One of the values every child raised in the South learns at the foot of the family matriarch is good manners. Of particular importance to my mother, referred to in this blog as “Big Patti,” is the value of being polite. “There’s no excuse for rudeness, period,” one of her most cherished expressions and not one to be discarded with the feeble excuse of entering a new culture. Her thin-lipped rebuttal to my protests, ” You know how to read. Learn it, live it, do it. Your face might be the only one people see and equate with the United States.” My suggestion of wearing a Dolly Parton wig and mask was not met with so much as a curve of the lips. Suffice it to say, Spouse and I did our homework. He because he’s inherently a nice guy and would have done so regardless, and I being the yin to his yang, because I was guilted in to it.
One of the polite gestures is the “Return Gift,”or omiyagi. This is a gift one brings to friends and colleagues upon return from a vacation or trip. The Return Gift should be from the area where the trip occurred, preferably something for which the area is known, and as with all gifts, should be wrapped. Omiyagi is actually an apology for going away- in the workplace, for placing extra burden on others.
This has necessitated some adjustments to the Clampitt’s normal travel routines. All gifts must fit in carry on bags, as some of you know it’s against family rules to check bags. (Confessions of a Light Packer- read here) Estimated time of arrival at the airport required modification as these gifts are usually found at the departure destination’s gift shop. In the case of an airport, this has pushed the time back signifcantly as a healthy portion is already dedicated to the large chunk it takes me to get through security. 90% of the time I am separated from the other passengers for further screening and security check. The most entertaining to the Offspring being when I “failed” the “gas chamber” test at LAX due to “smell of butt gas” surrounding me mimicking that of bomb vapors. I relive this moment every time I exit the security line having witnessed the latest fad in security screening procedures, and find the Offspring laughing in the hallway, waiting to deliver the latest, hilarious round of fart jokes, I the ever constant butt of their jokes.
On our return from Hawaii, we found the perfect “Return Gift.”
These covered the main criteria- from the place we visited- Hawaii, and a local specialty- Dole, but not wrapped. This would have to do – I bought 6 boxes. We then proceeded to jam them in to every spare space much to the delight of the 3 women watching like vultures, one of whom volunteered to take whatever didn’t fit. They were disappointed.
On other trips within Japan, specific areas are dedicated to the purchase of “Return Gifts.”
So, who are the lucky recipients of these gifts? Sensei, Andretti-san, Spouse’s co-workers, Gobot, and the receptionists in the building lobby. And a box or two for us.
Whether you’re sipping sweet tea or green tea, there’s no excuse for rudeness.