Sunday, July 06, 2008

I'm turning Japanese I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so Turning Japanese I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so

Well, not exactly Japanese, but just a bit German. It's been 5.5 years, and, well, the influence is astonishing sometimes. Especially when I'm riding my bike. I've noticed that I've become very impatient with, say, pedestrians on the bike path. Normal rules of the road (or sidwalk for that matter) dictate that one is to keep right, at least in most western countries. Well, I boil over when I ride up behind a group of rocket scientists occupying the whole path, who don't even notice that they are walking on the bike path, then curse me for riding a bike at all. Then there are those brain surgeons who ride in the wrong direction on the wrong side. One of these jokers caused me to get verbally assaulted by a couple of senior citizens last Wednesday. I stayed over to let this guy pass the senior citizens rather than crowd him off the path and into a tree, but they got all worried that I was going to ride right into them and started yelling "The bike path is the red part!" Though most often cool-headed, I nearly yelled back "I know, I'm not stupid, but that guy is".

Another thing has to do with speed. I like to ride fast. And everyone else who doesn't ride fast gets on my last nerve because they are slowing me down. Somehow, I have absorbed this without even noticing. I always laughed when someone explained to me how slow drivers are dangerous because they are holding up the flow of traffic (which is something I've often heard here), but now I really understand what they mean. Get a couple of slow cyclists on a busy street, the fast guys can't pass them, then somebody brakes and the whole crowd goes down!

I also get all competitive when I pull up to a stop light and another cyclist crowds up really close to me just dying to take off faster than me. You see, my bike looks sort of like a bike a grandma would ride, but actually it's pretty fast. I've witnessed this phenomenon in cars at stop lights as well, you've got some little guy in a tiny hatchback who thinks he's all big and tough with his customized exhaust pipes, and the driver of the car I'm in starts commenting about how the other driver "thinks he's going to pass, but he's not!!!" and floors it when the light turns green, leaving the other guy in the dust. Unintentionally, I do the same thing on my bike.

This whole thing doesn't just apply to unwritten traffic rules, either. I've been told in the past by certain friends and family members that I even sound German when I speak English now. Well, a couple weeks ago, someone who I consider a language expert was cracking up for the first five minutes of our conversation (in English) and told me that I sound like a German who speaks really good English. And even non-German Europeans have difficulty hearing where I come from when speaking English or German. I've often been asked whether I'm Scandinavian!

One final note: the normal greeting for friends, family, business partners and colleagues is always a handshake here. I like this, and find it's a very civil way of saying hello, though some of my fellow Americans avoid it like the plague because it's not the American way. My policy is when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So, yesterday one of my closest friends, a fellow North American, came by, and though we've always avoided the handshake with one another, we did it! Somehow automatically, it just overcame us. We shook hands yesterday. Then had a good laugh at ourselves. Because...

We're turning Japanese we think we're turning Japanese we really think so!

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