Get familiar with different customs and cultures in business scenes

  Hello everyone! I'm Meilin. I came from China and was working as an interior coordinator when my company suddenly went bankrupt. I was looking for a new job for a while, and my friend Tom, who is a newspaper reporter, helped me find one at a shopping center L'ESPACE. I work at the display design department with colleagues with various cultural backgrounds. I am very excited about working with friends from different countries!  

田中 Meilin, how do you like your new job? It's been almost a week since you started, right?
メイリン Hai, okagesamade.
田中 Wow, your Japanese is getting better than ever!
カトリーヌ "Okagesama" is a very unique phrase. I don't think there is an equivalent in English or French.
ベンジャミン I like that expression too. It describes a sense of modesty that is characteristic to Japanese culture.
田中 By the way, our display theme for October is otsukimi--moon viewing. I heard that there is a similar custom in China that people enjoy watching the moon.
メイリン Yes. It is a mid-autumn festival. It is a big celebration there.
カトリーヌ In Europe, some people believe that a full moon disturbs people's mind.
ベンジャミン In Africa, the moon is often seen as a mysterious thing.
カトリーヌ I heard that Japanese people traditionally thought that there was a bunny pounding mochi on the moon.
田中 Yes, people in old times saw the markings on the moon surface that way.
ベンジャミン In other parts of the world, the pattern is often translated as a crocodile or lion. In Roman Myths, it was seen as a person reading a book.
カトリーヌ When I was a child, somebody told me that there was a donkey on the moon, leashed on a tree.
メイリン It is interesting that there are so many ways to see the markings of the moon!
田中 Meilin, can you plan a design for the next display with the theme on otsukimi?
メイリン Sure! I will do my best to make a good one that customers would enjoy.
田中 Great. By the way, how are you doing with the custom of meishi kokan (exchange of business cards)?
メイリン I am still working on it...I do O.K. in holding and giving the card with both hands and introducing myself with eye contact. It is difficult for me to bow at the same time, though.
カトリーヌ The manners of name card exchange are very complicated. I know that we need to show the card so that the person can read it, and that we should not put the person's card into the case right after you receive it. It is just hard to actually do those manners right.
ベンジャミン I am still having trouble with those manners. Sometimes I even forget to give my card at all.
田中 Think that the exchange of business card is like shaking hands. We do this to get a bit closer to a new business partner.
ベンジャミン I see. We offer a card just like we offer our hand for shaking.
田中 There you go. Don't think too much--just relax and you will do better.
メイリン Thank you for your advice. I will keep working to get better!

  On the following weekend, I had a gyoza party at my apartment which I share with my roommates. My roommates are Natasha Sato, who is half Japanese and half Russian, and Mai, an exchange student from Vietnam. With help of Natasha and Mai, I made gyoza and invited Dr. Advice, my mentor in Japan, and Mr. Kim, my friend from Korea, to enjoy boiled gyoza and nice conversation.  

ドクター Meilin, your boiled gyoza taste great.
メイリン Thank you so much! I made everything from scratch, including the skins.
キム So this is authentic Chinese gyoza.
メイリン Yes. What do you think, Mai-san? I was hoping that you would like them.
マイ These gyoza are wonderful. We have similar dumplings in Vietnam--we put coriander (pakuchi) in them.
メイリン Sounds like gyoza is a popular food in many Asian countries.
ドクター In fact, gyoza-like dumplings, which are the combination of filling and flour-based wraps, are eaten at various regions throughout the world.
ナターシャ Pelmeni in Russia and varenyky in Ukraine are very similar to boiled gyoza.
キム Turkish manti is also dumpling-like boiled dish. Mongolian buuz and Nepalese momo are similar to steamed dumplings.
メイリン It is amazing that similar dishes like these dumplings are found all around the world, although foods, culture, and customs are all different in each region and country. These differences are very important but also are difficult to understand sometimes.
ドクター Meilin, do you have any concerns at work?
メイリン I am afraid that I am not able to bow in a proper way.
ナターシャ I know it is hard. My father told me how to bow, but I am not sure if I am doing it right.
マイ I am not quite sure at what angle I am supposed to bow.
キム I think you are fine as long as you bow from your heart and with politeness, rather than worrying about the angle of the bow.
メイリン Are Japanese people always aware of how deep they should bow in different situations?
ドクター I think many Japanese people do it naturally. These days, however, I have seen some people bowing in a bit strange way. I once saw a young man lowing his head diagonally.
ナターシャ Bowing is one of the very important etiquettes in business in Japan, so I think we should all know how to bow appropriately.
ドクター I would suggest that you first try to copy your Japanese senior staffs and colleagues in the office. As you repeat number of times, you will start getting the knack of it.
メイリン I suppose practice is the best way to master the things.
キム That's right. "Practice makes perfect," as someone says. You should help your body relax and remember how to do so, rather than thinking too much.
ナターシャ Right. Well, why don't we stop worrying about it for a while and enjoy our gyoza party now!
メイリン Eat more, everybody!
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