Since this is the first newsletter, we will start at the beginning. Many people ask me what they should say when greeting the Japanese. Do you say good morning, hello, or what do you say?
In the morning, you should Ohayo gozaimasu, which means good morning. You can use this until about 10AM. At around that time, you should say Konnichiwa, which means Hello. And you can say Konnichiwa until sundown. After sundown, you should say Konbanwa, which means Good Evening.
If you forget these rules of thumb, you can always say Konnichiwa at any time of the day.
Choose your words carefully when trying to communicate in English with the Japanese. Recently, I overheard a conversation (or lack thereof) between a western-style hotel front desk clerk and a western hotel guest. The guest asked the clerk "Do you accept Visa?" I could tell the clerk did not understand even though she did speak English, and the guest kept asking over and over "Do you accept Visa?" Since this was a large western-style hotel, of course the answer was "Yes", which was eventually arrived at but only after much frustration on both parts.
So what did the guest do wrong? He used a brand name. For us westerners who use credit cards every day, we know that Visa is synonymous with credit card. But to the Japanese, a Visa may be a document to allow you access to a country. Be sure to use words that are not ambiguous, and words that are international. Another example of this is "Restroom". This word is an American term, and not always understood around the world. But, if you use "Toilet", you will get your point across.
Getting back to the initial problem at hand, what should the guest have done differently? He should have said, "Do you accept credit cards?" This is actually the way he finally got his question answered. Another option is that he could have just shown the clerk the credit card. This would have gotten the point across easily. The moral of the story is to talk simply. Talk like a Dick and Jane primer.