28 April 2009

My Japanese Job Interview

Friday afternoon, I was fortunate enough to be presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity. Takiyama Inc., one of the world's largest suppliers of affordable corn syrup (as well as a moderately successful greeting card exporter) called me in for a job interview. I had submitted my resume to them on a lark a few months back, never really expecting to hear back. Still, I had gone to great lengths to emphasize my two and a half year-long employment with a telemarketing firm that had used as their "hook" free tickets to the Japanese game show, "Crazy Crazy Happy Time". Though this bit of employment history had never done me any favors in the past, I thought this time might be different. Not only had I gained a passing familiarity with the Japanese spoken language, I had enveloped myself in the spirit of their culture. What do you know? Turned out that Shep Yin, the HR director for Takiyama was a big fan of that old show, and was eager to have a look at a bright young American who could speak Japanese.

I arrived at Takiyama's West Palm Beach American headquarters a little past three in the afternoon, and was immediately whisked through the lobby and invited to sit in a rather small office, which looked out onto the back lot of Lion Country Safari. I politely declined a cup of blueberry Slusho and tried to quell my nerves. Before I had a chance to collect my thoughts, she walked into the room.

She was a Japanese woman of about 40 years of age, dressed in smart business attire. Without needing to be introduced, I recognized this lady as Michiko Suzuki, Takiyama's North American president. I stood and shook her hand and bowed a little, as I had read on the internet to do.

We both took our seats. Suzuki folded her hands on her desk and the interview commenced.

Suzuki: So glad you could come to be interviewed on such short notice.

: Not a problem. I wasn't really doing any--I mean--I had to move some things around in my schedule, but I was more than happy to do that for such a great opportunity.

: I'm very impressed with your work history, particularly your time with [consults resume]. . .Tel-Ling?

: Yes, it was a great learning experience. It was actually a privilege to learn Japanese and immerse myself in the ways of the Orient.

in Japanese): We are pleased to have fish and pigs with our beds.

: Uhh...huh. Come again?

in Japanese): We are pleased to have fish and pigs with our candle sex?

: duuuummm...yes?

in English): Your resume states that you are fluent in Japanese?

: Well, I wouldn't say
fluent. I know quite a bit. Maybe I'm a little rusty.

in English): The position we're considering you for requires extensive knowledge of the language. I certainly can't have one of my reps "ummming" and "huh-ing" through a conference call.

: No, I get that, I get that. Let me give it another go. It's been a few years.

in Japanese): Cradle muffin can see the soul of telephone.

: Okay. So, did you just say, "Cradle muffin can see the soul of telephone"? Because it really just sounded like that's what you said.

(in English): I said, "Perhaps you learned Japanese from a retarded baby."

: Oh. Heh ... that's not what I heard. Wow.


: Sooo. . .I'm guessing that's a no on the job then?


: I'll just let myself out.

Walking back to my car, I remembered something Jim Jenkins, my boss and Japanese language instructor at Tel-Ling Telemarketing had said. He had told me the Japanese dialect I was learning was only used in 1% of the world. And it wasn't even in Japan. It was a little town in southern Maine. I drove home, really wishing I had remembered that before the interview.


Quirkyloon said...

I thought Americans had the monopoly on corn syrup. Everything we eat and drink is made of it.

And now you tell me Japan does it better and cheaper?

You have shattered my corn syrup perceptions!

Marissa said...

Well, when all else fails, you gotta go the seduction route. Coulda looked at Miss Suzuki slowly up and down (pausing at her chest) and said, "Yeahhh, I've ridden a Suzuki once or twice, Baby..." Then did the Sharon Stone leg-thing from Basic Instinct.

ChrisTheAlco said...

Or, at the end when it all broke down, you could have pulled out the Sake (or o-sake for the purists) and got her blind drunk before doing what Marissa suggested and getting the job "by other means". :) Always next time ...

DouglasDyer said...

I thought I was the only one who liked fish and pigs with my candle sex! You still have this babe's number?

nipsy said...

Are you sure she wasn't saying "麿 做 マイクロエレクトロニクス 含み笑い. 仄か アメリカン."?

Now run along to a translation site, or simply use your imagination, because you honestly have a great one!!

unfinishedrambler said...

Does a telephone have a soul? If animals don't have a soul as St. Augustine posits, then how can a telephone have a soul? Nice try, Shawn, but I don't think so.

Heather Cherry said...

I was totally going to make a Slusho joke but you beat me to it!


Rocking horse sunshine vat of lard-eating cumquat!

Tiggy said...

And this is why I operate in the English language only...!

Winky Twinky said...

Shawn, she obviously is not fluent in her own native language...she owes you an apology!

freetheunicorns said...

You should have replied, in Japanese, "Yes, that is a boner in my pocket, would you like to have candle sex with it's soul?"

alantru said...

I thought you performed admirably. But where you went wrong was in not accepting the blueberry Slusho. Saying "no to Slusho" is considered a great insult in Japanese culture.

Shawn said...

Quirky: I didn't say better. It actually tastes a little like fish.

Marissa and Chris: Great! Where were you guys on Friday when I needed you?

Douglas: Email sent, she's yours for the taking.

Nipsy: Sounds like something Agent Smith would say.

Rambler: The new iPhones are far more advanced than a mere animal.

Heather: Just for that, I'm not sharing any of my Slusho with you.

Tiggy: Wise choice.

Winky: I shall call up and demand one immediately.

FTU: I would have, but considering the dialect differences, it would have probably come out as something dirty.

Alan: I know, I know, but I had already had a Strawberry Tasty one on the way over.

Soda and Candy said...

Those wacky Japanese and their candle sex.

*shakes head indulgently*

Chris said...

Candle sex? Gives new meaning to "Wax on, wax off," now, doesn't it.

Sorry about the interview, better wombat fish wanker sandwich.

Margo said...

I think you may have actually been offered the job. No means Yes in Japan. Or maybe it's the opposite. And I bet this woman was really a man. Japanese women are only allowed to shop and make babies.

ReformingGeek said...

That was funny, Shawn!

So you noticed that the Japanese never say "no".

Silence and redirection are their strong points.


Mike said...

I like having fish and pigs with MY candle sex.

What a bitch.

dizzblnd said...

Only you can find yourself is these perdicaments.. so sorry you didn't get the job

Shawn said...

S and C: Was the indulgent head shake for me or the Japanese? Never mind, don't answer that.

Chris: It's okay, tomorrow's another grass supernova cat AIDS.

Margo: Interesting! She did seem rather broad shouldered.

Reforming: Indeed, it is the way of the ninja.

Mike: That...doesn't surprise me.

Dizz: Eh, who wants to sell Japanese corn syrup anyway?

I Hate Commercials said...

you don't wanna be messing with people that have fish and pig candle sex anyways

dani c said...

Oh that's too funny... Sorry to hear about the job tho..

Jeff Tompkins said...

Now your tracking stats will start showing whether people found you by searching for "fish sex," "pig sex," or "candle sex." There has to be someone out there searching for candle sex, whatever that is.

Thinkinfyou said...

The Japanese are wayy to picky! Screw em ,their loss!!

Bearman said...

What's sad is I have a relative that lives in Japan, works in Japan, married a Japanese women, has been there for over 10 years...and doesn't know a lick of Japanese.

They all speak English at his company.

Shawn said...

I hate commercials: Not with swine flu going around.

Dani: Oh well, it was a long shot anyway.

Jeff: That will actually be less bizarre than the search terms that lead them here now.

Thinkinfyou: I know, they're real high falutin'.

Bearman: Really? I always wondered how people coped moving to foreign countries like that. I guess it's no big deal.

Phillipia said...

Better luck next time Shawn; when I interact with Japanese coworkers I just do a lot of nodding and bowing and smiling; once in a while I throw in a soft spoken "ah so" - that keeps 'em wondering long enough for me to excuse me self and let some executive type who can act better than I can take over...

Waltsense.com said...

I even believe this is a real company.
"Cradle muffin can see the soul of telephone" is a classic line.

Wendy said...

Isn't candle sex illegal in some countries?

Shawn said...

Phillipia: Good plan, you don't want to spark an international incident.

Walt: It's sure to be repeated throughout history.

Wendy: Only in Japan, ironically enough.

George said...

Aw, man. I started sweating for you while reading. At least you know some Japanese. All I know is "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto".

Great blog! Hilarious!

Shawn said...

George: Thanks! The great thing is, that phrase will get you through most common Japanese language situations.

Deb said...

We have a China, Maine...is that close?

Kelly said...

hahaha...oh wait. I'm so sorry it didn't work out. And hahahahahaha....

otin said...

How did you know that the Japanese woman was about 40? All Japanese women look the same age!


Dave said...

Funny stuff! Hai! (Ask a retarded baby for a translation)

Shawn said...

Deb: I think the town is Castle Rock, actually. ;)

Kelly: Hey! This is my life!

Otin: At least you added the word "age" to the sentence.

Dave: Or a lolcat.

Funnyrunner said...

I cannot stop laughing.... thanks for the stomach workout; I wasn't going to have time to get to the gym today...

Maureen said...

Obviously she has been living in America too long; she has forgotten what it was like to have no oranges....

FishStikks said...

Fantastically funny story!

I agree, you should have given her a bag of oranges.