Moore Than This

"Here we are living in paradise, living in luxury..."

Monday, February 06, 2006

I don't care (wash, rinse, repeat)

It's just occured to me that I've written basically nothing about my studies and life in general since I started this semester. Although posting entry after entry of pointless links is a way of life for some blogs, I like to think I still have some connection to the real world. So without further ado, here is a short update on the semester thus far:

As well as Level 4 Japanese, I'm enrolled for Issues in Contemporary Japanese Society and Culture and International Negotiation. They're both pretty interesting, but in very different ways, just as my last two studies courses were different from each other. Issues is a social anthropology-based course, where we take a critical look at different aspects of Japanese society. Probably inspired by my Christmas reading, I wanted to look inside Japanese culture and really inquire, rather than stand outside not knowing (or even worse, acting like I know).

Example: I was watching TV in the dining room when a music video by a band called Rip Slyme came on. The look of it was basically identical to the Constructivist/Pythonesque animation/machinery look of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" video. An American guy beside me started chuckling and said "Wow, you'd only get a video like this in Japan huh?" Sure, I wanted to reply, if by Japan you also mean Glasgow.

International Negotiation is a more hands-on, participatory class than Issues. For our second class we were put in groups and made to do a negotiation exercise involving buying and selling car parts. My partner and I went over the variables beforehand and thought we had a pretty good game plan. However, the negotiation ended up running well into the evening, and by the end all I could think about was my dinner, and how the other party's comically bad grasp of basic mathematics and the English language was keeping me from it. The moral of the story is, eat a big meal before any negotiation. And maybe take in a couple of Cup Noodles to keep you going. Needless to say, I finished the exercise in a bad mood.

Today I wandered back home early for some lunch. The girl on the opposite team (who I liked to think of as my counterpart - we both didn't talk much) was sitting writing up her report on the negotiation. I think I got off on the wrong foot this time by asking her if she was ill - there's been a cold going around, and she was sitting in her dressing gown, hair uncombed, at half-two in the afternoon. Anyway, she apparently had a bone to pick with me over one aspect of the negotiation. This is a verbatim transcript of our conversation:

Her: But why should we have to pay 7% of the unit price for quality control testing? Surely that's your repsonsibility?
Me: I don't know. Why didn't you say something at the negotiation?
Her: But it doesn't make sense. Why should we have to pay extra?
Me: Umm ... is it really that important to you?
Apparently it was. I have no idea why it was such an issue to her - I paid precious little attention to it even during the negotiation. She, however, kept going on about it until I was forced to try that most desperate of negotiating tactics; the stonewall.

Her: But I don't understand. Why should we pay 7% of...?
Me: I don't care. It's really not that relevant to me.
Her: But why...?
Me: Again. I don't care.
I was forced to keep on saying 'I don't care' until she got the message, and even then she seemed like just one more reiteration of the question would make me sit up and applaud her perseverance and good grace. Still, as an introduction to customer care, British-style, you really can't fault it.

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