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Faux-pas with Japanese?

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by Fabienne, Jan 5, 2005.

  1. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    I "hired" a Japanese freelancer who had worked for us before, when she was an employee at one of our satellite offices (she no longer works for us).  Before she performed the work, I asked her twice to tell me what her fees would be.  She never answered.  Her plane ticket was scheduled, so I let it go and thought I would straighten it out eventually.  After she did the work, I asked for an invoice.  Same lack of response.  Finally, after pressing a little more, she told me she had volunteered and didn't want to be paid.  

    A Japanese friend of mine told me that I should have set the rate and paid her, as the Japanese are not used to negociating their salary.  But she refused to give me a routing number to a bank, and I hated to send money to someone who refuses it, in fear of offending her.  I should add I am not terribly familiar with Japanese customs.

    So in the end I sent her a glass sculpture from Tittot as a gift.  She seemed to be very grateful for it.


    This person is so impenetrable, I don't think I can ever get her to tell me what she really thinks.

    Any suggestions?  Reactions?  I might want to use her again.
     
  2. drizzt3117

    drizzt3117 Senior member

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    That's a little bit strange, our company has a number of large contracts in Japan and I deal with Japanese on a daily basis and that type of behavior sounds unusual to me. Japanese are not upfront about naming a price but I haven't heard of them working for free... generally the bottom line is not as vital as it is to US employees as other factors but it is certainly a consideration in my experience.
     
  3. Mike C.

    Mike C. Senior member

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    An old professor of mine owns one of the largest/oldest real estate firms in Manhattan, he told us one funny story about the first time they did business with the Japanese in the 70's/80's. It was at a time when the Americans/Japanese were just starting business relations. You can only imagine the misunderstandings that must have taken place.

    His company put an offer on the table to which the Japanese said, "Maybe, we'll think about it." He went back to them 3 more times and got the same answer all three. After a lapse of time, the deal fell throught. Only later did he find out that the Japanese wouldn't show him dishonor by flat out refusing the deal, even thought they had no intention of signing on all along.

    Later on, he found out what really happened and how they do business. After the first "Maybe," he should have taken the hint and withdrawn the offer, and said something like "I don't think it's a good deal, I'm taking it off the table."

    Funny people those Japanese....
     
  4. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    I believe the correct translation for asking someone out on a date in Japanese is

    "Why don't you have tea with me?"

    And to reject them, you would say

    "Ah yes, thank you so much, but a little ..."
     
  5. retronotmetro

    retronotmetro Senior member

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    Either you're reading a very dated textbook, or I spent far too much time hanging out in Roppongi and Shibuya in my single days.
     
  6. ViroBono

    ViroBono Senior member

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    Returning to Fabienne's question, if this lady is working in the US I would have thought that it was she who has committed the faux-pas.

    I have been faced with similar situations when employing freelance doctors here, where (unlike almost everywhere else I can think of), some still consider it bad form for them to discuss fees. I occasionally had the 'volunteer' scenario too, but this generally meant that they preferred generous expenses, probably a tax-related thing. In general, I sent an outline of terms and remuneration, and invited them to sign and return it if they agreed, or submit their own proposals if they didn't.

    However, who knows how to penetrate the inscrutable mask of the Japanese....
     
  7. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    I typically negociate contracts with freelancers (of various nationalities), except those I use over and over. She fell in that category, in a way, since she had been working for us, so I didn't take that precaution.

    But now, how do I know she doesn't actually mean to volunteer? Oh, what a headache. Give me a straightforward person any day.
     
  8. Leo Jay

    Leo Jay Senior member

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    Why on earth would you want to work with her again if basic communication is so problematic? Â [​IMG] Â Are her skills unique?
     
  9. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    She knows the subject matter so well for having worked with us for years, it would take months to train another person. But I am more and more reluctant. Other reasons keep piling up as well. I'd better start the search. [​IMG]
     
  10. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    (Brian SD @ 05 Jan. 2005, 11:11) I believe the correct translation for asking someone out on a date in Japanese is "Why don't you have tea with me?" And to reject them, you would say "Ah yes, thank you so much, but a little ..."
    Either you're reading a very dated textbook, or I spent far too much time hanging out in Roppongi and Shibuya in my single days.
    The textbook is recent, my teacher has chosen to teach us the most formal and polite forms of conversation before we learn colloquial speech.
     
  11. retronotmetro

    retronotmetro Senior member

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    (retronotmetro @ 05 Jan. 2005, 12:24)
    I believe the correct translation for asking someone out on a date in Japanese is "Why don't you have tea with me?" And to reject them, you would say "Ah yes, thank you so much, but a little ..."
    Either you're reading a very dated textbook, or I spent far too much time hanging out in Roppongi and Shibuya in my single days.
    The textbook is recent, my teacher has chosen to teach us the most formal and polite forms of conversation before we learn colloquial speech.
    Oh, I'm sure the textbook and your teacher's approach are fine. Your post just brought back vivid recollections of stepping off the plane in Tokyo, armed with two years of college level Japanese, and discovering that while everyone understood me, I understood noone. Many of the situational dialogs in textbooks are perfectly good grammar, but can be socially dated--youth slang in Japanese changes quickly, maybe even more so than in U.S. English.
     
  12. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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  13. retronotmetro

    retronotmetro Senior member

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    Originally Posted by Brian SD,07 Jan. 2005, 10:58
    I believe the correct translation for asking someone out on a date in Japanese is "Why don't you have tea with me?" And to reject them, you would say "Ah yes, thank you so much, but a little ..."
    Either you're reading a very dated textbook, or I spent far too much time hanging out in Roppongi and Shibuya in my single days.

    I just asked a Japanese friend and according to her, Brian SD is correct, except now it's not necessarily tea, and there are many shades of veiled meanings.
    Never mind. Â Bad Tokyo inside joke. Â You have to know the Roppongi bar scene and/or the ethos surrounding the hotels on Dogenzaka in Shibuya (hint: Â 5000 yen for 2-3 hours "rest") to appreciate my comment. Â Brian's translation is correct.
     
  14. Brian SD

    Brian SD Senior member

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    My comment wasn't meant to sound esoteric so much as I just thought it's ironic that to say no to someone politely, you say "yes thank you, but..." I have not been to Japan, retro, but I have heard similar things about coming with confidence in your speaking, then finding out that you can't understand a single thing others are saying. I am having fun trying to translate things I hear on movies, although I'm horrible at it. Especially the scene in Lost in Translation where the director is speaking to Bob in Japanese and the translator only says "Turn and look into camera." The director mentions something like "On the table, there is whiskey," and that's all I got out of it. I heard "teberu" "uisuki" and "arimasu." [​IMG]
     
  15. SmartDresser

    SmartDresser Well-Known Member

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    This all sounds so confusing. Japanese and Chinese put a solid foundation on politeness. An understanding of how to do that would straighten out most of this.
    Next time, do her a favor and take the lead. Tell her what you are paying, give her something to respond to, something to bargin with. To ask her to start the bargining embarrassed her.
     
  16. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    I realize that now, but the next time is skewed.  There doesn't seem to be any going back at this point: either I never use her again, or she volunteers.  I don't think I can start another round of bargaining sessions.

    My overall problem is this: I work with people of many, many nationalities, in person, by phone and by email.  Whereas I usually do fine with Europeans (I also speak French, German, understand Italian and Spanish and can get my way through a few other languages if I have to), I sometimes encounter difficulties with Asians, as I am relatively unfamiliar with the social customs of the various countries (mainly Malaysia, Korea, Japan and Taiwan).  I learn as I go, I gather information through friends and colleagues, and I would like to order a new cross-cultural study book ... on the Japanese. Anybody with a good recommendation? I have one and it is ridiculously pitiful.
     

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