Language as a window into culture…

Written by Lorna Shapiro

I was at my Japanese class a month ago when all of a sudden I sneezed and everyone in the room said “bless you”.  That caused me to wonder, and to ask, “So what do the Japanese say when someone sneezes?”  Those who had lived and/or worked in Japan laughed and said “YOU say “sumimasen”!!!!” .  Sumimasen, in Japanese, is “excuse me”.  I discussed this with Hiroko who has returned to live with us again for a couple of months.  She spoke of thinking that Canadians were just SOOOO nice when she learned our habit of saying “bless you” to someone who sneezed instead of waiting expectantly for their, required, apology!