Friday, March 6, 2015

Being "さん"-ed

Academic life in Japan includes both cultural misunderstandings and intentional slights. Despite having a PhD, I recently experienced the following phenomenon (I'm JA in the below quote):


Can you spot the problem? The problem is that while K先生 is referred to as 先生. The author of the e-mail intentionally calls me JAさん.

One differences is that I am 特任 and K is 常勤 (meaning I will only be at this university a limited number of years whereas K is full-time employed for fill). Moreover, I switched roles in November which lowered me from 教職員 to 特別研究員. But this should not matter on a normal analysis since I am still teaching university courses, still have a PhD, and still publish...

This action is an intentional slight -- there's no other reading of that. In e-mails about a month earlier, she did not engage in this sort of intentional slighting. I thought it was just me, but I ran it past several people. And no in fact it is quite rude and completely intentional.

What would motivate an office worker to do this? My best hypothesis is that she dislikes something about the foreigners working there. One possibility is that she is angry we make more than her. Or maybe she is angry that we do not work overtime the way she does -- though in fact I do work overtime. She is a 事務員 working in her own country -- with an undergraduate degree. I'm working abroad intentionally...

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