Some of the most popular TV series in the U.K. feature salesmen or tradesmen as central characters. These people are shifty (can’t be trusted), slippery (can’t be trusted), duck and dive (can’t be trusted), and their workmanship (the quality of their work) is also shoddy (of poor quality). If you are interested, two of the most famous of these are Only Fools and Horses and Minder. For some reason, many Brits seem to love programs which include these Cockney Cowboys (Londoners who can’t be trusted, try to rip people off, and do poor quality work). They are definitely not bad guys - just dodgy (can’t be trusted) - and they are almost admired in Britain.
To illustrate my point, a telephone conversation in these programs might go something like this:
Old lady: Good morning, is that the electrician? Electrician: Yeah, what can I do for you, luv? OL: Well, I need a lightbulb changed. How much would that cost? E: Lightbulb? (FH). Well, I don’t come out for less than a monkey. OL: That’s expensive!! It’s only a lightbulb! E: Sorry darling, but less than that is just not an earner.
Translation Old lady: Good morning, is that the electrician? Electrician: Yes, how may I help you madam? OL: Well, I need a lightbulb changed. How much would that cost? E: Lightbulb? That’s 500 pound. (70,000yen) OL: That’s expensive!! It’s only a lightbulb! E: Sorry Madam, but I can’t make a profit if I charge less than that.
Of course I’m talking about fiction here, but compared to Japan the U.K. is, in my opinion, really like this. The general standard of customer service and workmanship back home is poor. I cannot imagine a Japanese equivalent of a Cockney Cowboy. In Japan, the customer is king - even when they are not a customer (I’m talking about the way convenience stores are used as public toilets). But seriously, when a tradesman in Japan comes to your house or fixes your car, he does a proper job and lets you know that your custom is valued. I like that!
Related to this is something we call dignity in humble labour. This means that no matter what job you do and however menial it may seem, there is dignity in doing that job well. A classic example in Japan is the old guy (it usually is an older man) with his red stick. On busy weekends, supermarkets sometimes employ these elderly gentlemen to direct traffic in their car parks. In the U.K. this job does not exist, as people are generally able to find parking spaces themselves. But that’s not the point! If it did, that stick would be in the trash can after twenty minutes and he’d be looking for the nearest pub. Not in Japan! That gentleman in Sunny has been given a job to do, and he’s going to do it well. There he is waving his red stick around and giving it 100%. I respect that. And this is not British sarcasm. I really do.
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