Japanese tourists wearing everyday casual flu masks apparently caused upset amongst supermarket shoppers in British seaside town
Flu masks are a part of everyday life in Japan, and they’re worn for a plethora of reasons, including avoiding catching/spreading colds, warding off hayfever-inducing pollen, keeping one’s face toasty warm in winter, hiding makeup-free faces, simply giving a sense of anonymity and comfort to the wearer, or to look more attractive.
But in the UK, nobody would wear a mask like this unless they were very, very sick, or there was otherwise something terribly wrong afoot. So when a group of masked Japanese tourists hit up an ASDA supermarket in the Merseyside town of Southport, England, their fellow shoppers were decidedly alarmed.
According to an article by local news site On The Spot News, the group of tourists were spotted making other shoppers uncomfortable, with one witness to the scene stating:
“I have never seen anything like this before. I immediately thought that this was some sort of terrorist operation in place and could see other people were getting really anxious. My family were genuinely frightened.
“I asked a member of ASDA staff what was happening and was told that it was probably some type of ‘cultural thing’, which did not answer my question or allay our fears. The masked people were pulling big cases on trolleys, which could have contained anything.”
The tourists were identified as Japanese by a redditor who recognized them as friends in the UK attending a music event. They were snapped shopping casually with their masks on, probably completely unaware of the kerfuffle they were causing amongst British supermarket patrons. One savvy shopper did suggest the masks were worn to avoid pollution, but pointed out how odd that was in a town known for its seaside breezes.
The writer of the article, perhaps unaware of the myriad of uses Japanese flu masks have, moots the suggestion of “diseases” being the cause for the mask-wearing, but also states that: “This did not seem to be the case here as they were pulling them off and on regularly as they shopped. None of the group seemed ill in any way.”
▼ Not just for the sick: flu masks are like a cosy hug for your face.
In our expert (cough cough) opinion, we reckon the tourists were simply wearing their masks out of habit and to keep themselves warm during a chilly British season.
Nevertheless, we can sympathize with the reactions of the British shoppers as wearing personal flu masks does not exist as a concept in British society. We only know them as something surgeons or possibly hazmat teams wear. As a Brit myself, I always make sure to take off my in-flight mask (a great idea when you’re breathing recirculated air) when traveling from Japan as soon as we touch back down in the UK.
What would you think if you saw someone wearing a flu mask in your home town? Or if you were given one as a freebie with your order of a McMuffin?