It was refreshing and heart-warming to listen to the sketch of Japanese Stand-up Comedienne Yuriko Kotani, who recently won the 2015 BBC Radio New Comedy Award. As someone who has lived both in Japan and the UK, I found her sketch not only hilarious, but poignant. She cleverly contrasts the poor punctuality of the British train system and our attitudes towards it with Japan, subtly inferring that since Japanese society is so structured, the British obviously have more time to “mess about”. Signs declaring the comparatively woeful punctuality record of the trains would in Japanese society indeed be seen as an apology or, as she puts it a “confession.” Her take on the use of “ish” in our vocabulary is insightful. We use it to cover up shortcomings not only in the punctuality of transport but in our own more flexible attitude to time-keeping. These represent some of things that Japanese people living in the UK indeed find very different and in her case, mildly refreshing as she quotes, “I don’t want to live like a robot”. This is a sentiment shared by several longer-term Japanese residents here, who embrace the less structured side of society and enjoy the freedom that living outside of Japan brings.
However, it is not always easy moving outside of your cultural norms. Having worked with newly arrived Japanese ex-pats in the UK, facing certain British idiosyncracies in a business setting can cause problems ranging from annoyance, frustration, mis-comprehension, judgemental attitudes and in some cases, a complete rejection of a different culture. This is something I myself went through when living in Japan-bewilderment at why things were so different and no context of my own to compare it with. It is easy enough to become frustrated and cynical. Humour such as this is incredibly useful to break up these frustrations and promote understanding, which is an important part of successfully living in other cultures without going mad!
Through a simple 5 minute sketch, she shows two different cultural perspectives of everyday things as well as appealing to the British sense of humour through dry sarcasm and laughing at our own failings -I can’t wait to hear more from her! Listen at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038n60h