Feb. 24, 2020

Eco-shaming Friends, Giving Gifts in China, Visiting a Hospital, and More

Etiquette, manners, and beyond! In this episode, Nick and Leah tackle giving gifts in China, visiting people in a hospital, eco-shaming friends, falling asleep on the subway, using "san" in Japanese correspondence, getting people sick, choosing the right fork, sending us calligraphy, leaving out cookies, and much more. Please subscribe! (We'd write you a hand-written thank you note if we could.)

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  • AMUSE-BOUCHE: Gift giving in China
  • A QUESTION OF ETIQUETTE: Hospital Etiquette
  • QUESTIONS FROM THE WILDERNESS: How to respond when you've been eco-shamed? What do you do if someone falls asleep on you on the subway? What does "san" mean when it's attached to someone's name in Japanese?
  • VENT OR REPENT: Getting people sick, choosing the correct fork
  • CORDIALS OF KINDNESS: Calligraphers, cookie plates




Hosts: Nick Leighton & Leah Bonnema

Producer & Editor: Nick Leighton

Theme Music: Rob Paravonian


[Musical Introduction]

Nick: Do you give thoughtless gifts? Do you fall asleep on people on the subway? Do you tell people, "You're using the wrong fork."? Were you raised by wolves? Let's find out!

[Theme Song]

Here are things that can make it better
When we have to live together
We can all use a little help
So people don't ask themselves
Were you raised by wolves?

Nick: Hey, everybody, it's Nick Leighton.

Leah: I'm Leah Bonnema.

Nick: We're in New York today, and let's just get right down to it!

Leah: Let's get in it!

Nick: So, for today's amuse-bouche, I want to talk about gift-giving in China.

Leah: Oh, wow!

Nick: This is a brief overview. This is a minefield. There is so much nuance, and subtlety, and rules, and variation that we cannot possibly go through it all; but I want to give some broad principles.

Leah: I'm very excited about this!

Nick: So, first of all, let's talk about some bad gifts you do not want to give in China. These include things like knives- although, sidebar, I think knives are always a bad gift. I don't think you should give knives as a gift.

Leah: You know what's funny is that I actually had a person this year go, "I could really use some knives ..." I was like, "I think you're the first person who's ever said that aloud, ever."

Nick: In China, knives? Let's not do that. Things associated with number four, as we remember from a previous episode. So, if there was a set of something, and it had four of something, maybe don't do that because four- the word for four in Chinese sounds like the word for death. So, let's not do that. Shoes, oddly ... Because the word for shoe, xié (鞋), is the same as for evil.

Leah: Oh, wow!

Nick: So, there's some connotation there. Pairs - long story - but pairs, not great. Similar: clocks, watches - not a great gift. Green hats-

Leah: Why? Because it means time passing?

Nick: A lot of the things that are bad gifts and a lot of things that are considered bad luck are these things where the word sounds like something else?

Leah: Okay.

Nick: Like for four, and death, this sort of thing.

Leah: Mm-hmm.

Nick: Similarly, green hats. The phrase, "To wear a green hat," is also the phrase for , "Your wife is cheating on you."

Leah: Oh, my goodness!

Nick: Basically ... I don't know why you would give someone a green hat as a gift-

Leah: But if it was a possibility, take it off the list.

Nick: Just something to note.

Leah: Wow [crosstalk] I feel like I should maybe write this down.

Nick: Similarly, candles - a little too funeral like, so we don't want to do candles. Flowers are also a little tricky. Cut flowers, historically, are sort of a funeral thing.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: I do think that that's less and less in China, these days. If you showed up at somebody's door with a bouquet, they wouldn't be like, "Who died?!"

Leah: Right.

Nick: But it is sort of a thing. So, let's talk about what you should [crosstalk] There's a lot of different categories of gifts, depending on what it is. Is this a business thing? Is this a house warming? Are you meeting the in-laws? Is this a birthday party? Is this Chinese New Year's? What is it? So, in thinking about this, I think the best gift that is very universal is always the item from your hometown.

Leah: Oh!

Nick: A local food specialty from your home. This would be like blueberry jam from Maine - excellent gift. Bagels from New York; See's candy from California. I think something that is a local food specialty from wherever you're from, typically always a very good gift for most social situations in China.

Leah: Oh, good to know!

Nick: So, I think that's a nice, just blanket ... Go for it. No problem.

Leah: Would you say these would also apply for Chinese-American friends?

Nick: Yeah. I think if you wanted to do Chinese-style, for sure. Yeah, I think that's good. Then, color ... Red is good luck. Red, you are always safe. Red is the traditional wedding dress color. It's what we use for envelopes of cash. Red is pretty much safe. If you're gonna buy something where the color is sort of a main thing of whatever it is - this is a vase; this is a T-shirt; this is a whatever - if it's red, you're pretty much safe.

Leah: Somebody told me not to write people's names in red ink.

Nick: True! Very good. Oh! Yes, red ink is not good because red ink is traditionally used for writing the names of the dead.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: It always comes back to that. Also, red ink is used for very official correspondence, like a chop - a carved name stamp - that's in red ink, so there are official connotations, too. So, in correspondence, like with gift giving, we do not want to write in red. Other colors are fine.

Leah: Present, red-

Nick: Present, red-

Leah: Card-writing, not red.

Nick: Not red. In terms of wrapping the gift, it is very important to wrap the gift. You want to wrap it nicely. Red paper - always a good choice; you're very safe ... Or gold; gold feels very expensive, lavish, all that - great. Not yellow, though.

Leah: Ooh!

Nick: You do not want to get into yellow, and you definitely don't want to have black ink on yellow. That's a whole separate thing, so don't do that.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: But red, you are safe. So, when it comes to colors that are bad - white-

Leah: Really?!

Nick: White is a funeral color; color of grief. So, if you send somebody white flowers, this is a funeral thing.

Leah: So, no white, no yellow.

Nick: Well, certainly, a traditional flower would be chrysanthemum for funerals, and chrysanthemums come in white and yellow; so definitely white flowers of any color, it's just like, know that. Also, yellow chrysanthemums would also be sort of a funeral thing, so you would want to avoid chrysanthemums. If you're ever picking out flowers, chrysanthemums is just not a good choice. Roses are typically safe, I think. Then we get into more complicated things, like peony, and lotus, and plum flower, and things like that. Gets very complicated. But, in general, I think flowers are not always a great gift, so maybe just take that off your list. Then, you want to give the gift with two hands.

Leah: Oh!

Nick: Gift-giving is always done with two hands. When you receive a gift, you always want to receive it with two hands. That's very important-

Leah: That's nice.

Nick: Yeah, and other nearby countries have a similar sort of two-handed thing. You always want to receive and give with two hands. Then there's going to be a little dance. So, if you're giving a gift, the host is going to decline the gift, like, "Oh, no, no, no." So, you have to give it a couple tries. It's kind of like a vending machine; you got to give it a couple good pushes before you can tip it over. Similarly, if you were receiving a gift from a Chinese person, you don't want to accept it right off the bat. You want to be like:

"Oh, no, no! You shouldn't have."

They'll be like, "Oh, no, you should."

"Oh, no, I can't!"

"Oh, you should."

"Okay ..."

Leah: Okay!

Nick: So, you want to do that dance both ways. Most of the time, gifts are not opened there. They're opened later in private.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: Don't expect that your gift will be opened. This is not always the case, but just know that it's kind of a thing; so if you receive a gift, don't open it unless they really insist, and you think, "Okay, I have to just open this thing now." Then, let's talk about reciprocation. Thank you notes happen; always universal. I feel like you can never go wrong with a thank you note, but it is also very important to reciprocate the gift. So, at some point, you are sort of expected to now return the favor. Because, in Chinese culture, the idea of face is very important, like saving face, you do not want to give a gift that is so extravagant, where their ability to reciprocate it is now difficult.

Leah: Oh, okay.

Nick: Because this is now going to be a loss of face, or it's going to make things difficult, or awkward, and all that. So, you want to be mindful, when giving a gift, that the reciprocation is probably going to be at a similar level of gift, and you don't want to make that awkward. So-

Leah: Good to know!

Nick: Something to know. So, that's a very brief sketch of the gift-giving in China, but hopefully it's a little helpful.

Leah: It's very helpful. I didn't know 99 percent of that- I love it!

Nick: Okay. So, next time-

Leah: It's great to know!

Nick: Yeah, so great. Okay.

Leah: I love the giving with two hands. That's nice.

Nick: Oh, and do you know how to say thank you in Mandarin?

Leah: No.

Nick: It's "xiè xiè." (謝謝)

Leah: Xiè xiè.

Nick: Yeah. Sort of a falling tone on these words - Xiè xiè.

Leah: Xiè xiè.

Nick: Xiè xiè nín. (謝謝您)

Leah: Xiè xiè nín.

Nick: "Nín" (您) is sort of a polite way of saying "you," so that's very polite.

Leah: Xiè xiè nín.

Nick: Then, I would say, "Bù yòng kè qì" (不用客氣) - "no need for politeness."

Leah: Oh, I love it.

[Musical Interlude]

Nick: We're back, and I want to go deep-

Leah: Very deep with this one!

Nick: So, for today's question of etiquette, I want to talk about hospital etiquette.

Leah: This is such a good one.

Nick: So, this happens ...

Leah: A lot!

Nick: Let's talk about how to behave.

Leah: Yep.

Nick: You have thoughts, obviously, so please begin.

Leah: I've spent a very long time in hospitals, as an accompanier to the person in the hospital.

Nick: Okay. Uh-huh.

Leah: So, I have a lot of feelings on this.

Nick: Let's maybe start with if you're the patient - what patient obligations are there?

Leah: Oh, I didn't even think of it from that angle.

Nick: Okay. Miss Manners, actually, is really into being a patient in the hospital for some reason. She describes it as this wonderful opportunity, where etiquette rules are suspended. She goes on and writes like how wonderful it is ... Can you imagine if you were in your living room, and you decided you just want to close your eyes and stop talking to somebody who bores you? Only in a hospital can you do this! So, she kind of sees the bright side.

Leah: That's a lovely way to see it. I also feel like when you're- if you're ill, or going through something, that your focus should be on getting better and maintaining a positive sense of self.

Nick: Yes. Yes, I think etiquette does not apply for you-

Leah: Obviously. I assume this was for people visiting.

Nick: Yes. I think most of what we're going to talk about is just the visitors.

Leah: If you're the patient, make sure you put your napkin ...

Nick: What fork are you using? But I will say, as the patient, I think you are free to refuse guests. That is totally fine.

Leah: Oh, absolutely.

Nick: Just let the doctor know. You do not have to give reasons for this, and I think anytime you decide you're just done with whoever's visiting you, you can shut it down, no problem. Okay, so you are a visitor to a hospital. I have things on my list.

Leah: Me, too.

Nick: I guess the first thing on my list - this is not about you-

Leah: Not about you.

Nick: This visit? Not about you. So, we don't want to hear about your time in the hospital. We don't want to hear about your relative who had something similar and how that went; none of that.

Leah: Oh, and also, for our listeners, what happened is my mom was in a car crash, so she was in a coma for a long time; she wasn't even ... I was the person interacting with everybody.

Nick: Right.

Leah: People would come in and make faces, like, "Oh, that's bad!" You know what I mean? You'd be like, "Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope!"

Nick: Oh, so like somebody visiting you and your mom in the hospital would make a face and be like, "Ohhh ..."

Leah: Yeah, like, "Oh, this looks like she's not gonna make ..." You're like, "Okay, you can take that outside."

Nick: Okay.

Leah: I would be very careful to have negative energy ... No matter how a person looks or what the situation is, I just wouldn't bring it into the room. You're-

Nick: Well, we also don't want commentary of any sort.

Leah: Yeah, you just ... Just don't do that to someone.

Nick: Yeah, that's good. That's a good rule.

Leah: Keep your negative- obviously, you want to support a person, but you don't need to let them know how horrible they look.

Nick: Right? Yeah, no one needs that.

Leah: Which, people do that.

Nick: Yeah, and they shouldn't. Also, etiquette, in general, is about ignoring the obvious thing in the room and just pretending whatever is happening is not happening. So, even if somebody has been through a car crash and doesn't look their best, we don't call that out. Good etiquette requires you to pretend that this is not happening. Yeah.

Leah: It's just sort of mind-boggling when people do that. You're like, "No, no. We all know what's going on right now. You don't need to do a blow-by-blow."

Nick: Right. I do feel like some people do not know how to act in a hospital. They feel it's very stressful for them, visiting. They're nervous about it. They don't want to say the wrong thing. They don't know how they're going to react. So, that may be an explanation for this horrible behavior-

Leah: Oh, no, I understand what the explanation is. That's why I think we're talking about it here.

Nick: Yes. So, know that that could happen to you and so don't do that, right?

Leah: Yeah, just ... Because usually there's other people in the room, and everybody's had to have been there a long time, and everybody is strained and nervous. You don't need to throw on top of their-

Nick: Right. Some other short things that were on my list were: don't eat their food.

Leah: [Laughing]

Nick: Don't- don't do that; and don't sit on the bed. I don't think we sit on the bed. I think we stay off the bed.

Leah: I sit wherever I'm told.

Nick: Okay, or we stand. Yeah. Then, I think we don't bring fresh fruit or flowers.

Leah: They're not allowed in a lot of places.

Nick: Right. Because I think it's actually like a hazard because there could be no funguses on these things, and people with compromised immune systems ... Yeah.

Leah: Yep. You're not allowed to bring anything that was once alive.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: You know?

Nick: I think it's nice, at the end of the day, just to be there for the person and just ask what would be helpful. "Do you need anything? What can I do for you?" That could be a task in the outside world; that could be bringing a book or something.

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Like, "Can you bring me my Kindle, or my phone charger?"

Leah: I had some friends bring me stuff and there was like- made the whole-

Nick: What'd they bring?

Leah: My mother's church group made all these snacks and sent them. Then, I used them to bargain in the unit for other things.

Nick: Wait, what?

Leah: Because you want to stay late, and you want to do this stuff; you're like, "I have brownies!"

Nick: Oh, so if you're like, "If you let me stay past visiting hour, I've got this treat ..."

Leah: Yeah ...

Nick: Does that work?

Leah: Yeah, it really works.

Nick: It totally works, yeah. Just for our audience at home, how is mom doing now?

Leah: She's doing very well.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: We also got the best ... I always want to say a shout out to St. Mary's in Pennsylvania because you are angels. I still go out for drinks with some of the trauma staff there.

Nick: Oh, you bonded with these people!

Leah: I spent a month of my life, 24 hours a day.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: I know their business ... Because you want to gossip. You've got to do stuff, you know?

Nick: Yeah, okay. So, it all worked out.

Leah: It all worked out.

[Musical Interlude]

Nick: We're back, and now it's time to take some questions from the wilderness ...

Leah: [Howling]

Nick: Our first question is-

Leah: [Giggling]

Nick: "I once had a friend who eco-shamed me about using a straw, when I was driving her in my Prius, and she drives a diesel Mercedes and a vintage Jeep. I was speechless. Okay, I don't use straws anymore, but how could I have responded?"

Leah: I think this person is your friend, and you could just say, "You own a diesel Mercedes!"

Nick: You could call out the hypocrisy, okay.

Leah: Because you also kind of say it with a smile on your face, like, "C'mon! If you're gonna call me out, then I'm gonna call you out!"

Nick: Yeah ... I mean, it definitely- it's hypocritical, yeah. But the general rule is that we do not correct the bad behavior of others.

Leah: Yeah, but they started it.

Nick: Well, but that doesn't matter. You don't add more rudeness to rudeness.

Leah: I know, but obviously this person is still thinking about it.

Nick: Well, but that's not my problem.

Leah: [Whispering] Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick ...

Nick: [Laughing] I think you want to just smile, and nod, and be like, "Okay, you're right." Just file that information away and then leave it there [crosstalk]

Leah: Yes, I could see you going, "You're so right ..."

Nick: Yes, and your tone can allow for you to reveal that you may not be 100-percent on board with that.

Leah: Mm.

Nick: Etiquette somehow allows tone to slip through.

Leah: Our tone- our etiquette gets very passive-aggressive.

Nick: You know, Miss Manners, she is very into the passive-aggressive response.

Leah: But I'm not ... I don't agree with this!

Nick: But you can't call people out. You can't add more rudeness to rudeness.

Leah: I think that's very interesting because I feel like we constantly rub up against that, where I don't see how being passive-aggressive is actually less rude.

Nick: So, this is a fair point, but ... Being actively passive-aggressive, yeah ...

Leah: Really, nothing is more annoying than a passive-aggressive person.

Nick: Yeah. Yeah, no, that's true.

Leah: Either let it go or say something.

Nick: Well, saying something is not always wrong, but saying something where you're correcting their behavior, I think, is never considered polite.

Leah: It's not correcting their behavior. That's just being like, "Oh, yeah? Well, I got straws. You got diesel."

Nick: Yeah. I don't think that's a polite response.

Leah: I don't think that saying something in a passive-aggressive way is less polite- more polite.

Nick: Yeah. Yeah ... No, I think it depends on what you say; because what's the passive-aggressive response to this? I think not saying anything would be just the best response.

Leah: "Good thing I don't drive a vintage Jeep. That would really mess up the environment." I either feel like you just say it, or you just completely let it go.

Nick: I think you let it go. Well, here's the thing - etiquette is not always satisfying.

Leah: The thing is, is that this is her friend. It's not a stranger.

Nick: Sure.

Leah: You're going to be in this relationship with this person, so my guess is that this is the kind of person who probably does this ... A person who does this, does this.

Nick: I see.

Leah: They're going to do it again.

Nick: We have to teach them a lesson-

Leah: You're going to have to nip this in the bud at some point, because this-

Nick: Okay.

Leah: -there are people that do this, and there are people that don't do this.

Nick: Right.

Leah: If it's a person that does this, she's going to come in again on something you have.

Nick: Is there a way to do this in a factual, non-judgmental way? "Oh, I guess I shouldn't use straws, and I guess you shouldn't drive a diesel." [Laughing] What do you want to say that calls her out that somehow feels fine?

Leah: I think that's the question to me - what do we do with people in our lives ... My guess is that this person does this all the time-

Nick: So, the type of person-

Leah: -otherwise, they would've just let this go because it was a one-off.

Nick: The person that just like shames you about certain behaviors?

Leah: Yeah, every time you do something, they're going to bring it up-

Nick: Like, "Oh, are you gonna eat that?"

Leah: Yeah, or-

Nick: Or, "That's not good for you." that's not good for you-

Leah: Yeah, or like-

Nick: "You know about quinoa, right?"

Leah: Yeah, or ... You know what I mean? This is going to keep happening.

Nick: Okay. Well ...

Leah: This is a person who has no boundaries.

Nick: Ah! I got it! I cracked the code!

Leah: All right.

Nick: Okay, so here's what we do. They have tried to correct your behavior. That is a rude thing, but we don't add rudeness to rudeness by correcting their behavior, which would be telling them why they're wrong and why they shouldn't do that. We can't do that, but what we can do is acknowledge what they've said and say that it bothers you that they're making this statement, while also driving a diesel; you feel like this is maybe hypocritical. It feels like that might be okay, if that's part of a conversation.

Leah: That feels like a healthy conversation to have.

Nick: That feels like a better conversation, and ow we've taken it outside of etiquette.

Leah: I like that.

Nick: I almost feel like what I just said, just now, contradicts what I started by saying.

Leah: Uh, well ... I feel like it's growth. [Laughing]

Nick: I feel like I'm kind of ... Okay, I think I'm feeling an epiphany a little bit. Yeah, okay.

Leah: Because I don't think- obviously, nobody hates turtles.

Nick: I mean ...

Leah: You know what I mean?

Nick: There could be.

Leah: That's not-

Nick: Yeah, nobody's after the turtles.

Leah: She wasn't making a statement by having a straw.

Nick: Right?

Leah: You don't need to bring it up.

Nick: True. Okay. So, what have we told her to do?

Leah: I loved what you told her to do-

Nick: Okay, so I think you do that.

Leah: -I thought it was very healthy-

Nick: So, as long as you respond by not correcting their behavior, but identifying how it makes you feel?

Leah: Yeah.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: I feel like that's a healthy adult way to throw up a boundary.

Nick: Okay, yeah.

Leah: Or you can just be like, "Thank you!"

Nick: Well, that's what I was saying at the beginning, which was like let it go ...

Leah: I know, but I'm saying that was ... If you can't let it go, the thank you, that's the one option.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: The other option, I think, is to directly say something.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: But no middle passive-aggressive ground.

Nick: Fine. Okay, I agree with you. Our next question is-

Leah: [Laughing]

Nick: "Last week, a man fell asleep on me, sitting on the subway. What would you do?"

Leah: I wrote underneath one, "What would I do, or what should you do?"

Nick: Okay. So, I was actually going to ask you because I wrote down on my piece of paper, "I'm sure this has happened to Leah."

Leah: It happens to me so much because I come home very late.

Nick: So, you're the sleeper, or the sleepee?

Leah: I'm the one getting slept on.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: I mean, it happens a lot.

Nick: So, tell me about your strategy.

Leah: What I feel like I should be telling people is to not let people fall asleep on them, but sometimes people fall asleep on me, and they just look so tired, like they've had the hardest day.

Nick: You definitely have to be very tired to lower all defenses, to fall asleep on the New York City subway.

Leah: So, sometimes, I just let them sleep-

Nick: Aww ...

Leah: -because they just look so tired-

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: -and it's not putting me out in any way.

Nick: Uh ...

Leah: But, sometimes, I do feel put out by it, or it's a little ... Sometimes, I really just see- you just see somebody; you can tell they've just ... They're at their max, and they just are sleeping on there ... You know what I mean? I'm just like, whatever.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: But then, other times, you're like, "This is ..." It feels different, sometimes, so I'll do a jostle.

Nick: Okay. Just any jostle, or you'll wait til the train is about to stop to amplify it a little bit?

Leah: I'll just move my bag, or take my phone out, but I won't do it pointedly at them. I just do it-

Nick: Okay, so it somehow feels spontaneous.

Leah: Yeah because they are sleeping, so they'll just like- they just wake up and then move. Inevitably, they're going to fall right back asleep, and fall right back on you again.

Nick: Mm.

Leah: Sometimes, I'll do a jostle.

Nick: So, I was looking into this-

Leah: I assume some people are like, "Don't fall asleep on me!" Or they move.

Nick: Yes. Most people do not care for this.

Leah: Sometimes, I'm okay with it.

Nick: I was looking into this, and there was this artist who did a - I guess - installation where she would go on the subway, and she would purposefully fall asleep on people. She described the space between her and the next person as sculptural material.

Leah: Mm.

Nick: "The space between us," was sculptural material that she was shaping.

Leah: I feel like that's the same person who tells you that you're using a straw when they drive a classic Jeep.

Nick: [Laughing] So, she did this whole thing where she did this, and then she had some friends sit in the seats across to film this. Most people were kind of not into it, but then there were people that just let her sleep, and it was actually very nice. She did a TED Talk about this, and the audience was like, "Aww," when, like, you let somebody sleep.

Leah: Sometimes, people just look like they need to sleep so bad, and I think, why not?

Nick: Yeah. So, I think it's your call if you want to allow it or not. I think you're within your rights if you want to jostle them, or I think you can tap them on the shoulder and be like, "Excuse me." I think that's okay.

Leah: Yeah, I think you're totally within your right to tap them.

Nick: Yeah.

Leah: I just do a jostle because I'm terrified of conflict. [Laughing]

Nick: Now, have you ever fallen asleep on the subway?

Leah: I wouldn't fall- I don't even fall asleep on planes.

Nick: Oh, God! Wow! Really?

Leah: I mean, falling asleep on a subway?

Nick: Okay. What do you think is going to happen on an airplane? You just want to be ready?

Leah: I want to be ready in case somebody needs me.

Nick: That's true. "Leah Bonnema, please land the plane."

Leah: "Please land the plane ..." and I'd be like, "I have stayed awake for this!"

Nick: Our next question is a voicemail, so let's listen to that now.

[Voicemail Beep]

Caller: Hi, Nick, and Leah. I was wondering about a business situation I recently encountered where my company was trying to set up a phone call with a company from Japan, and while I was dealing with these other assistants in Japan, I noticed that my boss had called the first name with the prefix 'san' - S-A-N. I did the same because I thought that was the appropriate thing to do; but then, I noticed, sometimes, they didn't always address us back as 'san.' So, I was wondering if you could find out the answer for me, what to do? Whether you call someone 'san' or not? I have no idea, and I think I may have done the wrong thing. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I did. Thanks. Bye.

[Voicemail Beep]

Nick: So, Leah, what do you think?

Leah: I think, "Ugh, I can't wait for Nick to answer this question."

Nick: All right, Bonnema-san. So, "san" (さん), in general, is just 'Mr./Mrs.' It has no gender - you can use it for men and women. San is just sort of that nice, polite way of referring to people. So, they were referring to you guys as san in all these work emails because they were just being polite. You want to usually attach it, in a business context, to the last name because you're not on a first-name basis, but you can also attach it to a first name. If we're familiar, I could be like, "Oh, Leah-san ..." It's just polite. It's not necessarily adding extra respect. Japanese has different words for that, like sensei (先生) - people are probably familiar with - that's more like for a teacher or somebody who's achieved some sort of high level of expertise in something. There's a whole different set of words. As a foreigner, you are not expected to know the nuances of Japanese politeness, and etiquette, which is wonderful. They're actually very kind, I think, the Japanese-

Leah: But if you do it, would it come off as rude if you were just trying to be polite?

Nick: Oh, the Japanese are so, I think, forgiving to foreigners who do not understand their nuances. They're just happy that you make an effort, and they get that we don't get it. So, it's fine. I don't think you're necessarily going to come across as aggressive, if you don't use san, or use san in the wrong way. I think, for the most part, most Japanese people have enough experience with foreigners and know the deal. We don't know the degrees of bowing, different verb conjugations for different relationships ... It's very complicated, and we're never going to get it, so they're fine. But san is great. So, in this email, you can call them san, no problem. He indicated that they didn't always call you san. Either that's very pointed, and they're trying to make a statement or, more likely, they're just treating you, presumably, an American, and they're like, "Oh, well, we're just going to call you Mister."

Leah: Right.

Nick: "We're just going to do the thing that you do because we want to be respectful of yourculture." So, I think that's kind of the deal. But just remember, san is just a polite way of saying Mr./Mrs./Miss, and you can attach it to the first name or the last name, and you could just apply it to everybody, and it's probably fine, so don't be too worried about it.

Leah: Perfect.

Nick: Okay, great. Arigatou gozaimasu, and arigatou for all these great questions.

Leah: Yes, arigatou muchas!

Nick: Uh, arigatou gozaimasu ... Please send us your questions, and we will answer them. We love questions from around the world.

Leah: We really do!

Nick: So, if you are not in the United States, we are particularly curious to hear from you!

Leah: No, we're curious ... We don't want anybody to feel left out-

Nick: Nobody's left out, but if you are not in the United States, I want to know that you exist, so, yeah, send me an email; just be like, "Hey, greetings from Latvia," or wherever you are. Tell us about an etiquette thing in your culture. I'm very curious about etiquette around the world.

Leah: I love learning.

Nick: Because etiquette is very locally based.

Leah: Yes.

Nick: Like New York etiquette is very different from California etiquette. So, it's all local-

Leah: Very different from Maine etiquette!

Nick: Oh, is there etiquette in Maine?

Leah: Stop it right now!

Nick: [Laughing] Send us your questions. You can send them to us through our website, wereyouraisedbywolves.com, and there's lots of other ways you can reach us, so check us out. Send in your questions.

Leah: Thank you!

Nick: Arigatou!

[Musical Interlude]

Nick: We're back, and now it's time to play a game we call Vent or Repent.

Leah: Vent or [singing] Repennnnnnnnnt!

Nick: This is our opportunity to vent about some bad etiquette thing that's happened to us recently, or we can repent about some bad etiquette thing we've done. So, Leah, would you like to vent or repent?

Leah: What's interesting here is that I originally was going to repent.

Nick: Oh!

Leah: Then, on the way here, I was reminded about one of my ventiest vents!

Nick: Uh-huh.

Leah: I thought, you know what? I'm gonna go with a vent! [Laughing]

Nick: Okay!

Leah: Which feels horrible. You know what I mean?

Nick: Or wonderful!

Leah: I'm like, "Wow, am I ...?"

Nick: This is a safe space.

Leah: Is it a safe space?

Nick: It's safe.

Leah: This is cold season.

Nick: Okay, cold and flu season. Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Leah: Cold and flu season. I think, as a comic, I come in close proximity to so many people.

Nick: Sure.

Leah: Multiple times this week, people have come up to me, hugged me; then, after touching my face near their ... A tug hug-

Nick: Okay.

Leah: So, they say, "Ohh, I've been sick all week!"

Nick: [Gasping]

Leah: One person went on to describe- tell me about this flu that he or she had that was devastating, where they were housebound.

Nick: Oh ...

Leah: Then, they said they don't even feel better yet.

Nick: Oh!

Leah: I don't even know what's happening! I washed my face down with hand sanitizer-

Nick: At least!

Leah: Oh, as somebody who also works for themselves, I don't get sick days- I can't get sick!

Nick: Yeah, yeah.

Leah: So, if you're just out there running wild, don't hug people!

Nick: Oh, sure! Absolutely not!

Leah: Say, "I am just getting over something ..." If you're in the middle of it ... "I'm just getting over something. Just in case ..." What?! Don't hug me, and then go on to tell me how you're in the throes of an illness!

Nick: Oh, this is terrible! Yes!

Leah: Besides maybe a little ability of mine to be a bit of a hypochondriac- besides that-

Nick: I-

Leah: I just can't get sick!

Nick: I'm going to give you a pass on being overly concerned about being sick because I don't think that's relevant here.

Leah: Thank you.

Nick: I think if you are coming down with something, even if you suspect it, I think the polite thing to do is not get other people sick!

Leah: Just don't hug me!

Nick: I think that's a good etiquette rule, which is - it is rude to get other people sick if you could avoid it.

Leah: Why would you do that?

Nick: So, I think if you ...

Leah: So many people do it.

Nick: Yes.

Leah: They go in for the hug and then, after the hug, they're like, "Oh, I just had Ebola!" [Laughing]

Nick: So, yeah, don't do that!

Leah: Oh, my goodness!

Nick: That's terrible. Yeah. So, remember to wash your hands at all times. But, yeah, don't do that. Yeah, I don't have anything else to say because it seems so obvious - don't do that!

Leah: You would think it was obvious, and I wouldn't even have brought it up, if it was just one person, but it happened multiple times!

Nick: How are you feeling now?

Leah: I feel fine.

Nick: I mean, we hugged ...

Leah: Yeah, I'm fine.

Nick: Okay. Are you?

Leah: I, in front of this person, took my hand sanitizer-

Nick: Uh-huh?

Leah: -and wiped it on my face!

Nick: Oh!

Leah: I was like, "Look at what you made me do." [Laughing]

Nick: So, for me, I would like to vent.

Leah: Please!

Nick: This happened not necessarily recently, but it happened, and it's always bothered me; because this is a safe space, I wanted to share.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: So, I'm in San Francisco. I'm dining with a good friend. I'm in, arguably, one of San Francisco's finest restaurants. I'm wearing a suit. There's linen. This is the type of place that has a butter program.

Leah: Oh! I don't even know what that is!

Nick: They have programmed their butter. They have different butter options. There's a discussion about butter when they bring it to the table.

Leah: Oh, wow!

Nick: This is where we're dining. Okay, so nice restaurant. We have ordered; we're chitchatting; and now, the first course arrives. Wonderful. So, they bring me my plate, and it was sort of like a lobster-salad-y thing. A restaurant like this would typically have all of the plates arrive at exactly the same time, but there was some delay or something. So, my dish arrives, and I'm waiting for the other dish to arrive before I start eating because we don't start eating until everyone's served. Obviously, we know this. So, I'm just waiting for this, and it's probably 20 seconds or so; I can survive 20 second to wait for this person. So, I'm waiting patiently. The waiter leans over to me and whispers in my ear to tell me a secret that he doesn't want anybody else to hear because he doesn't want to embarrass me. He leans in, and he says, "You start with this fork," and he takes his index finger, and he taps the table next to the fork - up and down - indicating which fork I'm supposed to use.

Leah: No!!

Nick: Because he thought I was waiting because I was paralyzed, not knowing what fork I was supposed to use. Can. You. Imagine?

Leah: I can't even close my mouth right now.

Nick: Can you imagine?!

Leah: I can't imagine.

Nick: I mean!

Leah: What did you say?

Nick: Well, first, it takes a little while to process this information! [crosstalk]

Leah: -you're in shock. You're in shock. You're in shock!

Nick: I'm still in shock! The feelings that this brings up inside of me is still ...

Leah: I feel like you should call them now. You know what? I thought about it.

Nick: You know what? Yeah. Here's what I'll say ... I mean, I was wearing a suit. I looked like I have eaten in restaurants before. I am Nick Leighton, host of Were You Raised by ...? I just ... I know the fork situation, here! And to think he was being so helpful, whispering what fork I should be using! What?

Leah: What?

Nick: What?

Leah: I wish you had a card with you.

Nick: So, I want, for the record, to let everybody know that I do know what fork to use, and I think we don't correct diners.

Leah: Yeah! Even if I didn't know what fork to use, I don't want to be corrected.

Nick: No! [Laughing] Everything about this was awkward, and horrible, and should never have happened.

Leah: What did your friend say?

Nick: Well, because this was a quiet whisper designed to not embarrass me-

Leah: I know, but I mean, everybody sees somebody whispering.

Nick: I mean, obviously, I told her what happened, and she was also just in shock, yeah. So, yeah. There is nothing to say. There is nothing to say-

Leah: You start with this fork ...

Nick: You start with this fork ... Yeah! So, I know now!

Leah: I was gonna eat it with the knife.

Nick: I was gonna use my hands.

Leah: Oh ...

Nick: Or, I was just not gonna eat until someone told me-

Leah: I was just gonna put my face into the plate.

Nick: Or where does the food go? Where do I put it? I don't know. [Laughing] So ...

Leah: Oh, no!

Nick: That's my vent.

Leah: You, of all people, to do that to.

Nick: Me, of all people!

[Musical Interlude]

Nick: So, Leah, what have we learned?

Leah: Oh, my goodness. I learned a lot about Chinese gift-giving.

Nick: Sure.

Leah: I'm very excited about that.

Nick: Hěn hǎo (很好).

Leah: And I learned ... I really liked the way we came to what I think was a healthy response to the turtle/straw/classic Jeep situation.

Nick: Yes! Potentially, yes.

Leah: Because I feel like we're marrying being polite but still setting up a healthy dialog boundary.

Nick: Yes, and I think, in general, trying to find the line between setting boundaries and being polite is the struggle.

Leah: It is the struggle, and I don't think being passive-aggressive is the answer.

Nick: Probably not. So, we'll see.

Leah: [Laughing]

Nick: I learned that if I fall asleep on you on the subway, you're just going to let me go.

Leah: I am just going to let it go.

Nick: You're going to let me go. That's great. And also, you'll land the plane, if I need it.

Leah: Oh, I will, yeah. I'm ready.

Nick: I learned two things.

Leah: I'm ready!

Nick: Well, thank you, Leah.

Leah: Thank you, Nick!

Nick: And thanks, you out there, for listening. If I had your address, I'd send you a handwritten note on my stationery. Please subscribe to the show wherever you listen to podcasts and leave us a little nice review. For your homework this week, you can follow us on Instagram; you can sign up for our newsletter, and you can do all those other things. But what I want you to do is just tell a friend.

Leah: [Gasping]

Nick: Just tell a friend! Sharing is caring.

Leah: So lovely.

Nick: So, do that.

Leah: Thank you!

Nick: And thank you, Leah. We'll see you next time!

Leah: Bye!

Nick: Bye!

[Instrumental Theme Song]

Leah: Nick's trying to ootz out the Kindness Cordials.

Nick: No, no, I won't edit it out! Leah's concerned that this little Easter egg that we have at the end of the episode, no one's listening to it. So-

Leah: I feel like I'm forcing this on Nick, and he's trying to force it out.

Nick: [Giggling] So, if you're listening to these; if you're sticking around in the episode to where we talk about it, send us an email saying, like, "Oh, no, we listen to this," to make Leah feel better that her kindness is going out into the universe.

Leah: Oh, I'm forcing ... I want everybody to feel kind and grateful.

Nick: So, this is 30 seconds of kindness. Do you want to go first, or are you going to make me go first?

Leah: I think- I feel like I've gone first every time.

Nick: You haven't, but I will go first.

Leah: I'll go first [crosstalk] go first.

Nick: No, no! I'd be delighted to go first.

Leah: Okay.

Nick: For me, I would like to talk about the amazing calligraphers that we have who have written the name of our show in their stunning handwriting and then send them to us, and we put it on our Instagram. These are true artisans!

Leah: Oh, gorgeous!

Nick: It is so lovely that people took the time to use their art and have done something nice for our show, too. I really love it! All of these calligraphers have sent us calligraphy in the mail with beautiful stamps and amazing postage and all that- [Buzzer]

Leah: Really beautiful! So, I know that was your 30 seconds, but I would like to add that, yes, gorgeous!

Nick: Very gorgeous. Thank you so much for that. I'm very excited. So, please send in more art. If you're an artist, and you want to do something that is inspired by the show, please do that.

Leah: Oh, it's gorgeous!

Nick: All right, 30 seconds. Go!

Leah: When I was home in Maine, my family has Wi-Fi that is slower than molasses, and a friend of mine was-

Nick: Or maple syrup.

Leah: Maple syrup can actually go pretty fast if you get it at the right [crosstalk]

Nick: This is all coming out of your time.

Leah: Okay, anyway ... No! This is not coming out of my time! So, my friend was like, "Hey, just come in." She left the backdoor open for me to use their Wi-Fi.

Nick: Okay.

Leah: They were out at work. Then, she left me like a little plate of cookies-

Nick: What?!

Leah: -out for me ... Then, we read the same kind of books, so she'd been saving books for me.

Nick: Oh ...

Leah: I just felt it was just so kind and lovely, and it was just such a friendly, nice gesture.

Nick: I mean, come over for high-speed internet and cookies?

Leah: She just left a little plate of cookies, and I just ... It was so heartwarming, and I felt so loved; it was just so nice. You know what I mean? Someone saves books for you, and a cookie plate, and they trust you to let you go in the back- I mean, it's just [Buzzer] What a delight-

Nick: I mean ...

Leah: -and I'd like to say I'm so grateful for friendship.

Nick: Awww!