Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lost in Translation? Or Just Ethnocentric?

Today as I was signing out from my hotmail account I saw how Bing was highlighting some "humorous" and "difficult" cross-cultural "challenges." Currently having challenges myself in Germany I clicked to see what they had to say. There were two Japanese examples (their own text appears in italics):

(Image borrowed from Bing)

1. Lost in Translation: Subway Insanity

Subways are confusing enough without adding language difficulties. If you used this subway ticket machine in Osaka, Japan, would you know which route to take and how much to pay? And if you managed to figure that out, would you know where to get off? See you in Osaka. Maybe.

(Image borrowed from Bing)

2. Lost in Translation: High-Tech Toilet

Once upon a time, a commode required nothing more than a flush. Which of the 11 buttons on this high-tech toilet in Tokyo allows you to complete that simple maneuver? When it comes to the other 10 buttons, the mind boggles. Does a wonderful symphony begin drowning out all the other noises in the bathroom? Does one of the buttons allow you to request more toilet paper? We confess; we are flushed with confusion.

Personally two of the things I am missing the most about Japan are the relatively easier train systems and the toilets. German toilets are just fine, but one gets used to heated seats and other amenities. One gets used to using the buttons as well. Are 11 buttons (with icons) so difficult to figure out? Push them them and see what happens... And for me, the Japanese trains and subways are much easier to use. The maps make more sense and there is English on the maps and station signs. And the kanji characters of the trains stations names are shorter and easier to figure out than the long German names... While there are probably more English speaking people on the German trains, overall I think the Japanese system is more user friendly.

Whoever wrote the piece for Bing has obviously not traveled very much. And much greater challenges exist in cross-cultural experiences than taking a train and flushing the toilet. More weird Japan stuff... more ethnocentrism... more ignorance...

See all of their cross-cultural difficulties:

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