The only similar thing I've ever seen is at things like amusement parks or where ferry tickets are sold: the cashier is behind glass and talks to you through a microphone (and you to them). Exchange of tickets and money goes through a rotating tray sort of thing that is below the glass and is moved by the person behind the glass. I find it very impersonal and not a nice way of doing business. Surely we can talk like normal human beings?
Of course that is different from change trays, there is no glass or microphones involved there, but it's the closest thing I can think of.
As an aside, I can see why it might be more common in Germany than in the Netherlands: you guys pay almost always by cash (taking forever when the cashier goes "do you perhaps have 23 cents with that?" to make the change round) whereas here bank card, and especially the quick wireless option is more and more prevalent.
Probably contrary to the Japanese custom as described in the article I personally always feel slightly self-conscious when using them (to hand someone the money). It feels distant and maybe a bit impolite to me, though I don’t know how shared that feeling is. (Please note that I’m not claiming that using the tray is somehow inherently impolite or distant. When it comes to etiquette the concept of universal truth is even more problematic than it otherwise already is.)
My usual approach is to hand over the money directly if there is little time and the cashier is already looking at me, expecting the money, and to put it on the tray if the cashier is currently still doing something else and I have a bit of time to properly prepare the money while the cashier is looking elsewhere. (It basically gives me a proper place to put the money when the cashier cannot yet directly take it.) I’m not sure how shared my feeling and my approach on this are among others.
Also, in my experience cashiers differ wildly in how they will use those trays to hand you your change. Some will use them, some just won’t. I never payed any attention as to whether there’s any pattern to that, though. I mean, is the proper use of that tray part of the instructions when starting somewhere? Is it just personal preference?
So sometimes I get the worst of the both status there...
Whenever I go to Asia, I'm treated like a novelty if I speak even a few words.
This really hurts me sometimes, because I know this and put so much effort try to fit in, but I basically get no praise for that, instead, I get nitpicked for noncompliances.
In a case of some individuals like hotel clerks, that I actually spent some time talking, seeing multiple times a day, they totally understand my situation and didn't give me hard time. (And it was tiny hotel, that didn't really caters to foreigner, so it not that the they were used to it -- funny side story is a few year after that -- perhaps when their son took over the business, they've completely changed to cater to foreigners instead :-) )
But it's also true that people in the service industry are gruff no matter where you go. It's hard to be pre-school-polite to hundreds of illiterate adults a day.
Gaijin is slang. It's not necessarily used with a derogatory meaning. Also it's important to note that it's mostly used for white people, they'll never call a Chinese or Korean "gaijin" for example.
I think this is incredibly important here. People watch movies like Fast and the Furious and think it's always a bad, derogatory word when that isn't the case at all.
As with many words in our own language, context is incredibly important. Take for example, the English word 'foreigner'.
If I see a guy struggling to read a menu at a restaurant, I may say "Oh, he's probably a foreigner. I'm going to go see if he needs help". That's not a negative or derogatory usage. If I say "I wish those dirty foreigners would just go back to their home country", I've now turned the word into a derogatory one.
This is exactly how the word gaijin is handled. It can be used in a derogatory manner, but it's not inherently derogatory. It can be used in a non-derogatory way. It's a shame so many people get their cultural knowledge from Hollywood movies.
Not true, "gaijin" can be used to refer to any foreigner/non-Japanese. It's just that there are many Chinese and Koreans in Japan, and the countries are neighbors, so it's common to use the more specific words "Chinese" and "Korean" when the nationality is known.
In the same sense that I might say "Eastern European" but a Hungarian would say "Romanian" or "Czech" etc.
Also, though gaijin used to mean "outsider", and that usage is still listed in dictionaires, it's basically obsolete. Nobody (in Japan) calls a Japanese "gaijin".
> Rachel Underhill, 39, a florist who lives in Peacehaven, East Sussex, was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness before leaving the religion in her twenties
> We weren’t allowed to make friends with anyone “worldly”, which meant anyone who wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness, or do anything outside the religion, which they called “outside the truth”. It was incredibly isolating. We were brainwashed into thinking all worldly people wanted to abuse us, and this was confirmed every time we knocked on doors to try to convert people – you can’t imagine the damage it does to a child being constantly yelled at to go away.
This is why you might see me arguing against mocking religious people - it does nothing to convert them and may just strengthen their beliefs.
> This is why you might see me arguing against mocking religious people - it does nothing to convert them and may just strengthen their beliefs.
It's a good idea, and the same principle really applies to any person or group, regarding any framework, religious or not. From atheists to zookeepers.
If Christians truly believe nonbelievers are going to hell, it's the only loving response. The magician (and atheist) Penn has a great story about this .
I've never been a part of the goin't'hell group, but in my fairly extensive experience as a young adult in an evangelical religious group, I certainly got the impression that the high touch personal approach was taken as more effective. Most people don't really like doing the door-to-door salesperson routine. But they do it because it seems to work - assuming anyone actually answers the door (which is the real rarity). Or at least is effective enough; conversion rates are, shall we say, low. It doesn't need to be high, though, since the risk and reward is so high (failure means more lost, success is a life).
 For introverts it can be extremely stressful - practice is the only thing that seems to make the terror go away for them. If the person at the door preachin' the word looks awkward and is stammering, be kind - they're more afraid of you than you are of them :)
EDIT: slight grammar/clarification.
EDIT EDIT: This is off-topic enough I'm going to just truncate part of my comment to gist:
I think the risk:reward is often seen as higher than it should be even given the "going to hell" assumption, because the failure cost of the attempt is seen as capped at zero because alienation is not considered. This might make sense in a context where your particular door-to-door attempt was very likely to be the only exposure to Christianity that the target would ever have, but (since alienation of an unbeliever in that case would have the same effect as not making that particular door-to-door conversion attempt), but somewhat unlikely in the modern world.
And, I could never, never ascribe almost complete certainty to a piece of information not complying with the vacuum intellect test (i.e. could an intelligent person not exposed to culture reasonably be expected to arrive at a similar conclusion, if given sufficient resources for independent experimentation).
So, quantum mechanics, as weird as it is, could pass the vacuum intellect test. Could I personally see a vacuum intellect reinventing the tenets of Christianity including the concept of hell? That seems completely implausible to me. Sure, one could argue divine intervention (again) -- but that violates the vacuum constraint.
So, question: By what moral thesis does one permit one's self to venture out into the world and attempt to convince other people to redirect their limited resources onto something which is not almost completely certain?
But, if you relax the rigor and you're willing to settle for what you personally qualify as overwhelming circumstantial evidence, it's not too hard to meet that level of confidence (the Anthropic Principle is very powerful). These people are often True Believers.
It's a whole different mindset, and worth spending the effort to wrap your head around. I'd bet it's a sufficiently different frame of mind that you'll have a hard time relating. It's easy to just gloss it over as a fool's thinking, but it really can be quite complex and deep (after all, without that moral vacuum, there's a lot of core axioms to keep straight). And that's not bad; just be warned that it can be a bit of a memetic virus, but it's certainly not too hard to quarantine. Usually at a very low level there's an assumption made about the way things are, and enough evidence is brought in to make that assumption feel reasonable; that's not science but rather more of a judicial argument. If it feels a bit boot-strappy, you're a bit on track. Typically once the mindset is settled, that rationalizes the initial bootstrap; I think often those who preach worry that many will not be exposed to the needed bootstrap, and feel a moral imperative to help others through that process. And that's how you get the evangelism. (Clearly there's a gross amount of glossing over here :)
And it'll help a lot in pleasantly/tactfully dealing with such individuals. People are just folk, and most are sincere. Just not always as... rigorous as folk like yourself.
And certainly handling such individuals with kid gloves is important to mitigate the intransigence reflex. I only ask because I wish to discover some more effective strategy to aid some of the more zealous individuals to improve their moral consistency. Fear is far more powerful than reason, however.
Wait a minute - so they don't like it, I don't like it... so why are we doing this?
Naturally, this can backfire pretty hard. But that's the cost of taking the faith seriously.
Whenever Japan comes up people assume some matter of politeness is involved, but a lot of times the explanation is much simpler.
I'm not sure about the origin of the custom, but perhaps the action of taking something out of someone's hand feels too close to taking it forcefully from them - i.e. for the same reason it is considered impolite for two people to hold the same piece of food by chopstick (for example, if passing food between people from chopstick to chopstick).
Isn't the chopstick thing related to funeral rituals?
> The relatives pick the bones out of the ashes and transfer them to the urn using large chopsticks or metal picks, two relatives sometimes holding the same bone at the same time with their chopsticks (or, according to some sources, passing the bones from chopsticks to chopsticks). Known as kotsuage (骨揚げ?), this is the only time in Japan when it is proper for two people to hold the same item at the same time with chopsticks. At all other times, holding anything with chopsticks by two people at the same time, or passing an item from chopsticks to chopsticks, will remind all bystanders of the funeral of a close relative and is considered to be a major social faux pas.
Hand to hand western style is 1:1 blocking I/O, both the payer and recipient must be simultaneously active at the same moment.
At a restaurant/bar this tray is the worlds smallest FIFO and you put a packet into the packet buffer at your convenience and the service worker clears the buffer at their convenience, and this protocol is considered so polite that even at convenience stores when you're in a line you still use the FIFO buffer and pretend you're both not in a hurry and have plenty of time for proper, measured, unhurried service, even when you don't actually have the time. Its impolite to force a two concurrent processes to deadlock waiting a simple packet buffer transfer, and even if they do, they like to pretend its not happening.
If the trays looked nicer it would have been an obvious conspicuous consumption opportunity. The cheap store has injection molded plastic; we have marble trays; they have antique engraved ebony.
I wonder how or if they handle what CS would call transaction locks, to make sure the other process doesn't grab the buffer to empty it while the filler is still shoveling in small change. Not having been to Japan yet, I'm guessing the tray moves and at least subtly you somehow indicate you're done filling the bucket before the service worker starts emptying it.
I had another model based on traditional innumeracy, if traditionally payers were innumerate you shovel coins onto the bucket until the service worker sees enough and takes away the bucket. I find this model theoretically possible to implement although highly unlikely in practice.
Even if this is total space cadet time, I like thinking about concurrency issues. (edited to fix horrible phrasing: I like to look at Japanese currency trays thru concurrency tinted sunglasses, just because its fun, even if the Japanese themselves don't like those sunglasses, also its funny to talk about currency and concurrency at the same time)
In North America, women keep bills and coins in their purses next to used tissues, and studies have shown that men's wallets have an even higher concentration of bacteria than women's purses. We sit on and, on hot days, sweat on our money all day. Let's face it, the stuff is pretty disgusting. However, if somebody hands you a twenty, your first reaction is usually not, "Oh gross, now I need to wash my hands".
In terms of hygiene, it makes sense for waiters to collect currency on trays so they don't have to wash their hands after every bill is settled (assuming it's a different person's job to take the cash off the tray and put it in the till). Could this be the reason the practice started? The connection between disease and microbes would have existed around the time these trays appeared, so it's possible a crusading doctor or someone similar convinced vendors to use these trays.
Compare that to the US where I've seen a supermarket teller draw a line with a pen across a bill after accepting it (why?) or people pulling wadded cash balls out of their pockets to pay for a soda at a convenience store.
I don't know what accounts for the difference but I did like the typically crisp and new bills in Japan.
Where I live the smallest bill is $5 and is worth picking up, but to the Americans I know it almost seems like all change and $1 bills are worthless. Very foreign!
To slightly change the context, but directly answer the wording of your question - Yes, historically, commercial enterprise was always the lowest of the four classes in Japan. Up until the Meiji restoration in the 19th century, trade (hence money) was considered dirty. Echoes of this attitude survive in the culture today.
I've never seen them outside of a restaurant in the states.
In the US the trays are common in restaurants, because the transaction is asynchronous. Anywhere else (gas station, grocery store, banks, shops) cash is handed directly.
I'm guessing someone can confirm on how widespread these things are in Japan.
It took a minute to get used to it as I'm used to handing money to people in the USA. I found some of the people I exchanged with would hand me the money back, hand-to-hand even though I used a tray.
It doesn't end there - business cards, receipts and numerous other things have a very specific way of being exchanged that were different to me. But all very cool and novel for me. Definitely worth reading up on some of the basic customs if you travel there. There was a high tolerance for foreigners not knowing how to do things the "proper way" but it's always good to at least learn a bit and try.
Beyond that I can see it being a result of extreme cultural stratification, as the article touches on - that it would be seen as demeaning for a higher-class person to put money directly into the lower-class person's hand.
It's quite interesting that no one has any clear idea! I love little mysteries like this.
This same procedure could explain the origin of similar usage in other countries.
But at least in my experience they are not very common for giving change in shops.
Edit: and Germany, according to the poster below...
Either I'm missing something from the context or author is mistaken. Trays and boxes in multiple forms and sizes are used everywhere in restaurants in Europe and ex-USSR countries.
In banks and similar facilities people usually hand over cash via some special trays built in the counter because of the glass separating customer and clerk.
In fact I don't remember a single restaurant in 20 or so countries where I could go to the counter pay there directly or leave cash on the counter. In every case when I tried this (I wanted to speed up things) I was told to go and wait for the waiter, who will bring a tray where I will put cash or card (in cases when card terminal in not wireless).
I don't know whereabouts in Europe you are, but you have to imagine a store like H&M where you generally place goods on a countertop to purchase them. In Japan, those countertops usually have a nondescript tray also lying on them, and it is considered impolite to hand your payment directly to the cashier--instead, while putting down all of your goods for purchase, you simultaneously put your payment into the tray.
There are of course restaurants where they'll hand you a bill and you bring it up to the counter -- at least in the US. For example, in the Kansas City, Missouri region you'll see this both in the sit-down tex-mex chain-restaurant El Maguey as well as smaller sit-down cafes (the one that's coming to mind is City Diner, which is by the River Market). But that's not quite what we're talking about here.
I wonder if non native English speakers find this expression (or the use of "allowed") confusing.
It was easier for the cashier to glance at the amount we had placed in the tray and help us count out the correct amount of money for our first few days there while trying to get accustomed to the types of currency.
The tray avoids passing cash hand to hand. 20 years ago, clerks (or taxi drivers) would be visibly surprised and slightly shocked if you tried to hand them cash. But that's relaxed a lot now. Tourists hand cash to clerks and the reaction is slight if at all. Taxi drivers often exchange cash hand to hand. It's still more polite to use the tray but less strict.
Similarly bargaining is diverse as well. You may not think of it, but in the US you bargain back and forth for big ticket items (cars, houses) but not little things. In many east Asian countries it is the opposite, you bargain with street salesmen but not for a motorcycle or car.
A few places in Britain have put these jars out, mostly pubs in tourist areas and American codew shops. I've never put anything in them, since the previous container for spare change was a charity collection jar, usually for a local charity.
The charity jars are quite common in pubs, convenience shops and supermarkets.
Tipping is not a thing in Japan, generally. I've read that it can be considered faintly insulting, given the service culture - you're implying the recipient wouldn't have done their job properly unless you gave them extra money.
See also English Victorian change packets:
1: http://www.schnitzelbahn.com/homepage/2010/11/25/the-evil-za... (scroll down a bit)
Something much more weird I think is the money envelopes. I once took classes by a Japanese lady who, the day before we would pay for the next month, gave us these envelopes the size of a bill and asked us to bring the money in them, said that Japanese never hand money directly, always in envelopes. The next day she took the envelopes and didn't even open them to count the money.
Now with debit cards (interac, not mastercard) being the norm its standard to get the bill and then have them bring over a wireless debit machine (and has been that way for at least 10+ years)
Fairly common to get some level of hand-contact there when passing around money, credit cards or food bags.
Pizza delivery guys will just pull out your change from a coin purse, though.
Edit: Just remembered that sometimes toll collectors on the highways use them, but not 100% of them, so there's that.
It reminds me though, in fast food places they often have you order by kiosk and then take your receipt to exchange for the food. So there's no (other) human involved in the transaction.