaving me in relief!

    • kirin November 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

      Hi Shimin,

      Oh, it's common there. ^ ^;;;
      Such people are everywhere… ^ ^;;

  2. Apple November 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    i feel that the old man is just lonely. Perhaps he has not worked in an office before in his life, and he can't understand why young people nowadays are so impatient, and therefore he found the attitude of you and your colleague difficult to comprehend. But more than that, I am guessing that he just wanted to talk to someone or he just wanted to feel powerful and respected because he's older than you and your colleague. Well, a lot of reasons! ^^

    Old people like to talk to me a lot somehow. ^^" I often get that but I don't really mind…until they start complaining about our government and country… My mind shuts off in politics. Haha!

    • kirin November 23, 2012 at 12:42 am #

      Yeah, I think so too. 😦
      But his speech just keeps people away from him and that makes him lonely again…

      • Alberto December 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

        Sorry to annoy you with another comment, Kirin, but this makes me really sad.
        I hate seeing old people lonely, with nobody to talk to, but I love talking to them because they know a lot of things and I can learn a lot from them and even when they are old they are still persons that should never be alone.

        I hate people that never respects or honors old people because they are just "old" (no, no i'm not talking about you, Kirin. I am absolutely sure you and your hubby are good and kind)

  3. sedonia2 November 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Sounds like he's some lonely person who doesn't know how else to connect with people. He could also just be mentally ill. That's the sense I had from reading what you wrote.

    • kirin November 23, 2012 at 12:44 am #

      If only he wanted to greet and have some amusing conversation, I didn't mind that. But his way of speech made us quite uncomfortable. 😦

  4. Elle November 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Hello Kirin πŸ™‚

    Yeah… where I live that's pretty common. Of course every interaction has its limits specially if it isn't an uninvited one… and respect is a two way street, as a quote says. Perhaps he was feeling lonely and wanted some kind of attention, wanted to talk to someone… who knows. There's another quote that comes to mind, "Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle" (including the mental health or just mere boredom)… I repeat to myself that everytime I feel that I'm starting to get mad at someone, there are many many factors I don't know that could be affecting the other person, as well as the other person ignores about me. So it's always better to let the moment to dissolve and move our attention towards another thing and for me at times it's like a "great" test to my own patience, 'cause I don't really like confrontations of any kind… I avoid them like the plague lol.

    It could be a weird and uncomfortable occurrence… but it happens sometimes. You both did it well… 'cause at the end of the day we don't know what's really going on with everyone and most things that people do have to do with their own personal battle… and we just happen to pass by at the wrong time lol

    • kirin November 23, 2012 at 12:47 am #

      Hi Elle,

      I guess I handled it worse if I had been alone then. My co-worker was more calmed and she suggested we should ignore him. I was about to react to him seriously. It must have been worse if I had been there without my colleague.

  5. Cath November 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Hi Kirin!
    I had to look at the date of this post a few times. Did you go back to work at a company?
    Anyway, I think the old man was just terribly lonely. If he can't pick a conversation, perhaps a quarrel is better than nothing. I met an old man at that Saitama church, and he just kept telling me about a camp he went to, even though I can't understand Japanese. I felt sorry. I think I won't mind visiting old people to let them do some talking. =(
    Back to your encounter. I feel sorry for you and your co-worker too! Lunch time is very important for you to recharge! =(

    • kirin November 23, 2012 at 12:55 am #

      Hi Cath,

      Yes, after I quit my job in mid July and had my summer holiday till mid August, I was asked by the supervisor of that company if I could come back. At that time, I had a chance to work for other company but after all I chose to come back because I really liked the people working for that company. It's a very Japanese company (good old JP company) in both good meaning and bad meaning. ^ ^;;

      Since then (mid Aug.) till today I've been working for that company again. It was not so bad to work for an office when co-workers are such nice people. I made some interesting friends who I would never have encountered if I had been working from home.

      I think I can listen to old people if their conversation is something interesting, not criticizing or preaching. Yet, indeed, it was not nice to have my lunch break screwed up with such an uncomfortable experience. -__-

  6. Salma November 20, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Of course, I've experienced lots of such situations before in my country. πŸ˜†
    When I go to any public place, especially a hairdresser's, some strange women tend to start a random conversation with me or even with other women. It all starts by talking about general stuff. The same often happens between men in men's barber's too! xD
    But the only way which I use to escape such conversations is making a false excuse to leave (I'm busy now, gotta go, somebody is waiting for me, etc.)!
    Some old people often love making such conversations because they may feel lonely.
    In general, I tend to dislike such conversations too, and I hate being misunderstood by old people because this's unfair. 😦
    Anyway, don't bother yourself with the old man who misundertood you and your colleague! πŸ™‚ It's very common to face situations like this one!

    • kirin November 23, 2012 at 1:00 am #

      Hi Salma,

      Thank you for your comment. In Tokyo, it's not very common a stranger talks to you except for asking directions or handling a flyer or something. In a hair salon, normally we don't talk with other customers. We only talk with the hair dresser and people who provide us service. Maybe the situation is quite different when we go to a small city in Japan.

      So it even made me surprised that old man kept talking after the first conversation. I'm not used to such situation. hahaha! >_<

  7. natalia November 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Well.. I live in Spain, and here people are very open about their feelings, etc. So, yes, it has happened, and I don't think its a bad thing. To tell you the truth I think the ubnormal think is to not talk to each other, we are becoming more and more independant and solitary and it wasn't like this before. I think maibe, in Japan and Asia in general , people are more selfish in a way. I don't meen this is good or bad, it's just cultures are different. Here people laugh out loud , shout , get drunk, kiss, hold each other, in public, and not just young people, I've seen very old people doing things like that. So , for me, in my experience, this is what makes my country so enjoyble, but I do understand why people maibe don't think like this. In fact, I really want to go to Japan, but this is one of the issues that holds me back the most, the difference when talking with other people ramdombly.

    • kirin November 23, 2012 at 1:12 am #

      Hi Natalia,

      It's so true that in Japan, people do not reveal their emotions like you do in Spain. You'll be shocked how different it is! It's not too much to say that in Japan, even lovers do not kiss or hug in front of other people, in a public place. Friends either, they don't hug each other. They never say how much they care or miss each other. Mother and kids do not say "I love you" like how they say in western country. In our culture, somehow people believe such is a thing to be felt without spoken or revealed. Once it's spoken or shown, it looks worthless. It's like that.

      Especially in a big city like Tokyo, strangers would never talk each other. (Osaka maybe different because of different culture) Even if there's a casual eye contact with a stranger, we wouldn't greet each other because that is considered "weird" in this culture. Sometimes what's normal outside Japan is quite abnormal in Japan.

      Let's say, you enter an elevator and there was a man already in. You'd say "hi" to him, right? I'd do so outside Japan. But in Japan, we wouldn't because that's normal here.

      Quiero viajar a España algún día y estoy aprendiendo español con telenovela y intercambio de idiomas con mis amigos que hablan español. Muchas gracias. πŸ™‚

      • natalia November 23, 2012 at 1:35 am #

        jaja you have good spanish kirin! I'm currently learning japanese myself…well..trying to jaja. Yes, I know what you mean..its a shame actually. I know when you love someone you don't need to always say " i love you", but I think its important to say so, this helps specially when you are down. And also its quite normal to see older couple with kids or teens or whatever holding hands , my parents do it all the time, we respect it .
        In fact, people here a very direct about love, I've noticed in manga's and anime's and all that stuff, its like years since they finally confess. And also, here its very impolite if you just met someone's friend or whoever, and don't introduce yourself with a kiss in a left and kiss in a right , even do you don't talk to that person more, its always friendly to do so. If I gave my hand to shake, people would look at me like …what's the problem with her? she is so serious. Sometimes, when its a very large group of people you just wave hi , but I know boys ( boys specially have to do this ) that take about 10 minutes kissing the girls and shaking the guys hands. Also you may get kissed on the lips if your not careful, but if that happends everyone is like joking and stuff haha.
        Anyway, its a really good topic this one, I really enjoy reading the comments. Oh, and if I ever go there with my boyfriend, I would kiss and hold hands in public, I would feel really strange not doing so, cold. So…what happends if you behave like this in Japan or Asia in general? I'm curious about the response… have you seen situations like this?
        I like this topic!

      • kirin November 23, 2012 at 2:39 am #

        Yes, I like this topic too. πŸ™‚
        I sometimes feel like expressing my emotions more in this country. I ask if I can hug someone but only when she or he understands western culture. The other day I saw my colleague blaming herself for not being careful at work. I wanted to tell her it's not a big deal and I was about to pat on her to console her and noticed that such action might not be taken something comfortable to her.

        I feel complicated when I can easily hug my friend from South America every time I see him, while I can't even hug my Japanese friends who I've known for many years, because of culture. To me, old Japanese friends are closer than the South American friend. But I know they will feel uncomfortable if I hug them. 😦

        Western people hugging and kissing in public in Japan may be regarded normal because we think they are like that.

      • natalia November 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

        Lol, sounds like japanese people don't have very high standards of us. I think maibe the new generation can make the difference, I think they already are. You should be open about your emotions, it feels so much better that keeping it to yourself. I know it may sound selfish at first , but its not, because this way people really know how you are inside, and you get to know other points of view of the people around you.
        Even so, I don't like when people but Europa and America at the same level, because the culture is totally different.

  8. natalia November 23, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    muchas gracias! πŸ˜€

    • kirin November 23, 2012 at 2:40 am #

      De nada! πŸ˜€

  9. Elle November 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Hello again πŸ™‚

    Just re-reading all this plus all the new comments and comparing the whole situation with something that also that usually happens a lot here (I live in South America, but I guess this applies in most western countries). Usually people -also- over use them, or show emotions when they don't feel it and it's hard to know for sure if someone is true to you until you really need them and before that is just all talking, perhaps to pretend something they aren't, to get something or who knows. It happened to me recently… and it was heartbreaking… I'm still recovering from the shock lol πŸ˜₯

    What I'm trying to say is that it's difficult to measure the truthfulness of an action, in our case we're overloaded with the expressions of emotions, and it's a hard work to discover if some of those are real or not. At least if one really cares about that… if not of course, this doesn't apply.

    It's complicated. How one knows for sure if too much is an act or if nothing at all, is really the apparent lacking of something; who knows if that person who barely speak is a really caring human being and that one that shows too much will leave you alone when you most need them or hurt you in some other ways. This of course in the cases where there's some sort of friendship.

    But going back to the interaction with completely strangers… I think we must do what we feel or what we sense on each situation. Sometimes a smile is sufficient, some others a hug is welcomed, sometimes even silence is like giving space to the other and etc.

    At the end of the day, each person is an unique experience I guess πŸ™‚

    And it's not easy -at all- to be a human lolol πŸ˜€

    • kirin November 27, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

      Thank you for your comment, Elle.
      I think I know what you mean. Here in Japan, people tend to express feelings much less than how you do in Europe or America. But that doesn't mean we have less friendship or love. Without hug or kiss, we still catch the subtle sense between friends or lovers.

      But I often feel like telling the people I care how much I love them. But expressing such feelings with words often makes that sound cheap in this country. So I can rarely say that. It's something like unspoken rule. ^ ^;;

      • Elle November 28, 2012 at 11:57 am #

        Yeah… the subtleties often carry the real feelings, even more than words at times and the unspoken sense of security that a true friend emit can even be felt within silence. After all… emotions are like strong electromagnetic pulses lol πŸ˜€ and there are infinite ways of express/sense them.

        This reminded me of a tao blogger I often read, that says all the time "emit love. value your hologram (world), love the world (your hologram)"… or something like that. (Although sometimes some people are challenging to love hahaha lol but anyways… challenges are there for some reason)

        But going back to the main subject, it's easier for me here to randomly talk to another women than men. It happened to me once that a man kissed me just 'because' we (I was with a friend and wasn't alone thank god!!) engaged in a polite weather-like-about conversation during the long bus trip. That was a traumatic experience (hard to just 'emit love' there lol), I was still a teen back then (I should have kicked him or something now that I think about it lol but I was frozen on my spot trying to analyse the situation, fortunately my friend took me away). Each situation is unique and not all the people are like that… but it's not wrong to be alert I guess.

        Gracias!! πŸ™‚

      • kirin December 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

        Oh! If that happened to me, I'd get frozen even today! ^ ^;;;;;

  10. Alberto November 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Uhmmm what strange and uncomfortable situation.

    I guess why you say "here in Japan, unknown people next to you will not usually talk to you". I can't really understand it from my western way of thinking, but I would like to know why talking to a stranger about the weather, the traffic or things like that is uncommon or weird in JP.

    And it's the opposite here in Spain, you can talk to people in bus stop or train station or public places like that and nobody is going to think you are crazy or ignore you.
    When I take the bus when I come back from work there is always an old woman and we always talk about trivial things like the weather, the traffic, and other topics and someone other people gets in the conversation so after 10 minutes we could be 3 persons talking about random things ^_^
    But now thanks to your post I know that such situation could be fairly impossible in Japan.

    What people in Japan would think of me if I talk to them in the bus stop? Would they think I am crazy or something? Or will they just ignore me?

    I can't say about that guy, but if I were in your situation in that restaurant I will probably have some conversation with him. :p

    • kirin November 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

      I know it'd be hard for you or Spanish people to understand why it's normal over here in Tokyo that strangers never talk each other. You will see if you move to Tokyo and send a normal life (not as a tourist). It's hard to explain, but it's like that here. However, I don't think it's the same in countryside. In Tokyo, we normally rarely talk to a stranger. If I want to ask a direction and say "sumimasen (excuse me)" to a stranger, she or he would first try to ignore me or run away from me, so I quickly continue that I just want to ask a direction, and s/he will stop with relief in the face. I think people in Tokyo are alert against strangers. Those who talk to them could do something wrong.

      • Alberto December 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

        Yes, I think the same: in countryside people usually are more talkative. Here it's the same. Today, for example, while taking a walk I end up talking to an old man about random things from the countryside: cows, cattle, dogs, weather, roads and traffic, pollution and and even politics!!! We were walking and talking around 30 minutes before I had to go.
        In the city people is usually less confident.

        So basically, if I move to Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, Osaka or any other big city, I would need to "sumimasen" and then tell why I'm talking to him/her? Or they may think I want to do something wrong with them… That's an interesting information I will keep always in mind. Thanks!!! πŸ˜€

        But also, I think once you are confident to a Japanese person, that person will become one of your best friends.
        This is true because I got a friend from Japan since around 2004 and I think she is my best friend. It was hard for me to gain her friendship, but once got it, I think she is a friend like almost no other.

      • kirin December 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

        Yes, exactly!!
        Once you gain friendship with Japanese people, the bond is strong. She may not hug you or kiss you but she cares about you. That's how we are basically. πŸ™‚

        Say "Sumimasen" before you talk to a stranger, which is the same as "Oiga por favor"….right? πŸ˜‰

  11. Reiko December 7, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    The world is now in big mess because people don't communicate with each other.
    Not only strangers but family members. Your attitude towards this stranger only shows how messed up you are Kirin!

    • kirin December 9, 2012 at 6:54 am #

      I wouldn't feel like arguing with this old man. Just exchanging some greetings is good enough, as my lunch time was limited and I had my own company to talk to. That's how I feel.

  12. Alberto December 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Well, that friend of me is already quite westernized ^_^
    She now kisses her and his friends when we met and she lost a lot of his "Japanese politeness" :$

    Also remember: in Spain girls kisses twice, one in each cheek. Here physical contact is quite common so you can shake my hand, kiss me, hug me or touch my shoulder, my arm or my back. But don't do it to strangers that you don't know who they are!!!!

    I'm not sure, but I think that Sumimasen is probably much more polite than "Oiga por favor". This phrase is correct and you can use it, everyone will understand you and nobody should get annoyed by it. But for asking something to a stranger you better use "Disculpe, podría decirme …", that in English is "Excuse me, could you please tell me …".
    That's much more polite and you will start the conversation in a more friendly way.

    Maybe in Latin America this could be a bit different.

    But if we meet once, you no need to say me "Disculpe" or say "Por favor". Only tell me "Sabes donde está…..?" without the need of that politeness.

    • kirin December 9, 2012 at 7:04 am #

      Hi Alberto,

      Thank you for your explanation about "Oiga por favor" and "Disculpe…". ^ ^
      In fact, it's much easier for me to speak to TU than USTED. In telenovela, most of conversations are made between close friends or family so I hear "Disculpa" rather than "Disculpe" and "Ven" rather than "Venga" as well as many rude ways of expressions such as "Callate!" or "Sueltame!". lol

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