An important business lesson for you from that great movie “Lost in Translation”

squirty thing!

Well I’ve learned my lesson with that pesky shower attachment that kept squirting me in the face – the same thing that happened to Bill Murray in that great movie Lost in Translation. I’m guessing this happens to lots of travellers!

This trip to Singapore, I’ve taken time to “read the instructions” rather than just assuming I know how to work the taps. The fancy hotel taps are  more complex that the usual home shower “controls”!

tap instructions

Here’s the original post about my trip a few months ago – about the mistake travellers often make – thinking things should work exactly as they do “at home”.

Have you seen that great movie Lost in Translation? Bill Murray plays an actor visiting Japan for a commercial.  There’s a funny scene where he is unfamiliar with so much about Japan and his hotel environment – he tries to operate the shower and he squirts himself in the face.

When I’ve been working in Singapore I’ve done exactly the same thing. I’ve squirted myself in the face several times –  Like Homer Simpson who doesn’t learn from his mistakes! It made me think of the movie. It made me laugh and it gave me comfort that I was probably not the only traveller who did this! I don’t know if the “tap difference” is an “Asian thing” or a “fancy hotel thing”. But I will investigate!

I blame the mistake (at least in my case) on Western assumption that everything should work the way we are used to.

From my Australian experience you turn the shower tap (or control) to the right for cold – to the left for hot. If you have two taps – the  cold is usually on the right (as you face it) and hot is on the left.

I found I would instinctively turn the tap to the left to try to make sure I had warm water for a warm shower.

The problem is with the tap in the shower I was using – right made the water come down from the shower rose – turning to the left sent a blast of water out of a moveable attachment (don’t know the correct name for it!) and it squirted me straight in the face!

As I said, this happened several times – before I learned my lesson about wrongly assuming things would work the way I was used to.

the shower rose – and that thing (I must learn the name of) that kept squirting me in the face!

Then I took the time to actually look at how the “controls” worked! I never made the same mistake again.

There was another tap below that controlled the hot/cold balance – and that tap was similar to what I was used to but there was also a top tap that operated the shower rose or that shower attachment I don’t know the name of! I automatically reached out and turned on the top tap first – the one that squirted me in the face.

When I teach business writing and communication to organisations with workers from several cultural backgrounds I share about the “dangers” of assuming that  “your way of doing things” is the only way.

I encourage people to:

  1. take the time to learn and study what the “local” way is
  2. realise that  to get the best results you have to adapt to the local system.

I use a metaphor (and this prop) that you can have the fanciest gadget or system – but you will need to adapt to the local power (the local way) for it to work.

If you haven’t seen Lost in Translation I strongly recommend you watch it!


About doubleshot media

Hi, I'm a lawyer turned journalist/speechwriter/presentation coach - combining business experience with personal passions for music and writing to blog about persuasion, retro, music, and even business lessons from theatre and performing
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