Asia nuances

This item appears on page 58 of the February 2011 issue.
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Kimberly Edwards’ letter “Tips for Communicating in Japan” (Nov. ’10, pg. 12) contains a lot of good advice, much of which is applicable throughout Asia. From my own experience, I would add an additional suggestion: never ask a question that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

The person behind the desk often will have no clue about what you are asking, but his or her response will almost invariably be ‘Yes,’ because a ‘no’ or a request for clarification would be insulting to the distinguished foreign visitor (that’s you!).

For example, if you are trying to find out whether a reservation has been made for your return trip, ask a question which requires a specific answer: ‘What is the number of my flight?’, ‘When does the flight depart?’ or ‘What is my assigned seat?’ Do not simply ask, ‘Do I have a seat assignment?’

It is almost like a process of cross-examination, but, I have found, it is the only way to get reliable information.

IRVING E. DAYTON
Corvallis, OR

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Kimberly Edwards’ letter “Tips for Communicating in Japan” (Nov. ’10, pg. 12) contains a lot of good advice, much of which is applicable throughout Asia. From my own experience, I would add an additional suggestion: never ask a question that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

The person behind the desk often will have no clue about what you are asking, but his or her response will almost invariably be ‘Yes,’ because a ‘no’ or a request for clarification would be insulting to the distinguished foreign visitor (that’s you!).

For example, if you are trying to find out whether a reservation has been made for your return trip, ask a question which requires a specific answer: ‘What is the number of my flight?’, ‘When does the flight depart?’ or ‘What is my assigned seat?’ Do not simply ask, ‘Do I have a seat assignment?’

It is almost like a process of cross-examination, but, I have found, it is the only way to get reliable information.

IRVING E. DAYTON
Corvallis, OR