Too tired to write up the meme I saw yesterday, so I’ll go with something simple that turned up in my sorting and cleaning over the weekend. I often scratch ideas for posts on little notepapers and then – in my haste – shuffle them in with random piles of things tossed out of my pack. One that turned up said “peach – top/bottom”.
When I read books with small children, I do a little fooling around beforehand. I hold the book up backwards and the kids all scream out, “Wrong way!”, which in Japanese could mean upside down or backwards. So I start flipping the book over or rotating it; always in a fashion that leaves it in poor orientation. Even the four year olds are smart enough to realize that an alternative to yelling the same directions at me. Sometimes they vary their words, sometimes they use gestures, and occasionally someone comes up and helps me turn the book properly.
Every time I pull these shenanigans, it gets a good reaction. Teachers in Japan are overly serious and would never do something (intentionally) which could be construed as a mistake or embarrassing. Children love play and spontaneity. I strive to give it. Most of them are smart enough to figure out that it wasn’t just by chance that I made so many mistakes.
Another time I often heard “wrong way” was when we were studying fruit and I put up a flash card for peach. Many times I talked with teachers about it, because I always like to understand how people process information; however, it took numerous conversations before we got to the bottom of it. The problem was that I always put the peach with the stem and leaves at the top and Japanese people always put the slightly pointy end at the top and the stem side down.
My feeling is that most Americans would put all the fruit with the stem side up, as they are oriented when they are growing: oranges, apples, peaches; they are all right side up when presented this way. Our generally accepted view is that the Japanese view focuses on the picked item which would tend to roll over on a table, leaving the point up and the broad part down.
Tiny little things can be so different between cultures.