“Daitai” and “Chanto” – Understanding Japanese work ethic

In my last post I discussed starting a part-time job at a restaurant and a presentation at town hall. The presentation went really well. The only difficulty was that although the audience was made up of Intermediate to Advanced English learners, my topic has some really complex English words. I knew this beforehand and I budgeted an extra 30 minutes longer than my practice speech so that I could speak slowly, articulate, and explain big words. (Think a lot of hand gesturing) They probably did not get all of it, but we were able to engage in a fascinating discussion about where the world is headed environmentally, and whether or not the current problems are too big to tackle. I ended up learning more from the audience than I think they learned from me. The talk was recorded. In case you were dying to hear the problems and solutions to environmental sustainability – haha! I’ll post the video when it is available.

The part-time job at the restaurant. Most definitely the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done. Embarrassingly, I only lasted a month and a half. 😦 I got let go. The biggest reason the boss had for me not being able to cut it was that I couldn’t keep track of how to make the drinks. Granted, alcoholic drinks aren’t my specialty. But, the bigger reason is a difference in work ethic. I would describe the American work ethic or mindset to be “daitai”. Which is Japanese for – “basically, generally”. When it comes to things, we tend to generalize and say, “That’s good enough”. In Japan, their mindset is “chanto” – which is “perfectly”. Somewhere around elementary school, I was taught the idea of doing things “well enough”. I can still hear a teacher or classmate say, “It doesn’t have to be perfect”. That sentence doesn’t exist in Japan. Things are expected to be done perfectly, 100% of the time. Where in the States, people who do that are “nerdy”, “obsessive”, or “strict”. Granted, I am stereo-typing a lot here. I learned a lot of Japanese, I learned how to work harder and faster, how to make drinks (which will never come in handy again), about how to make Japanese food, and how to run a restaurant like that. I was half relieved and half disappointed to stop working there. It was very challenging and stressful, the long hours meant I was getting less sleep. I was, however, happy to make more money and gain that “chanto” type of experience, while improving my Japanese. I’ll probably keep an eye out for a new part-time job – but this time something in my wheelhouse like swim teaching or printing. And I’ll try harder next time (and in all that I do) to do things “perfectly” well.

This also ties into apathy. My personal journal is filled with pages on the subject and I won’t bore you with all of that. I’ve basically seen patterns in my life of apathy. Either because of a lack of interest sometimes, or because I feel unchallenged, or because it hurts to much to give 100% and fail. Apathy, better known as my coping mechanism of choice. It is easy for me to shrug it off as a personality trait, but I’m now looking at straight in the eye as something I want to tackle. I’ve got my eyes set on it for many reasons. One is that it distracts me, or holds me back from achieving or realizing better and greater things. Whether in a relationship, at work, etc. Another is because fear should never be a reason for anything. Fear should not exist within the vocabulary of a Christ-follower, except for a fear of the Lord. I’ve only begun to see glimmers of light as I pull back the curtain on apathy. Is that something you’ve ever dealt with? Do you recognize ‘apathy’ in someone you know? What sorts of bad habits or poor traits are you looking to tackle in your own life?

Thanks for listening.