How Does International Misunderstanding Happen?

There are stereotype actions when a Japanese businessperson arrives in the United States of America. The first step he needs to take is to go to Japanese consulate office and submit “Arrival Notice” and register as a resident in their covering area. The second item is to take driving license examination in Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) in the state where he starts to live. In 1980’s, there were lot of Japanese people sent to US. The most of them carried “International Driving License”. Their companies and authorities, however, instructed Japanese living in the US to take local driving license.

The period was Japanese overseas’ investment rush, backed by high Japanese Yen evaluation. Japanese staff was sent to open their offices, facilities, and factories. Since a variety of people must have been involved in establishing operation of their business, many people came to the US. Factory manufacturing workers were sent. Middle age management people were went for production management and administration. Senior management also stationed in the US at that time for the company start-up, management, and supervising.

Despite of their variation of the company or social hierarchy, to which they belong in Japan, they all needed to take an examination for driving license. There was no exception. All of them needed to do so. They went to US Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) and took the exam. Among the ones who passed the examination, this Japanese gentleman, Mr. Minoru Shiraishi, was in the waiting room for receiving his first US driving license. He was age of middle fifties, white hair, and the president, newly established American subsidiary company of Japanese electronics firm.

He did not seem unreasonable or stubborn person as some of Japanese managers. He was patiently waiting for his name called. A young female DMV staff came. She started to gave new licenses to the people waiting there. She started to call the names. She called this Japanese gentleman’s name. Because she was not certain how to pronounce Mr. Shiraishi’s name, he did not react to her first call. Since he did not respond to her call several times, she started to raise her voice. She called his last name only without “Mr.”. “Shiraishi!” “Shiraishi!” This gentleman finally noticed that his name was called. When she called his name last time, he looked upset. He stood up, walked toward her, and snatched his license. He stared at her without a word for five to six seconds. He walked away.

There was nothing wrong in this staff’s attitude. She did not know that calling senior Japanese people’s name without their titles, such as “Mr.” or “Dr.” was terribly rude in Japanese culture. Mr. Shiraishi did not know it is not particularly rude or unusual to call someone’s last name without title like this occasion in DMV.

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