The World Cup is going on right now, and Japan is in getting in the spirit in a big way. It's part of Japan's komumin-sei (the "national personality" that I write about every so often) to want to be included in international events with the other countries of the world, and Japanese fans are really excited to join in. I caught a TV show the other day that pit two teams of soccer fans -- one made up of Japanese "talents" (a generic word for TV personalities) and a gaijin team of Japanese-bilingual foreigners -- in a battle of World Cup related trivia. The foreign team won the contest handily.
One of the questions put forth to the participants was especially interesting, I thought. A ship carrying people from different countries starts to take on water, and the captain needs to get each person to jump in the sea immediately. To the American he says, "If you jump in, you'll be seen as a hero," which makes the American man jump in right away. (From the Japanese point of view, Americans seem to have a hero complex.) To the British man the captain says, "If you jump in, you'll be seen as a gentleman." To the Italian: "If you jump in, you'll be popular with women." The German man is told, "You must jump in now, it's the rule," while the captain tells the French man, "Please do not jump in the water." (So Germans are responsive to following rules and French people will always do the opposite of what they're told?) The trivia question the two teams had to answer was, what did the captain say to the Japanese passenger to get him to jump in the water? To see the answer, highlight the following text with your mouse cursor.
The answer was, the captain told the Japanese man that "everyone else is jumping in the water," which made the Japanese passenger happy to do so, too.