We’ve now hopped from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for some hardcore R&R and perhaps a little gambling. It’s been quite a week so far, with me shepherding my three Japanese colleagues around, translating for them and explaining all the strange things we encounter together. They’ve had their share of culture shock, for example being surprised at the huge portions at IHOP (“I could feed my whole family with this omelette!”), and they were impressed enough with In-n-Out Burger to start talking about how we could get a licence to operating one in Tokyo. Naturally, there were some linguistic challenges. For example, when someone renders a service to them they know they’re supposed to pay a “tip,” which for linguistic reasons is pronounced “chip” in Japanese. (Basically, the word was imported back in the Meiji Era, before you could express the sound “ti” in written Japanese as you can in katakana today.) This takes on a strange context in a city where poker chips, also called “chip,” are a potential currency, and I keep expecting them to try tipping someone with a poker chip (although it would probably be gladly accepted).
I’m in Las Vegas now, gambling up a storm.