An overly self-consicious thought on a conversation…

Posted on September 22, 2010

I’ve started school again, and as such, I am now conversing regularly with a very different sort of person than I usually do at work.  One conversation in particular has been banging around in my head.  Let me describe it and let me know what you think, as I’m sure we all have these.

(Note: Some useful assumed knowledge: Maki and I lived in Nara, which is next to Osaka.  Both are in the Kansai area.  Tokyo is in the Kanto area)

Basically, Maki and I met a person for the first time.  He sensed she was Japanese and asked her, in Japanese, where she was from.  Maki answered.  He then went on to chat a bit about Japan, mentioning that he had lived there many years ago in Tokyo.  We mentioned our 2+ years of residence together after university.

That was awkward, as Maki later told me his Japanese was similar to her grandparent’s generation.  But that is not the really intersting part.  Here is the important confusion that I keep analysing:

I chimed in, saying that we liked living in Nara, since it was really just a suburb of Osaka.  I then immediately thought that there is a good comparison between Nara being like a suburb of Osaka, and likely most of the Kanto area being like a suburb to Tokyo.  I said “Oh, well I guess that would be a similar thing to the Kanto area as well”, all the while doing that head nod thing, trying to impart without a doubt that I was referring to him.

He then responded something like “No, that would be the Kansai area, right.”  He used the kind of “right” that teachers use when correcting a mistaken student.  I just said “ahhhh, sure, right” and decided to move on to some other part of the conversation, rather than correct him and possibly causing the situation to get even more uncomfortable.

This is what is in my head:

Here are the facts this intelligent middle-aged man has about me at this point: 1) I am married to someone who grew up in the Kansai area, 2) I lived in the Kansai area for 2+ years, 3) I made some point about Osaka and Nara, then made a comparison to the Kanto area, 4) I was making obvious head and hand gestures of some sort, indicating some reference to him.

So, taking it in that I am married to a Kansai local(1) and have lived there(2), his first and immediate assumption is that I have no idea what that area is called, and have confused it with the only other area in Japan that is more well known?  Also, by making a comparison(3), he assumed that I was comparing Osaka and Nara to the Kansai area, of which they are a part of?  Does that even make sense?  Finally, when gesturing that I was referring to him(4), did he assume I was looking for approval of my terminology, instead of assuming that I was referring to him, who had just previously mentioned he was from the Kanto area?

To me,  I’m confused as to how the brain was able to make all of those communication errors so quickly.  One defence on his part is to claim that my utterance was confusing, and leading, having just mentioned Osaka and Nara.  But I fail to understand how “this is likely similar in Kanto” can realistically be misleading.  Even if it is misleading in some strange universe, then how does it make any sense that I was comparing something to itself?  Keep in mind I was introduced as a fellow philosopher.

The conclusion that I have come to, is that this person has a firm belief that: he has a much much much higher and more complete understanding of Japan than I do; even if he has never been to the Kansai area, and even though (1) and (2).  I would think that belief would have to be strong to respond the way he did, given any one of those 4 points above.  It also seems to follow that the belief would have to be ever more strong to somehow process all 4 points and still miss the mark horribly.

Let me know your thoughts, but it’s these types of glimpses into someone’s beliefs and thought processes that usually help me formulate a first impression of someone’s character.  Ever since then, a few days ago, I’ve been extra careful how I converse with people for the first time.

Sorry for the rant.  Being back in philosophy classes has turned on that part of my brain, and I am more aware of these things happening now, and have likely bored most of you to death.  If this was interesting, comment or email me.  I’m interested in your take.

Courtney

Inception Cat…

Posted on September 06, 2010

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