What percentage orange juice are you drinking?
One of the questions that always throws a foreigner off (and I mean always) in Japan is when you try and order an orange juice at a restaraunt. Inevitably the sinario goes the exact same way each and every time... first you order. Then the waiter/waitress replies in quick rounded Japanese, almost a little too quite, as they are trying to be polite and wholy insecure with talking to a foreigner. Next comes the blank stares by both parties, and then the re-order. Orange juice! More blank stares, and then the same question. "Yes, I know you ordered that, but what percentage of orange juice would you like to drink?"
Ah! And that's the trick folks... knowing that in Japan, ordering 100% is like ordering a Coke in the American south. I ordered a Coke! Not Pepsi! But in the American south, soda-pop (which easterners just call soda and westerners happen to call pop) all get confused over. Ordering a Coke doesn't necessarily mean Cocacola, it means cola flavored beverage. Who knew? But in Japan when I order a Cola, I always get Coke. Happy day! It's just that darn orange juice you have to be careful about. I just happen to be a 20% to 30% orange juice drinker. I find at that percentage it taste like Sunny Delight, or Tang! Yum.... astronauts around the world will be glad to know Japanese are all about variety, and the stress of having to order a simple drink. At least you think it would be simple... it's not.
Qoo tastes like Sunny Delight!
Of course there is the occasional apologetic look after ordering an orange juice, to which the waiter/waitress will reply, "Sorry, but is it okay if we only have a 100% orange juice?" That one used to throw me off too, because normally when I order orange juice I'm in the mood for 100% real freshly squeezed or otherwise orange juice! If I wanted watered down, third of the percentage, you think I'd be more specific? But the Japanese have this convenience thing down pat. Not everybody happens to like 100% and not everybody wants pulp. Some people are just more thirsty than they are juicy... and this makes buying juice fun. Prepare to keep on your toes when ordering food in Japan.
Another great moment is when you order fast food and they ask you after you have ordered, "Is this what you want?" No matter how many times you say yes, they will politely wait for confirmation. This one tricked me lots when I first came to Japan. The ackward moment in which I order, wait, have them ask me if this is what I really want right after I tell them my order, and then contemplate changing my order just to throw them off. Not that anybody ever does that... purposely changing an order after the polite double check. But it is this over politeness that first threw me off. In America they would as soon as spit in your food and then give it to you late before politely ensuring you have what you want. But that's the cultural difference for you. If you ask me, I prefer the Japanese way.
Oh, and by the way, if the food ever is late, or you are missing something, they give you the entire order at half cost or free... depending on the mood of the manager. I never get that in America. The best I ever recieved for my complaints State side when they forgot my french fries and half my order was a stern look and an attitude like, "What? You want us to actually work for a living? Get out of my restraunt." That's America for you. Always say what you think before you actually think of what you should say. Again, I think I prefer the Japanese way. Manners, politeness, and the artform of respect always win out in my book.