Sunday, 2 September 2012

Misinformation, Jesus and My Credit Card



Sometimes, making sounds is not the best option
Misinformation is handed down from ALT to ALT, just like a crusty old fridge that doesn’t really work but no-one wants to pay to take to the dump. When I first came to Japan I was told that you can’t get antiperspirant deodorant or toothpaste with fluoride here. I repeated that information verbally to newcomers and online in places like the JET forums and ITIL without ever questioning the original source. If not for Ashley and her wonderful site http://www.survivingnjapan.com, I would probably still be peddling those falsehoods.
Other foreigners are not the only source of misinformation of course. Newcomers have a tendency to believe anything a Japanese person tells them about Japan. This may seem completely reasonable until you start to think about your own culture. How many questions could you answer accurately, and how many of your answers would be guesses? This is where Jesus enters the story. I was in a castle once (I don’t recall which one, but if you are reading CC Lemon I am sure you do!) with a bunch of tourists. I heard an American man explaining to a Japanese woman “in English we say ‘turn the other cheek’, because we believe everyone has a good side and a bad side. If I say ‘turn the other cheek’ I want you to show me your good side.” I am sure this made perfect sense to him. But now imagine that the Japanese woman later meets a Japanese man who correctly identifies “turn the other cheek” as a quote from Jesus, and the strongest statement of pacifism in the bible. THE BIBLE. Kind of a significant influence for all Western cultures. This man tries to explain the history of the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, the insistence of Jesus that his follows not mount a violent rebellion even in self-defense and the way that message has been completely ignored by virtually every Christian denomination since. This seems unlikely to the Japanese woman. After all, she heard a much simpler explanation from a real American. Of course he would be the most authoritative source on his own culture, right? You get the same thing going the other way. Ask a Japanese person a question about Japan and they will try to answer you, even if they don’t really know what they are talking about.
Anyway, back to credit cards. One of the most enduring beliefs among ex-pats is that Japanese credit cards are off-limits to foreigners. I was much surprised, therefore, to be offered a credit card out of the blue when I went to the post office bank to update my address after moving. A fee-free, rewards earning credit card no less. I thought that perhaps it was because I have had an account there for seven and a half years, but on Monday I took a new ALT in to help him open an account and he was also offered a card. In fact, he initially turned it down but the teller was quite insistent that he should get it even if he never used it (“because it is free after all”).
If I ever tell you, dear readers, that you can’t do/get anything in Japan… please do not take my word for it!
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6 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for mentioning SiJ! I'm working on summarizing some of the credit card survey responses to get a better idea of what (some) people have experienced here in terms of getting a card. Would be nice to see if there are patterns in terms of income/jobs/etc., or if it's random. I'll link to your post as well, if that's all right!

    And yeah, we managed to get approved for a few cards in the span of a week or something, and rejected for just one, so it definitely is possible... I know other folks who've gotten credit cards as well.

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    1. Of course, although this is more of a ramble than an informative post ;)
      I wouldn't necessarily recommend my card (although there are no fees the monthly interest rate is 14%), but the PO is pushing it fairly hard. I was there again this week for something else and they were handing out branded tissues and brochures to every young person who came in (the card is for under 29s only).

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  2. I do vaguely remember that interaction... but I cannot remember which castle. We visited so many that year :)

    I know I do the same thing, if a foreigner asks me something and I don't really know the facts, I will tell them my opinion. Oops

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    1. I thought you might remember because I annoyed you to tears ranting about it at the time XD
      I don't think there's anything wrong with giving your best guess about something as long as it is prefaced with "I think that..." or "maybe because..." だから大丈夫だよ

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  4. Anyway, make sure that your credit card keeps you away from total debt. Purchase only the ones you badly need in cases of emergency. Spontaneous and impulsive buying generally leads credit cardholders into debt trouble.

    Jesse Baars

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