February 20, 2011
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I made a 2D car out of chocolate and icing for a co-worker. Let’s just say I wanted to show my appreciation for his kindness. It was a follow-up to a card with a message in English that I should’ve known would be misunderstood: “Will you be my Valentine?”
So in response he said that he wanted to get to know me as a friend first. He was even nice enough to write a response to me in English accompanying his verbal reply, probably thinking that I can’t read Japanese (or something along those lines).
So, leaving work, I felt really embarrassed about such a miscommunication that could have easily been avoided on my part. So while I was at my other school on Tuesday and Wednesday, I wrote a letter in Japanese clarifying that I know we don’t know each other very well, that I appreciate him as a friend, and that if the car I made was too sweet, he didn’t have to eat it.
I gave him the letter on Friday after his students’ English lesson, and told him that, in America, “Valentine” doesn’t necessarily mean “lover” or boyfriend,” depending on the relationship, and that in some cases it means “special person” or even just a good friend. I asked him if he thought I meant “boyfriend,” and he said he did, which is why he was so shocked. So I apologized and told him to read my letter whenever he had time. He was busy for the rest of the day, so I take it he’ll have read it over the weekend, and maybe even write me a response (which I told him to write in Japanese if he was going to write anything at all).
Oh, the joys of intercultural miscommunication.