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What is "Teinei?"

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The other day, I was talking to my Chinese teacher who had recently gone to Shanghai Disney Land; she said she was very impressed with the new rides which Tokyo Disney Land didn't have. However, she mentioned that the quality of the service at the parks was somewhat different. In Shanghai, the staff met the Disney standard, but in Tokyo, they were somewhat politer, going out of their way. We concluded "Teinei" made the difference between the two.

Teinei is a Japanese word, written "丁寧," that I found hard to translate into English. The Chinese teacher said that she couldn't come up with a proper translation of the concept into Chinese either. So, I presume Teinei is quite a unique concept that is valued in Japan. We are often told to be Teinei while growing up. Clean up Teinei. Use things Teinei. Do your homework Teinei.

If you check in the Japanese English dictionary, it comes up with the following words: polite, courteous, civil, respectful, careful, conscientious, thorough. When I checked the antonym it said Iikagen (いい加減), and gave me the following definition: irresponsible, halfhearted, random, vague, groundless.

Here are some examples of "Teinei": A craft made very thoroughly, with some professional pride and spirit behind it. A precisely-drawn picture using plenty of time. A "ryokan" (Japanese style Inn) with precise arrangements that please guests. A travel agency that understands your requirements and responds promptly with proactive care. A child who can work on things slowly but thoroughly. It has a concept of not being in a hurry, but spending plenty of time and effort to accomplish something. The outcome is judged by the counterparts.

The reason I picked up "Teinei" here is for us to re-think whether we are doing our daily work "Teinei-ly." We won't see results instantly, but in the long term, it would make a big difference. I think that one of the reasons why many of our used-to-be competitors withdrawing from the market was because of the amount of Teinei we have put into our product and service. Since what we produce is used by a large number of people, lack of Teinei would be noticed by users instantly, so, we should be more Teinei when doing our work too.

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