It can be easy to get the wrong idea about other countries, and it's not uncommon for people to carry misconceptions around with them for years. Like the student of mine who asked me if they had McDonald's in America -- she'd eaten Makudonarudo all her life and had assumed it was a Japanese chain. Or an exchange student friend of mine who was sure that HBO was some kind of euphemism for "H-video." Japan is famous for its love hotels, places where couples can spend some quality time together, important in this privacy-challenged country where people in their 20s often live with with their parents, and sometimes their grandparents. Before the current word had been coined, these establishments were referred to as "motels" (mo-teru), with the result being that many Japanese think that America is littered with love hotels along every freeway. We can get the wrong idea about Japan and the Japanese, too. When I arrived here, I was sure all vehicles would be unbelievably small, yet there are plenty of large cars on the road, and I even see imported Cadillacs quite often. I expected Japan to be so expensive I'd have to sell my retinas if I wanted to eat a steak, yet I can gorge myself on Indian food for far less than what it would cost me to eat at the Star of India restaurant in San Diego. Whenever there's an earthquake that makes the international news I know I'll get emails from family members asking if I'm okay, as if Japan were such a tiny country that every quake could be felt. In reality, Japan's about the size of California but spread out so that it would reach from New York to Dallas, so most quakes are too far away to be felt. Oh, and and teriyaki sauce? The Japanese almost never eat it.
Do they have Makudonarudo in America?