Observations on British and Japanese Cultural Differences – how understanding can lead to tolerance and mutual respect.
After working closely with our Japanese partner office and their client families for nearly 15 years, gaining an understanding of our cultural differences is something I have truly found fascinating. As the world gets increasingly smaller business-wise, how cultures interact and learning to show tolerance for one another, becomes of increasing importance for a peaceful Global future.
When I first visited Japan, I felt like I was on Mars. I couldn’t read a restaurant menu, train timetable or ask for directions, not to mention getting into trouble for touching the self-closing taxi door or for getting on the wrong airport bus, when the one I was booked on departed 5 minutes later! Seeing the orderly queues of smartly dressed employees waiting to board the commuter train, which arrived and departed on time to the second was astounding. A far cry from my days of the London commute and the bun fight to get through the doors, as the train departed. Time in Japan is valued as a precious gift and wasting someone else’s time by lateness shows a lack of respect and merits a sincere apology. A concept we would all benefit form adopting in my view.
It’s a huge decision for Japanese parents to choose a British education at boarding school for their child. Weighing up the pros and cons of learning English by immersion, whilst perhaps losing touch with the language, customs and culture of Japan. The opportunity to learn fluent English, as well as gain academic qualifications within a Globally recognised system, in tandem with the plethora of extra-curricular, value-added opportunities, is deemed as a worthy investment in their future. Often it is the children themselves who make the brave decision to come to the UK to study.
Imagine however, what it’s like for Japanese children when they first arrive to study at boarding school in the UK. Knives and forks, bunk beds, fish and chip Fridays, classroom debate, cricket, lightning-fast chitter-chatter, to name but a few elements of British boarding school culture which are alien to them.
In the words of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Sound advice when it comes to acquiring an understanding for the culture of others, while supporting and guiding them in their efforts to embrace ours.
I thought it wonderful to see a picture of one of our Japanese boys at Aysgarth prep school standing at the whiteboard in front of the class, teaching his classmates to write their names in Japanese, by explaining how the characters are formed. What an amazing opportunity for the British boys to learn about another culture from the horse’s mouth, enhancing tolerance, respect and understanding. Bearing in mind that the little Japanese boy comes from a learning culture where children find it tricky to speak up in front of others in case they cause a disruption, alongside a fear off making mistakes, so better to stay silent, this is a perfect example of how the best bits of both cultures can perhaps come together to make an enhanced whole.
Boarding schools, with their melting pot of nationalities and cultures offer children from all over the world a safe platform to connect with others, listen to opinions, understand their customs and culture, learn tolerance, respect and patience. If only our politicians all had the benefit of the same experiences when they were young!
Both ourselves and our partner office in Japan are very proud to work with many boarding schools all over the UK, who take first-class care of our Japanese pupils.
A selection of these are listed below:
Aysgarth School http://www.aysgarthschool.com
Moreton Hall http://www.moretonhallschool.com
Ashdown House http://www.ashdownhouse.co.uk
Bishopstrow College https://www.bishopstrow.com
Sherborne International https://www.sherborne-international.org/home