Lesson Transcript

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Natsuko: おはよう、東京。第十回 日本文化レッスン。夏子です。
Peter: Peter here and we are back with another Japanese culture class. As always, we are brought to you by Erklaren, the translation and interpretation specialists. Welcome Natsuko.
Natsuko: Oh yes, it’s been a long time since I last came to the culture class.
Peter: How have you been?
Natsuko: I’ve been good.
Peter: Great to hear that. Now you join us on a great day because we have a great topic today.
Natsuko: Oh really?
Peter: Oh yes.
Natsuko: What is it?

Lesson focus

Peter: Today’s topic is 割り勘。
Natsuko: Oh I see!
Peter: Can you give us the proper Japanese for this?
Natsuko: 割り勘
Peter: Break it down.
Natsuko: わりかん
Peter: And one time fast.
Natsuko: 割り勘
Peter: Yes the almighty 割り勘.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: Now what is this Natsuko?
Natsuko: It’s a way to divide the bill among people eating together.
Peter: Yes. The 割り勘.
Natsuko: 割り勘
Peter: Now being American, I didn’t really run – well I shouldn’t say this. I don’t know about all the places in America and we’d also be interested to know about your countries too.
Natsuko: Oh yes, yes.
Peter: But the custom when I used to go out with my friends is we go out and you would calculate kind of how much you ate.
Natsuko: Oh!
Peter: Because you would order your own thing. At the end of the night, you would calculate plus tip.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: So let me just give you an example. Say ten friends went out and I ordered a steak dinner plus I had a few drinks and then plus a tip. I would kind of calculate it inside my head. Well the steak was $25.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Plus the drinks $35 to $40 and then I would hand in my $40 and then say, another one of my friends, she only ate a salad. She would probably put in $10.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: So we’d all kind of gauge what we ate.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Calculate it in our heads and we’d always be short. So…
Natsuko: Oh I see!
Peter: You pay in two rounds in the US.
Natsuko: I see.
Peter: The first round where everyone doesn’t pay enough and then we have the….
Natsuko: And some addition.
Peter: Yes. It’s called the additional round.
Natsuko: Wow! That’s interesting too. For me I didn’t know that.
Peter: Yes go low on the first round.
Natsuko: Okay.
Peter: So that’s how we have it in the US. Now can you tell us about the 割り勘 in Japan?
Natsuko: Okay let’s take the same example. You go eating with ten friends.
Peter: Okay.
Natsuko: And Peter eats steak and what was it?
Peter: A few drinks.
Natsuko: Few drinks.
Peter: Aha!
Natsuko: And let’s say I ate salad, but when the system is 割り勘, we pay the same. We both pay like say ¥3000 each.
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: Yes all the ten people in the group pay the same amount.
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: You divide the bill equally.
Peter: Did you hear that everybody?
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: So yes, this is a very, very interesting and unique thing. I know people are online right now booking tickets to come to Japan to eat steak and pay that price but wait, hold on one sec!
Natsuko: Yes, yes.
Peter: We got a little bit more to tell you about this but yes, it’s a very, very interesting system.
Natsuko: Yes I think so.
Peter: Kind of unique.
Natsuko: I think why 割り勘 is popular in Japan is because we usually share things.
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: In parties.
Peter: I think a bunch of people just cancel their tickets. Yet here is the first main difference.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: In the US, if I got a steak, I would eat 99% of the steak; maybe give the fat to a friend.
Natsuko: You do?
Peter: No, no, no but like I might give a taste to somebody.
Natsuko: Yes, yes, yes.
Peter: Or maybe not – actually splitting half and half is quite normal but I would not share with the whole table.
Natsuko: I see. Well usually Japanese dishes are made like that.
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: You know all the 焼き鳥 or おでん or 刺身, it’s made to be shared among all the people on table.
Peter: Exactly. For example 焼き鳥 you get a set of five.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: They are put in the table in the center of the table. So if you have ten people, you are going to eat a half.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Not one.
Natsuko: Yes basically that’s the rule.
Peter: That’s the rule. So yes it’s placed in the middle of the table or maybe towards your side and its shared among everybody.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Again it’s very, very interesting.
Natsuko: Really?
Peter: Well yes the first time I came out, I was quite surprised.
Natsuko: I see.
Peter: Okay and continue.
Natsuko: Well that’s why we have 取り皿. So it’s a small dish for each person to take their own share from the dish in the center of the table.
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: You don’t directly eat from that large dish.
Peter: Yes another big rule…
Natsuko: Yes, yes, yes.
Peter: Please don’t grab the dish and just start eating.
Natsuko: Yes right.
Peter: You might surprise quite a few people.
Natsuko: Uhoo…
Peter: Actually we are going to get into a bit of etiquette in a little while but the dishes are placed sporadically around the table depending on how they come. You take a little bit and then you put it back or you pass it down.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: And you know, you don’t have to – if you like something, yes you can eat more of it.
Natsuko: Uhoo…
Peter: You can adjust accordingly but just plan on sharing whatever you order with a bunch of other people.
Natsuko: Yes so you have to place the share you eat on your small 取り皿
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: Before you…
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: So that means this is mine. Whatever you place on your 取り皿 is yours.
Peter: I see it’s your little piece of real estate…
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: On the big table.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Okay so again, you will order – everyone will order different kinds of food and they will all come. Now what about drinks? You know, I noticed that some people can drink quite a lot.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: And I noticed that some people don’t drink a lot.
Natsuko: Yeah right.
Peter: What’s going on with the drinks?
Natsuko: Well for drinks, there is no specific rules. You can just order anything you like and you can drink freely. So actually some people drink a lot but some people don’t.
Peter: It’s funny. In the US, we do split pitchers, like a pitcher of alcohol.
Natsuko: Oh yeah!
Peter: Like a pitcher of beer or something like this or bottle of wine.
Natsuko: Well, there are pitcher in bottles of wine in Japan too but you know, umm it’s more normal to order by glasses in Japan.
Peter: And here is the thing. Natsuko explained that in the 割り勘, if you have 10 people, when the bill comes, you divide it by 10.
Natsuko: Yes automatically.
Peter: Yes so you got to remember the payments getting spread out to everybody.
Natsuko: Yes right.
Peter: So Natsuko, I’ve seen some people drink. I mean, before they are even eating food, they are drinking and then they have last call. So some people are drinking a lot but then some people aren’t drinking a lot.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: What happens with that?
Natsuko: Well…
Peter: What’s going on with the bill?
Natsuko: Well usually if the rule is 割り勘, you split it equally. So some people have benefit and some people have disadvantage. For those who have advantage, we call them 割り勘勝ち
Peter: One more time.
Natsuko: 割り勘勝ち
Peter: 割り勘勝ち
Natsuko: Yes, winners.
Peter: Yes actually yes, the character for 勝ち is winner. So it’s quite funny that you are….
Natsuko: Yes the winner!
Peter: The 割り勘 winner.
Natsuko: Of 割り勘.. Yes, yes that’s right.
Peter: Okay and if there is a winner, then there’s got to be
Natsuko: Losers 割り勘負け
Peter: One more time.
Natsuko: 割り勘負け
Peter: 割り勘負け
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: So we have the 割り勘勝ち and 割り勘負け
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Natsuko, which one are you?
Natsuko: I think I usually lose for something to eat food but I usually win for drinks. So maybe that makes me even.
Peter: Even.
Natsuko: Uhoo. What about Peter?
Peter: My record is 150 and 1.
Natsuko: What!
Peter: 150 wins and one loss.
Natsuko: Who did you lose to?
Peter: Yeah Natsuko, I am so glad you asked that question.
Natsuko: Oh really?
Peter: Oh so glad. Let me tell you about my one losing day.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: It was when I first came to Japan.
Natsuko: Aha! I see.
Peter: And it’s before I knew about the 割り勘.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: And we all went out to eat, about 15 of us. I wasn’t – I didn’t want to drink. So I just drank water and I didn’t want to really eat because I wasn’t feeling too hungry. So I just had a few 焼き鳥。
Natsuko: Okay.
Peter: And I was quite surprised that when I ordered the 焼き鳥, other people were taking it but I was all right.
Natsuko: Oh I see.
Peter: So when it came time for the bill, I calculated my head with tax and in Japan, it is very easy to calculate because no tipping.
Natsuko: All right.
Peter: So I calculated and my bill was ¥500. So I went over to the person in charge of the 割り勘 and I said, ah I think mine is about ¥500 but here it’s ¥600 just in case and he said, ah sorry but you owe 2000, ¥2000 Natsuko!
Natsuko: So, so it was the 割り勘ルール。
Peter: Yeah.
Natsuko: I see.
Peter: And I was 割り勘負け。
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: Now
Natsuko: Now you know the rules.
Peter: The next time I went with them, I knew the day. So I starved myself. It was like a food eating contest. I was just waiting to order. One, one, one, one….From then,
Natsuko: My god!
Peter: So starts the legend of 割り勘.
Natsuko: I see.
Peter: So…
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Remember, when you come to Japan and you go out to eat with a bunch of people, you need a plan.
Natsuko: First you got to check whether the system is 割り勘 or not.
Peter: Yes great point because it’s going to be pretty funny if they are not doing the system and you have a 割り勘 plan and you are eating and eating and eating.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: And everyone is laughing at you and then you will end up with a bill for couple of hundred dollars.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: Yes. So step 1.
Natsuko: Check whether the system is 割り勘 or not.
Peter: Okay in the case that it is 割り勘, step 2?
Natsuko: Remember that whatever you order will be shared among the table.
Peter: Yes if you see a nice big steak, just remember it’s going to be cut into tenth. So yes, think about it. Something you can definitely get one of when you order for the 割り勘. Okay?
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Step 3.
Natsuko: 取り皿 is your real estate.
Peter: Your real estate, just yours. And this is a really great word because when you go out to restaurants, you are going to need more because the plates are very small. So you will often say
Natsuko: 取り皿、お願いします。
Peter: Yes. 取り皿 please. You definitely need to know this word but usually they are very good with that. They give you a stack of 取り皿。
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: Very stack kind.
Natsuko: Yes you can use it as much as you like.
Peter: So that’s your real estate, hands off. Next.
Natsuko: Drinks are usually ordered individually but you know, you can split bottle of wine or pitcher.
Peter: Yeah and also make sure that people are drinking the same thing as you. You don’t want to order a bottle of wine for yourself.
Natsuko: No, no right.
Peter: Or maybe you do. Maybe that’s your 割り勘 plan but yes.
Natsuko: Yes, yes, right.
Peter: Okay next step.
Natsuko: Starve yourself and don’t lose.
Peter: Oh! I can’t believe we are inviting people to starve yourself and don’t lose but don’t be too obvious. If you call your friend a day before, is tomorrow a 割り勘? I think they might know – and then you show up. Don’t even talk to anybody and just stuff yourself up.
Natsuko: Yes you are definitely going to be a winner but maybe you lose some friends. Obviously those you know, who go with you will never call – never invite you again.
Peter: Never yes and then the last step, step 5.
Natsuko: Pay the bill.
Peter: Yes, okay. I think that explanation went quite well.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Now the reason we played it up a little bit and you know, it’s a very interesting concept. Now we also should point out that we said divide it equally but many times, I have been to I’d say over 50% of the 割り勘’s that I’ve participated in usually have a lower amount for women.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: On an average. The guys tend to drink a lot more.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: So not so much the food as so much as the drinks.
Natsuko: Right.
Peter: Or maybe the food too but usually it’s a skewed system.
Natsuko: Yeah right.
Peter: Where the guys will pay usually about 50% anywhere from 33% to 50% more.
Natsuko: Right. Yes that’s kind of usual among – especially among young people.
Peter: Yeah.
Natsuko: So like you know, Peter, you are a male. So you have to pay ¥5000 but you know, in those cases, sometimes I am a girl. So I pay only ¥3000. Now we just want to remind the two words you have to say before and after eating.
Peter: What are those words?
Natsuko: First one is いただきます。
Peter: Break it down.
Natsuko: いただきます
Peter: And one time fast.
Natsuko: いただきます。
Peter: Okay will receive and this word is said before meals and its very, very polite.
Natsuko: Yes. I think so.
Peter: You look very, very good if you go out with a group of Japanese and before you eat, you say
Natsuko: いただきます。
Peter: If you go to your local sushi restaurant and the sushi comes out, you get the sushi. You can say
Natsuko: いただきます。
Peter: Very, very polite.
Natsuko: Yes. That will give a very good impression.
Peter: Yes. So they might be a little impressed but this next phrase, when you say it on the way out, oh they are going to remember you.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: What’s that phrase?
Natsuko: ごちそうさま。
Peter: Break it down.
Natsuko: ごちそうさま。
Peter: And one time fast.
Natsuko: ごちそうさま。
Peter: So let’s just say you go to your local sushi place, before you get the food, you say
Natsuko: いただきます。
Peter: You eat it, it’s very good. Then you are on your way out, you can say
Natsuko: ごちそうさま。
Peter: Okay. Very nice.
Natsuko: Very nice person.
Peter: Oh yes. They will remember you. Get ready for 10% discount. Okay there is a few customs that we want to warn you about so you don’t look bad…
Natsuko: Oh right!
Peter: Eating at the table with all the Japanese.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Now the first one is probably the most important. Gasps and wide eyes will not be in short demand if you do this. What is this?
Natsuko: Passing food from chopsticks to chopstick. That’s a taboo.
Peter: Very taboo.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Why is it taboo?
Natsuko: Because that’s the style used in funerals. You pick up the bones with your chopsticks and then pass it to another person chopsticks to chopsticks. So that’s the only case allowed to use the chopsticks that way.
Peter: Yes because it’s used for this custom, it’s not used…
Natsuko: For food.
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: Never.
Peter: Oh you could only see Natsuko’s face.
Natsuko: Yes I actually you know realized that this is really kind of a strict taboo.
Peter: Very strict.
Natsuko: Yes no one does it in Japan.
Peter: Yeah some of you might know about sticking your chopsticks in the rice kind of like…
Natsuko: Stabbing.
Peter: Stabbing, yes.
Natsuko: That’s also rude.
Peter: That’s also rude but not as taboo as this.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: This is one thing you definitely want to avoid if you can.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: If you do it, people will understand that you are a foreigner but…
Natsuko: Yes they will forgive you but you know, definitely you are going to be told about not to do that.
Peter: Yeah you will be noticed. The proper way to pass something along will be to take it and put it into the 取り皿
Natsuko: 取り皿
Peter: And then slide it over or hand it over.
Natsuko: Right, right.
Peter: Yeah watch out for that one and it’s good to know.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: You know, we mentioned before, yes jabbing or stabbing the chopsticks into the rice.
Natsuko: Or any other food.
Peter: Or any other food.
Natsuko: Like potato. Well, it’s not – you know, it is acceptable but not very sophisticated.
Peter: Yes.
Natsuko: It is not very polite.
Peter: Not at all. So definitely one you want to watch out for. Actually two – definitely two you want to watch out for.
Natsuko: Yes.
Peter: Okay.
Natsuko: Well, that was very helpful, wasn’t it?
Peter: Very helpful Natsuko. You really helped us out a lot.
Natsuko: Ask me anything about 飲み会


Peter: Okay so that’s going to do it for today.
Natsuko: Yes じゃあ、また明日。
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