I had exchanged all of my money, enjoying a favorable exchange rate at the time, I wanted to make the exchange while the market was high. I was already traversed the Pacific Ocean, but not 13 hours prior I was perusing the latest in flight comfort gadgetry at airport stores, hobnobbing with the frequent flyers at the terminals at LAX. I had heard that Korean Airlines was rather cheap, and had really great service for the price, so I flew through them. It was my first flight, and transcontinental (continental shelf), flight at that — complimentary whiskey, no flight delays problems. I arrived at the Tokyo International Airport, a polar opposite of the chaos of LAX. I needed to find the ticket agency that had my discounted pre-sell train pass. I found the office, my heart fluttered, would this mean I finally had to use Japanese for real? I saw another foreigner, not sure from which country, sitting in the chair being questioned by the ticket agent. The agent asked questions, as the patron listened intently, he’d lean closer, as if magnifying the volume of the dialogue will bring about new found fluency. Both men did their best, this patrons business now done, it was next my turn. I sat down, looking at my first real experience with a Japanese native, a nice older gentlemen, maybe in his 50’s, frail but full of vigor. He wore a bow tie, a matching vest, he was the most dapper ticket agent I’d seen. He asked me:
ticket agent: 「日本語を分かりませんか」「Do you speak Japanese?」
me: 「少し日本語を分かりますけど。。「I can speak a little bit, *but I kinda suck*」
ticket agent: (in English) that’s good, it’s always good to try to learn the language. It’s good to show respect for the culture.
We soon finished our transaction in mostly English, he definitely carried a more up beat demeanor knowing that I respected his culture — heck, we may of even become pals. Although, he did end with a question that I’ll never forget:
ticket agent: じゃあ、もう一の質問がありますが [well, I just have one more question, if you don’t mind]
ticket agent: 「あなたたちが本とに大きいですか」[is it true that you guys are big?]
me: え？大きい？[huh? big?]
ticket agent: 「あなたたちのチンチンが大きいって聞いたことありますからね。。」[I’ve heard you guys are well endowed, that’s why I’m bring it up]
me: 「あああ、はーはい?」[ooo, um sure?]
ticket agent: penile inspector: ｗはははは [laughter]
me: はははは[laughter of fear]
The first person I meet in a foreign country, and we’re discussing member sizes. Now, I usually don’t have to do this, and I assure you these conversations usually don’t come up during my day to day interactions with say the local grocer, or the friendly chimney sweep. However, I shall make this into a constructive point by remembering that if I speak a patient’s mother tongue in they may be so honest that I may think I’ve learned too much.
After that day, I was no longer afraid to use my foreign language, after that conversation you’re good talking about anything in a foreign country.