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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Stories From Japan- Sumimasen

Story Time!!!!

This story is back from when I was studying abroad in Japan. It was our first night in Kyoto, Japan, and we were exploring the city. It was getting dark and we were getting a little hungry. In Japan a lot of places will have either displays or signs outside their restaurant to show samples of their food. My newly acquired friends and I decided to try a restaurant around the Shijo area which is the shopping district of Kyoto. I think the restaurant is called Kyoto. The food looked good and I was being as adventurous yet so I wanted someplace that had American food. We had to walk up some stairs to get to this place.

Once we walked in we were seated at a table. The restaurant was pretty quiet except for the large party that was across from us. They were kind of loud and I knew that we should still keep our voices down. The menu was in Japanese. I could read everything that was in Katakana which is the Japanese alphabet for foreign words. I found the words french fries and was sold on getting that, like I said I wasn't being adventurous yet (it was just the first night and I was nervous about being there for the first time). 

Anyway, everyone figured out what they wanted but the waiter wasn't coming back to the table. He was talking with a coworker. At the time I didn't know the protocol of what to do in that situation and neither did my friends. We were all in the same situation, debating what we should do. We first decided to stare at him, thinking that if he saw us staring that he'd know we were ready (it works in America). But that didn't work. Finally, one of us suggested someone calling for him in Japanese to get his attention. Out of the four of us there, there was only one of us who spoke Japanese best. For some reason though he didn't want to call for the waiter (I'm guessing it was him being shy since it was his first time in Japan too).

There was only one of us who had the guts to call for the waiter. She didn't know Japanese at all and was taking her first Japanese class on this study abroad trip (and she was my roommate throughout the trip). She asked us what word we should use to get his attention. The guy who knew Japanese and myself said the word would have to be "sumimasen," the Japanese word for excuse me. Using sumimasen alone would get his attention and we could order our food. This girl decided that sumimasen wasn't enough. She wanted to get his attention the American way. She threw her hand in the air and called out, "Sumimasen! Psst!" You'd think it would be common sense not to use psst because it's kind of rude, but no common sense was used that day. All of us were completely shocked at what she'd done, including the waiter. Poor waiter. The dude looked so disoriented but he walked on over to our table and took our order anyway. Once he left to go put our orders in another friend and I said he looked frazzled. We made it into an inside joke, along with the sumimasen psst. If we wanted to get someone's attention out of our friends we'd use sumimasen psst.

All of us enjoying our food.

We were all still pretty embarrassed by the situation but we laughed about it throughout the whole trip and still bring it up to this day. It's a pretty funny story that I like to tell a lot of people because it's also a story that can teach you what not to do at a restaurant in Japan.

I hope you enjoyed this little story I had. I have plenty more and plan to tell them here in later posts so please follow my blog if you'd like to hear more stories from Japan. I promise you it just keeps getting better. and I'll probably be getting embarrassed be some of them. Yay for embarrassing stories!

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