As you may know, when flying in a plane, the flight attendants will ask you several times what you would like to drink.I used to say, “Tea, please”. They used to give me a cup of green tea.I always wondered why they gave me green tea despite my asking for tea.
However, this mystery has finally been cleared up. One day, I said “Tea, please “ as always, the flight attendant replied, “green or English?” At last, I realized that I should have said “English tea, please.”
If you are a native English speaker, this sounds very odd. But I’m sure that most Japanese people believe when you say “tea”, you mean English tea. It must be a uniquely Japanese notion, but when Japanese people want green tea they say green tea, not just tea.
This is a trivial matter. But now I’m a little bit afraid to speak in English because I might have a lot of perceived notions causing confusion. Learning English is still very hard.
Koir (Canada) : Very interesting post, Yuri. It definitely illustrates how the Japanese culture has different preconceptions compared to Western countries. I do admit to being confused about the central concept in the first few read-throughs however. This showed me that I also have preconceptions about the basic meaning of "tea", a very useful thing I should be aware of.
Even in Western countries such as Canada and the United States there are preconceptions. Years ago, I was in the U.S. and was surprised at the confusion between "chips" and "French Fries". I was at a restaurant and ordered a sandwich with chips. I said that expecting to get French fries, but when my order came, on the plate with the sandwich was a small bag of potato chips.
This happened once or twice afterwards until I started saying "French fries" when I ordered a meal. No wonder the server looked at me oddly...I was ordering something she wasn't familiar hearing in that context.
Columbine (UK) : Thats interesting. Maybe it depends on where you are flying from or to. When I was flying to Japan before, I had to go from London to Bangkok first. When the air hostess asked me "tea or coffee?" I was given black english tea. But when I flew from Bangkok on the same air-line just a few hours later, I was given green tea and when I flew back it was the same. Even when I started in Bangkok, when I was flying to England, I was given black tea again.
Now that I think about it, it's quite confusing!
atheistwithfaith（UK）： When I was flying with JAL, they automatically assumed I meant english tea (I am English). I think most people realize not to make assumptions about language when speaking to a non-native speaker.