“Arigato gozaimasu » It is a phrase of thanks we hear several times a day in Japan. It is associated with a tilt of the head and the hands are often interlinked. One does not leave a supermarket, restaurant or convenience store (konbini) without this ritual of use. In public transport, there is no rite of escape either. Phone conversations should be avoided as we are reminded of both Japanese and English by the message recorded in a soft but firm female voice. The seats at the front of the buses are reserved for the elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Another message reminds us of that. It would be highly reprehensible not to comply. We appreciate the calm and serenity of the journey as everyone does their part for everyone’s well-being. Courtesy is required.
I was warned about culture shock when I moved back to Montreal after my two years in Japan. I didn’t feel it right away. I have joyfully discovered spontaneity and easy contact with Quebecers from here and elsewhere in my daily activities. Well almost always. Of course, there were, here and there, some contradictory notes… In the elevator, a lady, in her fifties, melancholy, does not reply “hello” because “she is not hypocritical and greets whoever she wants.” Ah well…or this middle-aged man, looking sullen, perhaps tired of his job in a supermarket bakery, who throws pizzas at me without a look, without a welcome, without a thank you. Ben coudonc … Or this young man, who is not so young, is spinning at full speed on the bike path, shouting at me: “Tasse-toé!” When our bike crosses. Well, let’s see… You have to accept my new reality. Courtesy in Quebec is random, unpredictable, and unstable. lottery. luxury.
Then there was this talented young author, Kevin Lambert, who was talked about for calling the prime minister’s attitude “shabby.” Indeed, François Legault dared to praise his novel that Our joy remains, and thisIn the midst of the housing crisis. Some saw her as brave. But what is courage? What did he have to lose by mocking an unpopular prime minister hated by a certain left? The courage was simply to thank him, without flattery or bowing, and then to express his differences of opinion and disagreement. Showing a code of conduct and decency would have been courageous despite ideological differences.
We tend to confuse courtesy with servility. While the servile is on his knees, the courtesan stands erect in her shoes. It takes a great deal of self-control and moral strength to be polite. The Japanese know it and deal with it skillfully. Arigato Gozimasu is the first expression you learn in Japan. Kevin Lambert would benefit from rubbing his shoulders with Japanese kindness and humility. I wish him a renewed stay in the Land of the Rising Sun where he will have many opportunities to use this polite formula. We end up getting a taste of it. As a Japanese proverb says:A kind word can warm three winter months»
Maud Boyer, Teacher, Montreal
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