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Regarding Amy Chavez’s Dec. 12 article, “Is service with a smile too much to ask for?“: My wife recently flew back from the United States (on an American airline). My wife is an American and we have been living in Japan for 1Łyears now.

On the return trip, there was a young Japanese family with two kids sitting in front of her. The children were apparently very well behaved, barely making a squeak the entire flight. Much to my wife’s dismay, the flight attendant, for some reason, took it upon herself to yell at the family every time she had to ask them something. My wife felt so terribly bad for this couple that she nearly addressed the issue with the flight attendant, but decided to keep her mouth shut rather than make a scene.

My point is that I don’t believe that the issue can be pinned on Americans or American flight attendants being less polite and even rude. There is obviously a fundamental lack of understanding and appreciation of customer service in a cultural context. Americans who have lived in Japan and have experienced the pleasantness of interacting with very polite strangers have the ability to appreciate this kindness and in turn demonstrate a similar effect toward other strangers.

Perhaps it is easiest and most logical to conclude that Japan simply provides the best customer service training in the world and that it is derived from a culture of principles. Is it necessary to compare two different flight attendants and their cultures?

Why not simply decide that Japanese flight attendants are better than all the rest? That way, the next time we fly internationally on a cheaper American airline we don’t set ourselves up for disappointment but rather have compassion for the flight attendant’s lack of class and general understanding of customer service.

isaac uchiyama

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