Why does it seem like there are so many people with a lack of courtesy or respect or just have a bad attitude toward other people in this country or at least in Los Angeles?
I think every American needs to visit another country such as Japan or the Scandinavian countries so they can witness how much more polite people are.
Ever since I visited Japan, I have become more aware of how rude people can be in Los Angeles. Certainly there are rude people everywhere, including Japan. I understand that I have never lived in Japan for an extended period of time. But I have spent the equivalent of several months there and I definitely can tell the difference in how people interact with each other.
Some long-time foreign residents will certainly give many examples of rudeness they have encountered in Japan, especially examples of unkindness they have encountered that they feel have been directed at them due to being non-Japanese. I have read about the un-friendly elderly person and other examples. And if you have ever read anything from Debito.org, you will think Japan is a very unfriendly place for foreigners.
But I feel that these negative interactions are relatively rare compared to in America. I also feel that most instances of discrimination in Japan is more a misunderstanding by Japanese that foreigners do not understand Japanese culture and is not actually based on hate. While I feel that the majority of discrimination in the United States is based on hate.
Here is why I felt like writing this post. On Friday, July 25th, I went for my usual walk around Downtown Los Angeles during my lunch break. On the way back to the office I witnessed four separate examples of rudeness, disrespect, and impatience. Although these events were very, very minor, they still revealed to me a big difference between Japan and the United States in how respectful people are. Or at least it reveals something about Los Angeles.
The four examples I witnessed below occurred within about 5 minutes of each other.
The first incident. I saw a man finish drinking from a plastic cup. He then tossed the empty cup onto a newspaper stand a kept walking. There were trash cans all around the area but obviously he was too lazy and disrespectful to throw his trash into the trash can. When you see how much trash lines the streets and freeways in the U.S., you will know that this is a fairly common and disrespectful occurrance. In Japan, one of the things that sticks out in my memory is how clean it is.
The second incident. Myself and one or two other people were walking along the sidewalk. A driver in a minivan had to turn right into a driveway but had to wait for us pedestrians to pass. But another man in a large delivery truck behind the minivan decided to lay on his horn because the minivan was blocking his way. It's possible the minivan did not put his turn signal on but that really doesn't matter. It just demonstrated typical impatience and rudeness in this city. I do not recall ever hearing people use their car horns in Japan. and I have seen many situations in Japan while driving that if had occurred in America would have resulted in not only a horn but probably a middle finger and an obscenity.
The third incident. I was waiting at an intersection for the light to turn green. Two ladies were waiting on the other side of the street to cross also. A third lady who was not with them was just behind the two other ladies. The light turned green but the two ladies did not immediately start walking because they were not paying attention. I could tell the lady behind them was clearly annoyed that they were in her way because she made a face and stared at them. It was very, very subtle but to me was clearly an expression of annoyance. Once again, I do not recall ever seeing people in Japan get annoyed like this. Maybe some obachan but that's about it.
The fourth incident. This time a car was going to turn right on the red light. In the U.S you can turn on a red light while in Japan, or at least in Tochigi, you have to wait for the light to turn green. The only thing of course is you have to wait until it is clear to turn. There was oncoming traffic so the driver turning right waited. The driver in a car behind him obviously got impatient and they laid on their horn. Whether the driver who honked did not see the oncoming traffic or just thought the other driver could have gone is irrelevant. it was just another of the many examples of impoliteness and impatience in this country.
I know that there may be many people who will say I am overreacting and that these examples were very minor. But, like I said, after encountering how seemingly polite and respectful people are in Japan, these "minor" incidents stand out to me more.
I do admit that I also act in this way sometimes, probably too much. I too find myself sometimes getting impatient with a slow driver and then tailgating them, or giving a look of annoyance to someone but I am really trying to do this less.