September 24, 2013
Dr. Corinne Weisgerber
Fear and Trembling
Coming to St. Edward’s was my dream. Who would have guess that the little girl I was at 5 would ever have the opportunity to move there one day. But the truth was that moving from France to Texas hasn’t been an easy task to do especially after all the French cultural background I’ve been use to my whole life. Everything is different when you come from Europe. But the thing I was the more worried about was the first day at school, not because I was alone and in a foreign country, but because I didn’t know how to behave and act with people here. As for the appearances, people looked the same; we were all young and college students. As I was meeting my first American friend, I leaned to him to give him two kisses on the cheeks as we are used to do in France. It’s been the weirdest moment of my American experience so far: I didn’t know it but here we hug. At that moment I really thought that there should be an instruction manual for whoever moves to Texas. The movie Fear and Trembling relates the story of Amelie Nothomb, a Belgian young woman. Amelie was born and raised in Japan, but her family background comes from Belgium. She moved back there when she was five. The film tells the story of Amelie, whenever she returned to Japan after getting the job offer as an interpreter within one of the most important Japanese company: Yumimoto. She always admired the Japanese refinement, sophistication and their art of living and her dream has always been to go back and live there as a real Japanese. But when she gets there, it’s a whole different reality that appears to her, Japan’s system is rigid, and she’s a lot of trouble getting used to it. Her adaptation is hard and everything she does is bad and looks rude for her Japanese fellows. This is the story of a cruel and unfair decline: she is getting down the levels of the Japanese society until the position of “toilets cleaning lady”. Nevertheless, she refuses to give up in order keeping her honor, an important value in Japan. As she comes from a very heterogeneous country she is not used to this perfect and homogeneous lifestyle Japanese have where individualism doesn’t really exist. The majors concepts that I recognized while watching the movie are Power-distance, the difference between collectivism and individualism: “Western culture versus Japanese culture”, and the culture shock different levels.
First day of work, Amelie arrives smiling and happy to finally start the job of her dreams. At the beginning of the film, the first task the superior of the service gives her seems very easy. Indeed, Mr. Saito orders Amelie to write a letter to one of the company’s client in order to invite him to the golf. Amelie accepts, pleased to have an easy thing to do. She writes something very polite and cordial as she would have done it in Belgium. Whenever she is done, she goes and gives the letter to Mr. Saito who furious tears up the note asking her to write a new one. It looked like the courtesy and politeness offended him. In Japan, the less you talk and communicate the better it is. It’s a low power distance culture and they tend to hide any kind of courtesy that would show any personal feelings. It’s called dissimulation or concealment. Japanese “tend to use words as only part of the message. Other factors, such as silence, subtle body language, mood, tone, and intuition imply meaning communication styles”. The less you’ll talk the more polite and respected by the others you’ll be. Japanese people are very proud of their capacity to be such a homogeneous society. They all behave the same way. For example, how you would talk in Europe or America to your fellows’ workers in the office whenever you get there every morning doesn’t exist in Japan. In the movie, we see them getting to work, going to their desk and start working again, and this with barely...
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