Friday, April 21, 2006

The "What the Fuck" Factor

Sometimes imported cultural ideas take on a form of the telephone game. By the time they make their way to a new country, they only resemble what they originally were. A simple example would be Taco Bell, and an extreme case might be spaghetti, which is not only completely different than Chinese noodles, but is claimed as an "ethnic good" of Italy.

Japan is no different. Like any other culture, they've borrowed food and put their own spin on it, while still calling it "Italian food" or whatever. One result would be pizza with mayonnaise and corn on it, which, while odd to Americans, is actually really good.

Last night I went to an Italian restaurant near my house with a friend of mine. My friend suggested the restaurant, which I had never been to, but I had heard it was really good. As we were walking up, we noticed that a band was playing. Live bands tend to kill the whole "conversation" thing, but we figured we'd check it out.

I'm not sure what kind of band ought to be playing at an Italian'd up restaurant, but I'm pretty sure ragtime isn't really on the menu. That's right, a no-shit ragtime band was going to town when we came in, complete with banjo, clarinet, trumpet, and bass, going at it like something out of a Tom and Jerry Cartoon. The Dixie Knights.

I can't really thing of two things that go together less -- Ragtime and Italian cuisine?

Maybe a Mariachi band at a Chinese restaurant?

That wasn't the worst part though. During the second part, a Japanese guy with shoe polish on his face came trotting out in front of the band and started doing a little dance. I couldn't fucking believe it.

Actually, that didn't really happen, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if it had.

Take a look at this advertisement from a Japanese company.

Here's a Chinese product:

Alas, progress has taken place:

Can you imagine something like this in the USA? In this day and age, it's almost inconceivable. A few people shat their pants here too, but for the most part the outrage came only from foreigners.

I'm not sure what my point is, but this sort of thing is what makes living abroad fun.

Racist! Making fun of other races is not fun!!

Well, that's not what I mean, assface. What I mean is that living abroad, you get curveballs thrown at you. That's was one of the reasons I enjoyed studying here so much -- at first, every day was a curveball. Every day on the street, something would happen that would make you say, "What the fuck?! Did that just happen!? Am I on Planet Earf?"

In Asia, the curveballs often come in the form of racial misunderstandings. Why? Because everyone here is "Asian." Particularly in Japan, there really isn't a lot of racial diversity, and what racial diversity happens to exist is generally not discussed (ethnic Koreans, etc). This is manifested in innocent comments and assumptions about the mental/physical capacities of, in particular, "black" people (I say "black" because it's not restricted to "African Americans") that would surprise even the more not-so-sensitive people in the states. Just having someone tell you, without the slightest bit of malice or judgement in their voice, that black people are mentally inferior, is something that most Americans don't really get to experience. It gives a person a thick skin -- a tolerance for innocent ignorance -- and a new perspective. It's tough sometimes, because after attempts to "clear things up" about human mental capacities, the common response is usually something along the lines of, "Well I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one." It's not worth getting worked up over. (Maybe I'm better suited to deal with it because I worked with white South Africans for 7 months. Yikes.)

The "what the fuck" factor is what has kept me coming back here and eventually decide to live here for a bit. Last night as I sat there eating a delicious dish of Spaghetti Bolognese watching a group of old Japanese guys play ragtime, I had yet another experience to add to my "what the fuck" repertoire, and I wasn't even drunk. The possibility of future additions to my "what the fuck" experiences makes me look forward to the next time I get to leave my room, head to the station, and hop on a one-way express into the heart of Adventurepan.


Blogger brando said...

What's with all the language? I like a good curse word now and then but c'mon. It's like you're some sort of fuckwad.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Maybe I should use "frack" like in Battlestar Gallactica.

Please stop oppressing me by the way.

11:12 AM  
Blogger brando said...

You could do it like Firefly.
They say "ruttin", and "schmegma", and "luftsa".

11:15 AM  
Blogger Paul said...


1:09 PM  
Blogger brando said...

Maybe it was "ludafisk"

1:11 PM  
Blogger Paul said...


1:15 PM  
Blogger brando said...

That reminds me of the time I took Ziggy to the Amana colonies for some "german food", and he told me "this place is cheezy".

1:39 PM  
Blogger Jinxy said...

What's wrong with "Darkie"?

9:16 PM  
Blogger Jinxy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:10 AM  
Anonymous stu said...

just noticed the tube of Darkie toothpaste has a price tag of $7.10. Are you kidding, $7.10 for a tube of toothpaste? thats more disturbing than whats on the cover of the box

9:41 AM  

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