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Culture Shocks Depicted in the Film 'Lost in Translation'

In: Film and Music

Submitted By leansz
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Three important cultural interactions from ‘Lost In Translation’:

1. Greeting Scene

Bob arrives at the Park Hyatt Tokyo Hotel and is immediately greeted by his Japanese associates. They greet him with gifts and present their business cards instead of the casual handshaking or general conversation making to build rapport. It is evident that this scene demonstrates the honorifics in Japanese communication. This is incredibly crucial in terms of communicating as the Japanese addresses/refers to one another accordingly depending on their position. I find this scene to be interesting as the Japanese always demonstrate a sense of humbleness and respect for one another and expect these customs to uphold even with foreigners who may not yet fully understand what is expected of them.

2. Whiskey Commercial

During Bob’s filming of the commercial, it is evident that there is a large language barrier between the director, the Japanese interpreter and himself. The director gives Bob instructions that seem to be incredibly complex and somewhat offensive due to his body language and tone of voice. However, the translator only interprets a few words from the director’s lengthy instructions and Bob becomes incredibly confused. It is evident that this scene demonstrates ambiguity (aimai) as the interpreter may not want to cause offence and conflict between the director and Bob. It also can be said that the interpreter didn’t want to abuse her position as an interpreter by being out of line and causing strife between the two individuals. This scene is very interesting to me as I find that Japanese people really do uphold their position throughout most social interactions as a sign of respect and humbleness despite it causing confusion and frustration for the individual who cannot fully comprehend the situation.

3. Flower Arrangement Scene

Charlotte stumbles upon a room filled with Japanese women in traditional robes making flower arrangements. She is kindly greeted by the Japanese lady and is encouraged to participate in the exercise. At first, Charlotte is hesitant and a bit uncomfortable as she doesn’t understand what to do due to the Japanese lady only greeting her with a ‘hello’. As Charlotte is guided to a work station, she is encouraged to participate and is shown briefly how to arrange the flowers. Slowly but surely, Charlotte begins to arrange the flowers on her station. It is evident that this scene demonstrates one of the key concepts; cultural adaptation (Shaules, 2015). Throughout the first quarter of the movie, Charlotte is seen to be exploring the streets of Tokyo. She travels to a shrine and listens to the monk’s chant, observes the quirky Japanese games in the arcade and walk the busy crossings of Tokyo. However, you never really see her immerse herself in activities and be open to Japan’s culture. In this scene, Charlotte begins to allow herself to be open to change which allows her to better fit into the new environment and she begins to see a new light of Japan. This scene is interesting to me as it depicts the examples of cultural shock, understanding and adaptation I learnt in previous lectures and readings these past few weeks. I also find this scene to be stimulating due to positive association Charlotte made with the exercise and kindness of the Japanese lady on welcoming her to participate. Through this positive attitude, she is comfortable with partaking in a Japanese custom in comparison to previous scenes.

References
Lost in Translation 2003, motion picture, Focus Features, United States
Shaules, Joseph. 2015. ‘Managing Our Minds Abroad’, The Intercultural Mind: Connecting Culture, Cognition and Global Learning. Intercultural Press: Boston & London. Ch. 5, pp. 66-88.

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