Thursday, 8 September 2011


This week I relocated from Tokyo to London. I had lived in London for six months before the Tokyo stint, but it seems six months in Tokyo has reconditioned me in subtle ways.

On the plane, a Japanese flight attendant woke me up to ask, “Would you like a drink?” From my vacant look and incoherent stammering – this always happens if I am awakened suddenly – it was obvious that I hadn’t comprehended. She repeated the question in Japanese, by which time intelligent functions had kicked in. So I replied in Japanese that I would like a Coke, please. And she looked slightly perplexed that someone – evidently a foreigner – could speak Japanese but not English. For the rest of the flight, she solicitously spoke to me in Japanese only.

Unlike the Tokyo Metro, the London Underground, for the most part, has no mobile coverage. But coming from Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line, there is a 23-minute overground section between Hounslow Central and Barons Court. In this span, someone’s phone rang. I wheeled round in shock because in Tokyo this would be a gross breach of etiquette; then I realised no one else had raised an eyebrow.

On the tube-station escalators, I was standing on the left, as they do in Tokyo. I saw some people standing on the right, and said to myself, “Hah, tourists.” It took me a few seconds to realise that of course it was I who was standing on the wrong side. In London, for historical reasons, the convention is to stand on the right.

And most recently, when leaving office last night, I pressed 1 on the lift and got off one storey above ground, because Japan follows the American convention of floor numbering.

The reconditioning process will probably be complete in a week or so, whereupon life will become smoother, but I feel I will have lost a tiny whit of my coolness. Thankfully, I have vast reserves to fall back on.


Rara Avis said...

But people must get so bored if they can't talk on the phone on trains!

Sroyon said...

Who uses a phone for talking these days?

RC said...

I can't believe this post doesn't have more comments! Its brilliant - one of your best till date I felt! :)

Sroyon said...

Haha, thanks RC! From my experience, comments and commenters are totally unpredictable.

fleur-de-lis said...