I am still such a FOB out here. One night my friend came over and we were drinking. There was a nametag on my table, which had my name on it in English, and above that my name in my own crappy katakana writing. (For those who don’t know, katakana is the Japanese alphabet for writing foreign words.)
“What’s this?” he said. I took one look at it and burst out laughing. It was the nametag I wear for Japanese class. I’m supposed to leave it behind and find it again every week but I always forget and wear it home. And last time, I even went shopping after class and had it on. If you were a Japanese person, what would you do if some foreigner came up to you and started asking for help in toddler Japanese with a childishly written name tag pinned onto her collar? I must have seemed mentally challenged–more so than usual. Maybe that’s why the staff girl didn’t laugh in my face, the pity in her heart wouldn’t let her.
The French Fries
Japan is known for having the best customer service, and yeah, the staff are way more polite in general than any other country I’ve been to, but Japanese businesses are not so big on bending the rules to be accommodating. I was out at an izakaya restaurant with another foreign friend. Now this next part I won’t blame on my own fobishness, because the menu was in English. We’d already eaten a lot, but the French fries at this place must have been salted with crack cause I was jonesin’, so even though I felt like I was about to pop I said, “let’s order more!”
We order the fries and there are options like “ketchup and mayo” or “garlic butter”. Now, these sound like the names of condiments right? But no, they were actually the “flavours” of the fries. So I thought I was getting fries with ketchup, mayo and garlic butter on the side but it turned out to actually be two orders of fries, one that was garlic butter flavoured and one…with ketchup and mayo on the side -_-. There was just no way we were gonna finish all that off.
There was still a full plate of fries left and I felt bad throwing them out so I wanted to find a homeless person and give them away. So we asked the waitress for a box.
“Oh I’m sorry, we don’t do take out here.”
“A bag? Anything?
“No, I’m sorry.”
Nope there was no box or bag anywhere in the whole establishment, no sir. So what happened was while my friend kept watch I put the two plates together and shoved them in a plastic bag and into my purse, like a ghetto Robin Hood. Yes, I stole my own food and the izakaya’s plates were a casualty. I felt a bit guilty but the homeless woman who got the crack-fries was really happy. They were still hot and everything. Unfortunately, I can’t go back to that izakaya anymore.
The Devil Sandwich
Sandwiches in Japan don’t make no sense. I remember when I first came here I was shaking my head at the spaghetti sandwiches at the grocery store, literally noodles in a hot dog bun. But Japan gets a lot more creative than that. I was running late to work one day. There’s a cafe next to my building and I needed to quickly buy something for lunch. So I breezed in there, glanced at the sandwiches and grabbed one that looked good. Lunch time came and I was huuungry. I was ready for that sandwich. I took a bite and I thought to myself, “huh, this tastes familiar, but somehow wrong in a fundamental way.” That’s because I was eating the unholy union of potato salad and bread. It was a potato salad sandwich. I ate it all and hated every minute of it.
The next week I was prepared. I gave myself lots of time, I carefully read what the sandwiches were, and this time I picked up a ham and lettuce sandwich. But in Japan, (and of course this is understandable) sometimes the spelling is a bit wrong for English words, and while they spelled it ham and lettuce what they really meant was potato f*cking salad again!!! Seriously, I don’t know how this demon sandwich made it into my hands for the second time. It probably possessed what actually was just an innocent ham and lettuce sandwich. I had to eat it again, and again it sucked. And I will never return to that little cafe of horrors.