April 30, 2007

Celebration of Shad!


Were it not for my good friends in Doylestown taking me to the Shad Festival in Lambertville New Jersey today I might not know what a shad is. A shad turns out to be a fish, and I have a t-shirt to prove it.

The Trentonian says that shad used to be fished at Lambertville as they swam upstream to spawn. Eventually the pollution in the Delaware river got so bad that they stopped coming. Now the condition of the river has improved enough that the shad have come back.

Geocaching

My good friends were kind enough to drive me to my hotel in New Jersey today, and on the way we stopped off to find a couple of geocaches: Riverview East and West Central Jersey Travel Bug Hotel

April 21, 2007

Tipping

With a planned visit to the US next week (work trip) I have been having a think about the tipping culture in the US, and how much stress it causes someone not used to it. In Australia, as a general rule, tipping is not expected. Appreciated in some circumstances, but not expected.

In Australia if someone serves you in a department store he is just doing his job. Hopefully his manager appreciates what he does and he gets paid for it. Either way his remuneration is between him and his manager. Same goes for the guy who fits tyres on my car. Same goes for any service job. If one of those people turned around and expected that some kind of tip should be paid before the transaction could be concluded I would consider him rude. It's like begging in a way. Of course if someone goes out of their way to serve me above and beyond what is necessary I might be tempted to give some kind of monetary reward. Strangely this is much more acceptable in some industries than others.

I appreciate that there are a number of factors that make this whole equation different in the US. Particularly in industries where the rate of pay is set with the understanding that the employee will be able to suplement it with tips in order to make a living. The problem is my unfamiliarity with those situations where tipping is expected.

I don't think either approach is wrong or right, but probably a product of the prevailing culture and customs. The trouble is that coming from my culture to their culture it is somewhat more rude if I judge incorrectly.

I guess that's not always the case. Recently in Japan an American colleague explained how he offered a tip to a Japanese waitress in a restaurant. A Japanese colleague pointed out that he would not have expected her to take the tip. My American colleague explained that she didn't want to at first, but it was OK because he insisted she take it, and refused to leave until she accepted it. We explained that he had probably created a paperwork nightmare for her at minimum as she tried to explain the extra money to her boss, or perhaps a moral dilemma if she decided just to pocket the money!

April 18, 2007

April 02, 2007

More Tokyo


While I was in Tokyo the cherry blossom (Sakura - 桜) was just coming out, so I took a few photos on Saturday. People tend to celebrate Sakura by going out and having picnics in parks. In fact quite a few people staked out their patch of park with a blue tarp each night in Shiba park near my hotel.

Saturday gave me the opportunity to do some shopping. I headed to Hakuhinka Toy Park in Ginza for some ... toys, and also Ito-ya for some chiyogami or yuzen-shi (traditional Japanese prints on washi paper - make sure you go to Annex 3 of Ito-ya which is around the back from the main shop), and then to Bic Camera to look at some toys for me! The Honey Bee 15cm helicopter looked fun, but I didn't end up buying anything at Bic.

Saturday night was a flight back to Australia. I managed one of Qantas's newer Airbus jets that had the bed seats in business class. They are a league ahead of Qantas's older business class seats, but I still didn't sleep all that well.