In these blog entries (I have written quite a few now), I believe a good percentage of my observations/ opinions about Japan have been positive. Sure, I’ve criticized a few things, but as anyone with a lot of experience of living abroad can attest to, there is no perfect country, and as an outsider there will always be some things you don’t like or understand. That said, one thing I have always been unequivocal about is my praise for standards of customer service here. It is this marked contrast with my own country, recent experiences of “service” provided by a British company, and the fact that I am going home next week, that prompted me to write today’s blog entry.
When I was a teenager there was a very popular comedy program on TV called Candid Camera. This is the kind of thing that happened. A van from the telephone company (bogus) pulls up outside an unsuspecting person’s house, and workers start to make preparations to put a telephone box right in front of the driveway. The owner then rushes out and tells them that this cannot possibly be right. As the workmen continue to insist that they have their instructions, the homeowner moves from bewildered amusement to annoyance. Finally, as things are starting to get out of hand, the program’s presenter appears from behind a tree and says to the homeowner, “Smile you are on Candid Camera”. It was all just a practical joke.
I mention this because there really are some similarities here to the actual service one receives in the U.K. or from U.K. companies: like that homeowner, at first you think it’s so bad it must be some kind of joke or misunderstanding, but then you realize it isn’t. Unfortunately, though, unlike in Candid Camera there is no happy ending - no punchline when you find out that it actually is a big joke after all.
As I mentioned, recent dealings with a well-known British airline were a disaster from beginning to end: wrong name on the ticket, total chaos checking in, delayed flight and, finally, lost luggage (my daughter got her bag 36 hours later). There was one silver lining in all this in that it was a domestic terminal and a domestic flight within the U.K. Had it not been, her luggage could have ended up in Sydney. It may amaze Japanese readers that I consider this a positive, but to keep one’s sanity this is how you need to think in the U.K.!
I am still looking to forward to going home. I haven’t seen my family for a long time, and I love the English countryside: beautiful, unspoilt villages, each with an ancient gem of a church and a cozy pub. Oh, and the green! - the bright grass green that I associate with my homeland.
But I’m going to miss Japanese service!
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