Monday, July 03, 2006

There are two types of people...

...those who divide people up into two types, and those who don't.

I've been reminded of this aphorism when travelling between the UK and Japan recently, as both airports are running an advert by HSBC along the walls of various airbridges, corridors and tunnels. This advert comes in many versions, each of which basically consists of 2 copies of two contrasting images in an ABAB pattern, with contrasting one-word descriptions printed over them in abba form - ie, the descriptions are swapped for the second pair of photos. Eg, the photos are a laptop and a baby, with the words "work" and "play" overprinted in both orders. Or two people in casual and smart clothes labelled "boss" and "worker". The basic point seems to be about how different people may have different interpretations and perspectives on the the same facts.

The Japanese version of this campaign is rather limited. There is just one version (that I've seen), with the words "global" and "local" overprinted on a plate of sushi and a burger. I'm not sure if this is a post-modern ironically self-deprecating dig at the famed Japanese propensity to view the world as being divided up into "Japanese" and "Foreign", or whether this really was the best idea the ad-men could come up with. My suspicion that it was the latter was increased by our treatment while waiting in the queues for passport control, where no fewer than 3 separate people helpfully told us that we were in the wrong queue, and that the foreigners were supposed to be queueing up elsewhere. Now, the signs could be a little clearer, as there are prominent "Japanese" and "Foreign" labels and somewhat separate indications that anyone with a re-entry permit is supposed to use the Japanese queue, but still the assumption that anyone who doesn't have an appropriate colour skin and vertically-challenged stature can't be Japanese seems unreasonably deep-seated. Of course, statistically speaking, it is a fair bet at Narita Airport, but I'm sure that's true at Heathrow too and I certainly wouldn't go up to someone with a brown skin there and say "excuse me, but the foreigners are supposed to go in that queue over there"!

2 comments:

Steve Bloom said...

What, no separate line for Scots at Heathrow? :)

James Annan said...

It's all EU/Non-EU these days anyway...