Intercultural dialogue

It’s been a while since I read a book that made me laugh out loud. The author is a Canadian, hitch-hiking from one end of Japan to the other.

“An old man approached me. He was tiny and tidy and as wrinkled as my thumb after a bath. He seemed to be shrinking back into himself even as we spoke.

“American’, he said. It wasn’t a question.


‘Where in America? Boston?’

I sighed. ‘I’m not American’.

‘New York? Chicago? San Fransisco? Detroit?’ He was evidently going to list every city in the United States, so I grabbed the next one that went by and adopted it as my new home.

‘So’, he said, ‘is it cold in Baltimore?’

‘Very cold.’

‘In Japan’, he said, ‘we have four seasons.’


‘Thank you. Are you married?’


‘Can you eat Japanese food?’

This was Conversation by Non Sequitur, and I was thoroughly familiar with it by now. The trick was to answer with equally arbitrary statements, until you sound like a couple of spies conversing in code.

‘Yes, I can eat Japanese food. Baltimore is very big.’

‘How long will you stay in Japan?’

”Until tomorrow, forever. It is very cold in Baltimore.’

He shook my hand. We smiled warmly at each other, clearly this was an International Moment.”