Japan and Brazil through A Traveler’s Eye – George Mikes

Comprehension I

1 – ‘Exquisitely well-mannered people’ refer to _________

Japanese People


2 – What behavior substitutes privacy in Japan?

The respect of another’s privacy substitutes privacy in Japan.


3 – The reference to public telephone suggests:

How overcrowded Japan is.


4 – Why is bowing called ‘quaint’?

‘Bowing’ is called ‘quaint’ it seems old-fashioned if we compare it to the hand-shaking, western people adopt when greeting each other.


5 – Hierarchy is bowing demand ________

Youngsters need to bow to their elder.


6 – What is the sign of appreciation in eating soup?

While eating ‘Soup’ a loud slurping noise should be made to show appreciation to the hostess.


7 – How are pavements in Brazil decorated? What does it tell us about the people there?

Pavement sin Brazil are decorated with beautiful black mosaics, just like our Rangolis. It tells that Brazilians are easy going people and they have plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of their surroundings.


8 – What happens when leisurely people in Brazil get a steering wheel in their hands?

They turn the steering wheel into speed devils and drive recklessly on the roads without any regard for pedestrians.


9 – Who do the drivers look out for when they driving? Why?

The driver are a look-out for pedestrians. They do not care for people walking on the road or people trying to cross the roads. They intentionally accelerate and drive straight towards the pedestrians as if to run them down. A Brazilian driver treats pedestrians as hunters treat their prey.


10 – What distinguishes war between drivers?

Though the Brazilian driver compete with each other by cutting in or overtaking from both side, or force each other brake suddenly, all the time they smile at each other despite all these dangerous acts.


Comprehension II

1 – Why is bowing in Japan a complicated process?

‘Bowing’ in Japan is a complicated process because it has to be done with a ceremonious solemnity and with natural and inimitable grace. You should not clasp your hands in front. The Japanese have a hierarchy in bowing, who bows to whom, how deeply and how long. The straightening up should be done simultaneously after bowing. In the family, wife bows to husband, children to their father, younger brothers to their elder brothers and sisters have to bow to brothers irrespective of their ages.


2 – Why does bowing, a natural practice in Japanese culture, look so ‘quaint’ and puzzling to the author?

‘Bowing’ has been cultivated naturally and with a grace that is difficult to copy. It is a genetic quality in the Japanese. The author wonders how the Japanese have acquired the skill unlike the westerners who just shake hands or kiss the cheeks. He consoles himself by thinking that it is in their genes.


3 – Do you think the author is finding fault with / making fun of the culture of bowing in Japanese and speeding cars in Brazil?

The author is just making fun of both; the culture of bowing in Japan and speeding cars in Brazil.


Comprehension III

1 – ‘Bowing in Japan is quainter; more formal more oriental’. Do you agree?

Yes, I agree. It is very difficult to learn the appropriate skills in bowing.


2 – Describe how traffic in Brazil leads to humorous observations.

When the Brazilian driver accelerates towards the pedestrians, the pedestrians don’t get angry, but give a smile as nothing has happened. Same is the case with drivers, if one driver cuts in front of another or overtakes from the wrong side, they don’t get angry, but smile amicably at each other. The author also points out that traffic on Brazilian roads are heavy and risky. If one crosses the road, to be alive at the other side is really a miracle.


3 – What aspects of our social life, do you think would appear quaint and odd to a foreign tourist?

Our Indian way of folding our palms in front of others and saying ‘Namaste’ while greeting would appear quaint and odd to a foreign tourist. Also, our habit of bowing and touching the feet of our elder and eminent people like priests, sadhus, sanyasis would appear quaint to a foreign tourist.

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