A surprising Japanese telephone conversation

I called Jikei Hospital today as my colleague is there this week for an ear surgery.  I wanted to find out if I could send flowers (a friend had informed me that some hospitals in Japan have a no-flower policy due to pollen and contaminated water in the vase) and what address and room number to send it to.  What was surprising was the initial conversation that I had with the receptionist.  To those who are unfamiliar with the Japanese culture and language, I will explain further below.

Phone rings.

Receptionist:    じけい。[Jikei]

Me:    (slight pause) もしもし? [Hello?]

Receptionist:    はい、じけいです。[Yes, this is Jikei]

Me:    えと。。。すみません、英語を話せますか? [erm… sorry, can you speak English?]

Receptionist:    いいえ。[No]

Me:    すみません。英語を話せる人がいますか?

[Sorry. Is there someone around who speaks English?]

Receptionist:    ちょっと待って。[Wait a bit]

I had to wait a couple of minutes, but was then put through to a someone who spoke beautiful English and was very helpful.

I totally enjoyed that conversation for it is very rare for Japanese people to:

  1. Not use the honorific form whilst speaking to a stranger (it is sometimes considered rude);
  2. Speak in single word/pointed sentences;
  3. Be direct; and most importantly
  4. Say the word NO.

Thinking about it again, I wouldn’t be surprised if the receptionist turned out to be a foreigner.  In fact, I am now convinced that she has to be a foreigner!  I am just so excited to have had that conversation as it was such a breathe of fresh air!

Hah!  You know that the world (in my head) has gone awry when I get as excited as a kid in the candy store when I have been rude to!

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