For my semester in Kyoto, Japan, I volunteered at an NGO called Impact Hub Kyoto. Impact Hub Kyoto offers a space for people to exchange new ideas and to change the local community by organizing different forums. In addition, they also rent co working space so a lot of office workers would work here. Through Impact Hub Kyoto, I learnt a lot from interacting with the people there and from my project.
As a college student exchanging at Doshisha University, I do not really have chance to interact with office workers. Through Impact Hub Kyoto, I learnt about how you are supposed to say お疲れ様 to people who are leaving after work. Moreover, I attended a 送別会 (farewell party) for my mentor, and I was able to closely observe how people pay for the meal, what they do at the farewell party and what they say, which is very interesting. I was invited to my mentor’s house and went for food shopping with her prior. After lunch, she took out all the receipts and started calculating in front of everyone divided the price based on the number of the people. This was new to me because in China, usually the colleague that leaves the company pays for the farewell party at restaurant or cooking at home.
On the other hand, my project at Impact Hub Kyoto taught me so much in multiple aspects. Our goal is to increase the recognition among college students, so we came up with the idea of organizing a forum that interests students. We first interviewed some students and we came up with the theme of the forum: work and travel. Nakamura sensei introduced me her friend as the guest speaker and in order to invite him, I learnt how to write in Japanese business style email and used 敬語 for every email to him. Furthermore, I was able to learn a lot about Japanese people’s mindset by cooperating with my Japanese partner. I talked very directly while he was very indirect and sometimes I misunderstood his meanings. I realized this might be a cultural difference and talked to him about what I think and finally we were on the same page.In addition, we needed to advertise for the forum and I learnt how to ask Doshisha University on Twitter to advertise for us and how to talk to Professors at Doshisha politely to ask if it is possible for him to distribute our flyers on his class.
Overall, I am very grateful for being able to volunteer at Impact Hub Kyoto not only because I get to interact with the type of people I normally do not have a chance to, but also being able to organize a Forum in Japanese with Japanese partner.
Business emails are むずかしいですね. It is interesting because, judging by the number of how-to articles and on the internet, it seems many Japanese people also have no idea how to write business emails.
Oh wow really? My partner is used to it given part of his interns at Hub Kyoto is to contact people through e-mails so I guess that’s why he is very good with business e-mails.
Sounds like a really enriching, valuable experience! I think it’s particularly fascinating to consider how outside of simply a language barrier is cultural differences, which in turn affect not only how we speak, but additionally and perhaps more significantly how we think.
Sylvia,I strongly agree with you. One of the biggest features working with Japanese is that they are very indirect and also tend to write indirectly. In the email reminding guests for the forum, I was gonna write “since we prepare for question time, please feel free to ask any question you have”. While my partner thought it sounds too demanding, so at the end we just wrote “We set up a lot of time for questions”.