This morning while I was running to catch the train, my cellphone fell out of my pocket and while trying to hold on to my bag to swipe down and pick up my phone, my new ballet flats went slippery on me and I fell on a knee while my other foot slid in the other direction and I ended in a semi-split on the pavement. Two Japanese salary men were not more than two feet away, and as soon as I hit the ground, they turned away from me as fast as they could, almost automatically.
I felt like it was a total insult, but I understand that’s how they show politeness, like pretending they didn’t notice or see. It made the whole thing a little more insulting… So I just stood up, pretended nothing happened and walked to the platform, already missing my train. Upon reaching the office, after apologizing for my lateness and explaining what had happened, my boss confirmed that that was what Japanese people did in such situations. No one helps you up or anything, which I suppose would be even more insulting. So at that point, I didn’t know whether to think it was still that much of a problem.
But as I walked home, careful not to slip yet again, I thought about other times when I trip on things or when I drop things all over the place, or when I walk into things, like posts and such, most Japanese people who know me, would call out a laughing “Daijoubukai? (大丈夫かい？Are you okay?)”, and make me feel like the klutz that I am. Would they have only done the polite ignoring if I were a stranger? Or does the familiarity between me and my Japanese friends change the atmosphere? Is it because I am not an outsider with my friends that the deliberate politeness is unnecessary?