Just a post of my thoughts so far.
As expected, there is a lot of respect and politeness here. You know how when shop we’re lucky if the store assistant says anything. And if the store assistant says something meaningful we’re lucky? Here, everybody follows the same general guide. It hasn’t mattered whether we are at a small shop, Starbucks, grocery store or big department store. When entering we are greeted with a “Irasshaimasu” or “Irasshaimase” which both mean “welcome”. Some places say something else after that which I am not yet able to understand. When paying, they never just take what you have, ring it in and stand there waiting for you to pay. They greet, ring in the item(s) and then proceed to tell us the amount and point to the display. Locals get the verbiage but don’t need the pointing to the display to see the amount :). There is a tray where you put the cash or credit card. They take it from the tray and confirm what you have given – the amount of cash you paid or credit card. If you are receiving change back they out it in the tray or sometimes hand directly to you after counting it. Or if by credit card they neatly put the receipt and card together and reach out with both hands along with a slight bow to hand it back. They then finish with a thank you – arigatou gozaimasu. Very polite :).
While people walk at a fast pace and with purpose here, there is still respect. Nobody shoves their way through and people will give way in crowded situations. We took a bus yesterday and I got up to give my seat to an elderly man. I don’t know what he said to me but it seemed to be very polite and appreciative.
We took a cab last night and I could not remember how to ask properly if he accepted credit card, Visa. We struggled a bit he finally understood and confirmed “hai…credit card”. We then showed him the address and once underway I thought I’d practice a little of what I could remember and said to him “gomen nasai……watashi wa nihongo-o hontondou hanasemasen”…..which basically means “I’m sorry, I only speak a little Japanese”. He then nodded “hai” (yes) with a little laugh and wave of his hand that it was ok. I would have liked to practice a little more but he was concentrating on driving, which we appreciated so figured I should not be too yappy. It would have been nice to add…..”watashi tachi wa Toronto, Canada ni sunde imasu” (we live in Toronto, Canada). Well, we don’t really live in a Toronto but to anyone outside of Ontario we do. Nobody will know where Georgetown is. The cab itself was so clean. It was like riding in a brand new car. The rear doors are also controlled by the driver from his seat. He opens and closes the door via a switch on his console.
I am getting some funny looks from some people. It’s probably because I don’t dress like the locals nor do I have a haircut like the locals. I appear western I guess. Getting good practice with “ohayou gozaimasu” (good morning) and “arigatou gozaimashita” (thank you – to store clerk after buying something).
The other thing that takes some getting used to is walking on the left. Traffic flow usually follows the same principles whether it be driving or walking. In the west, we travel on the right side typically. In Japan, like in England they travel on the left. So, on sidewalks and in malls the main flow always travels on the left.