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Building Community & Cross-cultural Reflections

What a busy last few days!

I hope you are all well. I wonder how are our 37 new Auckland JETs are getting on in Japan. If any of you new JETs in Japan are reading this, please get in contact and let us know how you’ve settled in and if there’s anything we can do to help you!

Seated at the back of the plane last Friday morning on my way to Wellington to participate in a NZ-Japan Friendship Symposium, organised by the New Zealand Sister Cities Association, I couldn’t help overhear a rather tepid conversation between two of the flight attendants in the rear galley. One was rather outraged by the fact that her boss had reprimanded her because she, the flight attendant, had given 40 minutes notice before starting work that she wouldn’t be able to make it in! It was quite a “tense conversation” apparently.

I find myself, as I have for many years constantly comparing these sort of different situations between what happens in NZ and what happens in other countries such as Japan. So would a Japanese flight attendant have given 40 minutes notice that she wasn’t going to be able to make it? Would a Japanese flight attendant have expressed their indignation in a public place? Maybe..but highly unlikely as that would have caused “meiwaku”. And what of the recent reports about how the Japanese have returned 78$ million worth of cash that was found in the rubble of the Tsunami damage!. Would that have happened in other countries?

Perhaps it’s a pointless activity but somehow I keep thinking about the importance of education in this diverse world of ours, of the need to promote awareness of other cultures. Why? As our modern societies became more diverse and multicultural and the world becomes a watering hole as humans migrate back and forth we need to understand how people from other countries act and function. Whether one way of doing something is superior or inferior is irrelevant. We just need to understand that humans do things differently in their cultural groups.

The symposium highlighted several things for me. Various Japan-related organisations from around NZ, mainly sister city friendship groups, attended and  the challenges of declining membership and  how to get more youth involved were common themes during the presentations. It was clear that we needed to build a strong community of Japan organisations to help overcome these challenges and out of the discussions afterwards a new umbrella group was formed called the NZ Japan Forum.

The future of the NZ-Japan bilateral relationship is in our hands, perhaps more pointedly in the hands of us “younger” generations, people such as the 100 odd 20/30 something year old JETS who go to Japan each year. One of the things I highlighted in my presentation was that Auckland JETAA has a lot of active members and what we do to bring people together is through the use of social media such as Facebook. See the photo below from the Pub Quiz we had on Saturday night – that was all organised via FB. I will talk more about the Pub Quiz below. Building community and promoting cultural awareness is so important in a rapidly changing world and I believe JETS have a very important role to play when they come back to continue to promote Japan and thus helping to build strong ties between NZ and Japan.

I’ll write more about this in my next blog post.

On Saturday I attended the Auckland Secondary Schools Japanese Speech competition and gave a presentation on JET and talked about how it could be a career option for them. The level of Japanese was very impressive and a few Year 13 students were keen to know more about JET. Let’s hope they will indeed go on JET and help to build those all important ties between NZ and Japan. Which brings me back to education and promoting awareness – it really is important that we as JETS continue to promote the programme because if people don’t know about it, then how can we build community?

Saturday night was the Auckland JETAA Pub Quiz, a low key event but fun was had by all and the most important thing was bringing people together. All who attended were put into different groups and by the end of the night I think pretty much every one had met somebody new. Now thats building community!

As always I would like to hear your opinions and what we can do to make JETAA better.

Finally I want to thank and show appreciation to all those who are involved with JETAA, especially those on the committee who are doing amazing and incredible things and none of what we are currently doing could happen without you. Your efforts are appreciated!

So wherever you are, whatever you are doing, please continue to help promote the NZ-Japan relationship and let’s build a great community for everybody! Yoroshiku Onegai Shimasu!

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