The Tower of Babel

Now I work between Japanese engineers and Canadian engineers, technicians and others.  A language barrier is one issue.  An even more difficult barrier is the cultural difference.  Japanese people always hide important things between the lines, and when they listen to other people, they read between the lines.  It’s like coding and decoding.

In Japan, people generally think that saying “I cannot” or “I don’t know” is shame, impolite, and worse than being dishonest.  When they ask something that they think is difficult and people say “yes, I can do it”, they assume the answer is in fact “no, I cannot do it but will do my best to do it”.  When Canadians say “yes” meaning “yes”, Japanese ask the same question in different ways to find what is hidden between the lines though nothing is hidden.

Working between Japanese and Canadians is often even more difficult than working between engineers and people.

November 21, 2012Permalink