Penguin logo

January 9th, 2018

When we changed the company name from Hyman Translations to Hyman International, we adopted a new logo. As a consulting company focused on solving international problems, we chose a penguin as the logo because we believe that the first step in finding such solutions is to eliminate stereotypes from the equation.

When asked to describe a penguin, a typical reply is “a black and white bird that lives in the Antarctic”. When asked to describe a bird, a typical answer is “a feathered animal that lays eggs and flies”.

 

  • Birds fly.
  • Penguins are black and white.
  • Penguins live in the ice and snow of the Antarctic.

 

Few people would disagree with any of these statements, yet few would disagree that they are all wrong after a little thought.
 

  • Birds fly

While most birds do fly, penguins are one species that doesn’t. (The ostrich, emu, and kiwi are among other flightless birds.) Penguins don’t fly. They waddle. Yes, those waddling birds are about as clumsy as you can get when seen on TV waddling and staggering over the ice as if they were drunk. But, once they are in the water, they are fast and elegant.

 

  • Penguins are black and white

As with anything else in life, no, it’s not just a matter of black and white. However, penguins are much more than just shades of grey. Many penguins have a wide range of colors from yellow to orange.

 

  • Penguins live in the ice and snow of the Antarctic

Most of the penguins we see on television are those in the Antarctic, and we often see them in freezing cold environments. However, there are 18 species of penguins and they are found in various locations throughout the southern hemisphere. Some of them are in Australia, some in South Africa, some on the Falkland Islands (off the coast of Argentina), and some are even on the Galapagos Islands on the Equator.

 

  • Stereotypes

So, what is it about penguins that leaves so many people with these misconceptions? Many of the characteristics that are attributed to penguins are simply stereotypes.
We are surrounded by stereotypes every day.
Men are stronger than women.
Women look after the house and children.
Nationalities, religions, genders, races, . . . they all have stereotypical images attached to them and all are incorrect.

 

Penguins are black and white birds. Birds can fly. But, penguins aren’t just black and white, and they can’t fly.
The penguin represents that which is wrong with stereotypes and reminds us that nothing is simply black and white.

 

How I became interested in penguins

When I moved into university accommodation for the first year at university in the UK, there was a long list of rules which included “No pets such as dogs, cats, etc.”. When reading that, I wondered what animals would be included in “dogs, cats, etc.”. For example, a hedgehog, a snake, or even a penguin.
One evening, while talking about this with some friends, another friend came along, heard the end of the conversation, and jumped to the conclusion that I was planning on having a penguin as a pet while at university. For a while, everybody played along and let him believe it to be true.
From then, I began to read about penguins. While at university, I worked as a volunteer at a local youth center where I taught disadvantaged children a variety of things including camping, first aid, cooking and canoeing. I also worked as a counselor helping the children deal with their problems and worries. I often found myself using penguins in various examples when talking with the children.
After graduating university, I spent six months traveling. While in Nepal, I had a penguin embroidered on the back of my jacket, and continued to wear it long after arriving in Japan. And now, it’s the company logo.

 

 

 

The next step

January 1st, 2017

As my consulting business in China became busier and projects for both the PRC central government and local government offices increased, a number of people pointed out that some of my blog posts could be taken as somewhat anti-Chinese. As a result, I decided to take a break from posting for a while.

Fast forward four years . . .

I originally established a consulting company in China in order to accomplish the following.

  1. Study the Chinese language
  2. Establish and run a company in China
  3. Better understand the lifestyle and customs in China
  4. Learn about the differences between the tax laws and normal business practices in Japan and China
  5. Experience the problems encountered by Japanese companies operating in China
  6. Make more Chinese friends
  7. Travel to various regions around China

I believe that I managed to accomplish all of my goals to some extent during the ten years from 2006, and also realized that I preferred living in Japan to living in China. As a result, I decided to shut down and dissolve the Chinese company.

After returning to Japan, I thought more about the type of work I’d been doing for the last few years, and realized that while the name of the company (Hyman Translations) was fine for the translation and printing work for which it was started twenty years ago, it was no longer suitable for the business consulting which now accounted for a majority of my time. Accordingly, I changed the company name to Hyman International.

While my work continues to take me to various places, I’m now back in Japan for most of the time and shall occasionally post about episodes from the last few years as well as day to day observations.

Beef knitting combustion?

July 27th, 2011

How does a simple plate of grilled beef and hamburger get so complicated as to end up as Beef knitting combustion and hamburg steak?

The grilled beef is written in Japanese as a description of how it is cooked. Literally it is “beef – (metal grill) – heated/cooked”. It was translated as:

The metal grill is pronounced “ami” in Japanese and this is the same pronunciation as “knitting”. The heated/cooked part used the same kanji that is used for burning things.

Whoever translated (used it in its widest of interpretations!) did so word by word and came up with the senseless garbage that you see.

The bright side is that it almost makes you ignore the fact that hamburger was rendered as “hamburg steak”.

Guarantees in China #1 (Mobile phone)

July 13th, 2011

I’ve bought many things in several countries and there is almost always a one-year guarantee. Recently, when you buy an electrical product in Japan, the store offers an extended guarantee up to five years. For example, in the town where I live, I buy my electrical products in a store that offers a free five-year guarantee for any purchase of 5,000 JPY or more. This means I can make my purchases knowing that I’ll be able to use them for at least five years. Even with just the manufacturers one-year guarantee, since an electrical product that is faulty is likely to malfunction in the first twelve months.

During my first trip to China (Beijing), I bought a mobile phone. Since Japanese mobile phones aren’t SIM free, I wasn’t able to use a local SIM card. So, other than buying a Chinese mobile phone, my only choice would be to use the roaming service of my Japanese mobile phone provider, and that is extremely expensive both for me and anybody in China making calls to me. I opted for a low-end Motorola model as I only needed to make calls and send text (SMS) messages.

During the first two or three days of using it, I realized that the power was being turned off automatically. I’d send somebody a text message and be waiting for the reply, but the reply didn’t arrive. When I took the phone out to check, the power would be off. Strange! So, I took the phone back to the store where I had purchased it, but they said that they only sold the phones and that I would have to have the phone checked by the manufacturer which was on the other side of Beijing. They explained that if the manufacturer gave me a report stating that the phone was faulty, I could exchange it for another one.

A friend took me to the manufacturer and they did their checks. However, they said that the phone had passed the tests, and that it was OK. It was the typical Chinese “No problem!” Even though I explained (via my friend’s interpreting) that it worked fine for a while, but the power would suddenly turn off, they just said, “But, it’s OK now!” It was obvious that they weren’t going to give me the paper I needed to exchange the phone, and equally obvious that the phone was useless as it was, so I left the phone with the people in the shop and asked them to keep an eye on it as it was going to turn itself off, and then they’d see what I was talking about. They agreed to this—probably just to get us out of the store. At the time, I wanted to leave the box, manual, charger, etc. at the store (I had no use for any of it), but they were adamant that I just leave the phone and take the rest with me, so that’s what happened.

The next day, we all had a trip planned to Sichuan Province, so I went without a mobile phone. The day after we arrived in Sichuan, my friend got a phone call from the shop saying that I was right after all, and that there was something wrong with the phone causing it to turn itself off for no reason. That part was all expected. What I didn’t expect was that I had to return to the store the box, manual, charger, etc. within a week to be eligible to exchange the phone for free. After that the phone could be repaired for a price. Since the store had refused to allow me to leave the box, etc. with the phone, I had it all with me in Sichuan. Our only choice was to have the box express couriered to my friend’s wife in Beijing, and for her to take it to the store for me. She did that, and arranged for the phone to be exchanged for a new one.

So, the guarantee period was just one week! Plus you needed to return the box, charger, manual, and everything else in order to be eligible to have the phone exchanged. It seemed very strange to me that they would want the box for a faulty phone. However, after spending some more time in China, all became much clearer.

… To be continued . . .

 

Nationality is irrelevant?

April 11th, 2011

Having grown up in the UK, graduated from universities in both the UK and Greece, having visited more than thirty countries, spent extensive periods of time in Nepal, India and Thailand before arriving in Japan, having started and managing companies in both Japan and China, having lived in Japan and China for a total of about twenty years, having studied seven languages, and having been married to somebody with a different nationality for more than a decade, I thought I had come to the conclusion that a person’s nationality—something assigned to them when they are born, and totally beyond their control—is even less relevant than their favorite color.

But, . . . recent experiences in China have forced me to reconsider my position and rethink the opinions of those that I have been denouncing for the past two decades.

Many, if not most, of the Japanese businessmen I work with have low expectations and opinions of the average Chinese. I found this to be unfair and offensive. Why judge somebody just on their nationality?

However, it has recently become clear(er) to me that China may be an exception that can no longer be ignored. It should also be emphasized that I am _NOT_ talking about the average Chinese person who has never been overseas; I am talking about those that not only speak a foreign language, but have also spent some time living abroad.

I am sure that there are many exceptions, but I am beginning to realize that the length of time a Chinese person spends overseas has little, or nothing, to do with how well they understand the people, language, or culture of that country. What is common sense to almost everyone in that country may always seem extremely foreign to the Chinese visitors. Yes, visitors! As, no matter how much time they spend “living” in another country, it seems that very few actually join the local society to an extent where they can truly understand the “common sense” and “traditions”, which form the base of the social values.

Soon I’ll give you a couple of real-life examples . . .