Why do Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners?

Why do Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners? IMAGE: MADAME RIRI

TOKYO —

Many Japanese people don’t have the opportunity to communicate with foreigners, so when they do, they tend to change their attitude a bit.

Foreigners react in different ways to this — some feel they are being treated special, while others are uncomfortable. So says the website MADAME RiRi.

Here are some examples from the website.

“I’ve been in Japan for 3 1/2 years. Generally speaking, Japanese people are prejudiced against foreign people who don’t look like Japanese. Japanese people think that no foreigner can speak Japanese. Staff at a bento shop that I’ve visited for 3 years still treat me like I cannot speak Japanese.” (Belgian man)

“I think that the Japanese education system is the main reason why Japanese people cannot communicate with foreign people naturally. Japanese people don’t study much about other races and cultures, do they?” (American woman)

“At first, I was happy when Japanese people gave me compliments like ‘You are good at using chopsticks’ and ‘You speak Japanese very well.’ However, now that I have been in Japan for a long time, these sort of compliments sound like that they are looking down at me.” (Australian man)

“Japanese people treat me as a foreigner even when I say that I’m more French than Chinese. ‘Foreign’ for Japanese people means white or black—who are obviously not Japanese-looking.” (Chinese woman from France)

“I think that staff in shops and restaurants treat foreign people better than Japanese people. However, in some situations, I feel like I am being treated like a mascot.” (Dutch man)

“Actually, it’s annoying when many Japanese people show me a product and ask ‘Is this product available America too?’ I have to tell them I’m not American.” (Danish man)

“I’m happy that Japanese people treat me as a foreigner. I think that foreign people don’t have any pressure to practice speaking Japanese because Japanese people don’t expect foreigners to do so.” (Brazilian man)

“If you come to Japan thinking that all Japanese people are sweet, you will be in for a shock a lot. This is my experience and there is no country where everybody is sweet.” (Italian man)

“Many Japanese can’t help it because foreigners in Japan are a minority.” (Scottish man)

“Sometimes, when I see foreigners in Japanese dramas and animation, most of them seem stupid. It makes me uncomfortable if Japanese people think that foreign people are like that.” (American man)

“Japan is not a country with many immigrants like America and Europe. I think many Japanese have a hard time communicating not just with foreigners but also with other Japanese who are outside their sphere. That’s the ‘soto-uchi’ concept.” (American man)

“I think Japanese people change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners because they are interested in foreign countries and cultures.” (English man)

“Not all Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners. Japanese people who have lived abroad as exchange students, for example, communicate with foreigners in much the same way as they interact with Japanese. Maybe it depends on their experience level in communicating with with foreigners.” (American man)

Source: MADAME RiRi

  • 11

    napoleancomplex

    Shima-guni syndrome?

    In a nutshell.. no immigration.

    99.9% of the people are Japanese so dealing with foreigners for most is a rarity. I would believe that many have no idea how to deal with a foreigner in their midst, not in a mean way.. but more so of language/cultural barriers and possibly just ignorance (which is kinda mean..). I've been in several situations when I lived over there when I was the only non-japanese person in a group and people were freaking out if I could understand what was going on, if I knew how to use chopsticks, if I was okay with sitting on the floor.. stupid things, complete nonsense and an almost childlike innocence from them. Annoying as hell but I accepted it.

    Compare that with Canada (where I am from and living now) and almost nobody thinks anything of you if you're not white. At first glance, most people would assume you are Canadian.. even if you're white, black, asian, brown, purple, whatever. Hell, even if you spoke with an accent it wouldn't make a difference.

  • 3

    sillygirl

    first it is the us japanese and them foreigners. they do not realize that each country is very different and cultures are vastly diverse. if they took the time to find out about other countries and their unique cultures it would not be an japanese vs foreigners but discovering what things some cultures have in common and what things they don`t. after 20 years here i am REALLY tired of the so called compliments on my use of chopsticks, simple greetings and the like.

  • 9

    Jack Stern

    I guess there are two ways to look at it. The first is if you are a long time resident and are fluent in Japanese and have a Japanese spouse, kids, live in a tiny "apato" and eat rice every day, it might make you feel like an outsider. On the other hand, the smile and courtesy extended by many (because you are not asian looking) but not all can just make your day.

  • 0

    sfjp330

    Article states: I’ve been in Japan for 3 1/2 years. Generally speaking, Japanese people are prejudiced against foreign people who don’t look like Japanese. Japanese people think that no foreigner can speak Japanese. Staff at a bento shop that I’ve visited for 3 years still treat me like I cannot speak Japanese.” (Belgian man)

    Well same thing can be said if your a Asian in small town in midwest or east coast of U.S. The Japanese people are no different than South Korean or Chinese people in communication skills with foeigners. I don't see anything special about western or American people anyway. Most are very self centered.

  • 0

    sfjp330

    napoleancomplexFeb. 09, 2012 - 07:43AM JST. Compare that with Canada (where I am from and living now) and almost nobody thinks anything of you if you're not white. At first glance, most people would assume you are Canadian.. even if you're white, black, asian, brown, purple, whatever. Hell, even if you spoke with an accent it wouldn't make a difference.

    If your in big metropolitan areas like Vancouver, Ottawa, or Toronto, sure it doesn't matter. But if your in a small town like Kelowna with 90 percent white people, most people behave differently since you look different and at the same time, they are not exposed to other cultures (not necessary in a bad way).

  • 11

    Godan

    Why do Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners?

    Personally I find it odd that some will complain about people in Japan painting non-Japanese as being all the same and then turn around and use the same tactic to refer to/talk about "the Japanese".

    I would take these kind of surveys/articles more seriously if they stopped the generalizations about the people of Japan.

  • -4

    sau133

    "If your in big metropolitan areas like Vancouver, Ottawa, or Toronto, sure it doesn't matter. But if your in a small town like Kelowna with 90 percent white people, most people behave differently since you look different and at the same time, they are not exposed to other cultures"

    I can bet you anything, 99 percent of this "sample" group are living in Osaka or Tokyo.

    Love it that the "American man" thinks that Europe is a country :D

  • -3

    6wings

    As mentioned in some of the other comments, I think it's just a matter of experience. Although how one reacts depends on an individual's culture and personality etcetera, humans from any country might behave similarly when interacting with someone they view as exotic. Then over time and through experience we tend to adjust and what was once so near the "exotic" side on our scale of normality has shifted several notches in the other direction.

    The thing that can sometimes be tiring and difficult is having to go through the whole process of being accepted almost every time we begin a new relationship.

  • 9

    cleo

    I am a long time resident and am fluent in Japanese and have a Japanese spouse and kids, but I don't live in a tiny "apato" or eat rice every day. I don't feel like an outsider. I do enjoy the smiles and courtesy, and try to give as good as I get.

    Like Godan, I take exception to the loaded question. There is no such entity as 'the Japanese', nor is it true that 'the Japanese' change their attitude when they communicate with 'foreigners'.

  • 4

    Wurthington

    Me too... I've been here on and off for over 25 years and I actually feel very comfortable here. I'm American so it probably does make it more bearable since... if you're white in Japan... everybody thinks you're American. But beyond that I've no more problems other than what the ordinary Japanes guy or gal are living with daily too. Its not like some of the cultural differences don't bother me... but I often just chalk it up to ignorance.

  • 4

    my2sense

    Still trying to adapt since the Black ships of 1850... Tell you what Japan... Do what Singapore did and prosper. Think outside the box and let some people in. May I be the first gaijin in the DIET. JK...

  • 6

    John Constantine

    When I was in Tokyo there were several Japanese who came and asked to practice English. Each individual was polite and courteous and I never felt looked down upon in fact it was just the opposite. I felt special as complete strangers wanted to talk to me, I was honored. I will never forget the experience.

  • -3

    Elbuda Mexicano

    I think it is all case by case and sometimes some Japanese speak great English and are very happy to help out in English, but if they run into say Russians etc..who sometimes speak almost no English, well this makes many Japanese head spin and spin, areeee??? I can just imagine, but they have blue eye and gorudo hair! Why can they not speak English?? It always makes me laugh on tv shows, the Japanese tv directors try their best in broken English with Russian actors, and the Russians usually have no idea what they are being told in ENGLISH so I just tell them in JAPANESE what the Japanese tv/movie director wants them to do, you know, to save us all time and maybe money??

  • -10

    JapanGal

    Woman are jealous of me and guys are afraid of me.

    None of it bothers me nor my business.

  • 1

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Cleo, you are awesome! Loaded question, yes, indeed, took the words, or comments right out of my mouth?? Keyboard?? Not all Japanese are the same, I have run into my 90 plus year old neighbor, old Japanese man would salute me saying CAPTAIN, and then have nice conversations with me in ENGLISH, when he was young the Japanese Imperial Army sent him all over Asia, he seems to have really loved the Philippines, his eyes always get a twinkle in them, ah the good old days, when he was only 18?? and not 90 plus years old, but his kokoro very young, actually he passed away last year, I miss this ojiichan, real nice guy.

  • 4

    miyazawa3

    Of course, when Japanese are start communicating with some one , then they get to know that they are talking to a Outsider. who are Not familiar with their Japanese culture and customs. ( Even you speak perfect good Japanese , it does not matter. ) So they change or adjust their attitudes... it may be in Good or in Bad ways but it always depends on your (Foreigners) personality, and also your Response to them.

    This is same when Asians are in US...(Even most Asians I have seen speaks and writes very good English than born Americans.) so The language is not the only fact but the Culture, customs are also. And it is Natural, not only in Japan , any where in the world, perhaps even more worst in some countries.

  • -19

    j4p4nFTW

    Godan,

    Personally I find it odd that some will complain about people in Japan painting non-Japanese as being all the same and then turn around and use the same tactic to refer to/talk about "the Japanese".

    Great response.

    But as for the question. When Japanese encounter a westerner, we learned that they cannot speak Japanese, so it can be awkward. We have to speak the English with them. But many people cannot do it. In a group situation, Japanese may discuss TV program or music that foreigner cannot know about. So it is easier to stay together and not forcing a foriegner to lose face.

  • 3

    kurisupisu

    Do they?

    In the article there isn't one example of an opinion from a Japanese person on the topic!?!!?

    eto..........???????

  • 1

    Antonios_M

    The worst thing for me is being confused for an American guy even though i have black hair and brown eyes. The second worst thing (during the last two years) is getting all these "kawaisou" looks when i tell everybody i come from Greece. Of course, it's much better than the angry "Give-us-back-our-money-you-lazy-Greek" looks that i got in Northern Europe. It's funny because until three years ago, it was so cool coming from Greece: Orimpikku, Girisha shinwa, Sokuratesu, and so on were some of the words i was listening when talking with Japanese. Now, it is more like: "should i get you something to eat?".

    My point is that there are stereotypes everywhere. Personally, i don't mind getting treated as a foreigner as long as i get the thing done. I get along well with everybody and i never had any serious trouble (except a few bizarre cases, which are definitely an exception). I do mind though any lack of respect or professionalism from the staff people. Fortunately, though, service in Japan is still in a very good level.

  • 1

    ArchwayTowers

    I agree with Cleo and I think this is a very questionable article. Can we consider 'Why do English/ Americans/ Germans/ Chinese.....etc Change their Attitude when Communicating with Foreigners.?' The rules of this game don't simply apply to Japanese people and Japanese are no different from anyone else no matter how much one may disagree with their education system/ social structure and so on (smugly believeing we are somehow better and able to view and pass comment just because we are NOT Japanese and therefore much smarter). Why are we implying they are? For all the people claiming they are victimised/ excluded/ treated differently in Japan because they are not Japanese....well now you know what it feels like. I hope when you go back to your country you are able to offer a constructive view on this having understood what it is like to be in a minority.

  • 5

    choiwaruoyaji

    I think that for many Japanese, above all they need to know how to behave in a given situation. They need and want to know the rules that "govern" that situation or interaction. They seem to think that behavior and rules for almost everything are already decided, and they have to follow those rules. So if they encounter a situation in which they are unsure of the rules and fixed behavior to follow (for example meeting a foreigner) then they are at a loss and start to (potentially) behave strangely.

    I don't agree with the posters above such as Cleo who object to the question. If we can't have a bit of generalizing then this forum will be really boring and these threads will fizzle out like damp squibs.

    As long as we make our points using phrases such as "for many Japanese it seems that..." or "in many cases it seems that..." then I think it is fine to comment on this question.

  • 1

    mrkobayashi

    It is the same in almost any other country. People who don't look like locals will be treated differently or in a special way. I'm a biracial (Eurasian) American, but I often got the "wow, your English is really good" comments and the "you're the coolest Asian guy I've met." And this is in America, the supposed "melting pot."

  • 3

    Ivan Coughanoffalot

    I’d say the answer to this question lies primarily in the way Japanese are taught to interact with each other. A large portion of any exchange is composed of the ritualized recitation of “the correct thing to say or do”, rather than anything with any intrinsic communicative value.

    Witness a group of six people going to lunch or dinner. First they stand outside the restaurant, performing a display of perusing the menu and reaching a consensus that they’re willing to enter. Then before sitting, there is a choreographed ballet of “dozodozodozo” to establish who sits where. Then they will pretend to pore over the menu again, and agree that things look delicious. When the food arrives, it’s essential to remark on how delicious everyone else’s meal appears, and then comment on one’s own meal’s deliciousness, until the appropriate time to comment that they are full. It’s like a play, with pre-written dialogue.

    A non-Japanese tends to go in, order, and have a conversation. He’s gone off-script. Cue head-scratching, teeth-sucking and top-lip sweats from the rest of the cast.

    The reason Japanese often panic when required to interact with an outsider is that the outsider is expected to not know his lines, so the encounter becomes a form of improv, rather than the ritualised Noh drama of memorised minutiae.

  • -3

    Qaueckernaeck

    One of the best aspects of Japan, for me, is the fact multiculturalism is virtually non-existent (in a social context, not technologically of course). At times I nearly feel bad for messing it up. Wish human nature was more lenient towards change and differencee; if we could sponge up different perspectives and ideas more easily and ignore/lay aside what we have been taught; multiculti would have a chance.

  • 0

    FruitsBasketFan

    Most Japanese assumed that I spoke Japanese and thus treated me like one of their customers. Although, there were a few times when I misunderstood something or did not understand certain phrases.....but instead of trying to speak English (accept at the museum) like they do to whites and blacks.....they ignore me and made a face full of shock.

    I think the shock comes from that I have some Asian features, yet I do not have the Japanese speaking ability (I heard that certain amount of Japanese people look down at Asian-looking people, who are not Japanese, even more so).

  • -2

    nigelboy

    Why do Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners?

    In all likelihood, that particular foreigner doesn't speak the Japanese language well enough or doesn't speak it at all.

    Before someone counters with "That's not true, Nigelboy. I speak fluent Japanese blah blah blah", you qualify under "not well enough"

    As others have stated, this survey/article sounds like rants from your prototype disgruntled ex-pats who just like to blame everything on Japan for their own failures.

  • -24

    miyazawa3

    Always this kind of complains are coming, only from the western foreigners who lives in Japan.

    The Chinese , Koreans and other Asians lives in japan knows the truth and the reason behind this,

    Only westerner take lot of difficulties and lot of time to understand this Gap. Because their 3, 4 hundred years old History has nothing to compare with the 30, 40 Hundreds years old Asian History's.. this is something common to most Asian cultures, They are always rich with strong Cultures and so they have something much more than the Language..

  • 5

    Ayler

    So many Japanese men develop a sudden cough when talking to me. Must be something in the air.

  • 15

    Ayler

    Because their 3, 4 hundred years old History has nothing to compare with the 30, 40 Hundreds years old Asian History's.. this is something common to most Asian cultures, They are always rich with strong Cultures and so they have something much more than the Language..

    So only Asian countries have culture and history older than 400 years? I suspected history class in Japan was rubbish, is it true or were you just reading comics under the table?

  • -11

    sfjp330

    DogFeb. 09, 2012 - 11:05AM JST. Actually the reason for north east Asia being such a hotbed of racism, from Korean elementary school children being taught to hate Japan to Chinese claiming that the Japanese are devils, is because they essentially share a sino culture with minor regionnal differances.

    Northeast Asia is not much different than deep south with black and white U.S., South Africa, Europe or Australia. I don't believe this area is hotbed for racism. You look at Muslims living in Germany. I guess you have much to learn.

    • Moderator

      All readers back on topic please.

  • -3

    mctavish

    I have no complaints with the treatment I get here. I feel I'm 'accepted' to the extent I need to be while not expected to necessarily conform or understand and I appreciate the space that gives me. I have kids and naturally have a concern for how their experiences may be shaped by these things as they go through life, but as others point out above, wherever you might live there will be other people's hang ups to contend with.

    On a lighter note, I was intrigued to witness how folks here fell over themselves to 'communicate' with my father when my parents visited some years ago. He was like a magnet drawing young and old alike. Perhaps because he resembled Father Christmas?

  • 6

    Ayler

    belittling the culture and history of half the planet deserves a bark or two wouldn't you agree?

  • -1

    cleo

    If we can't have a bit of generalizing then this forum will be really boring and these threads will fizzle out like damp squibs.

    I would say it's the threads built on unfounded generalisations and assumptions that are the most boring. If they fizzle out, fine. More room for better threads about Japan as it really is, not as it exists inside the heads of a handful of people.

  • 5

    ReformedBasher

    "Why do Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners?" should be "Why do some Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with some foreigners some of the time?

    I always found that people in Japan who know me (big difference) treat me the same as everybody else. Unless they're a whackjob - than all bets are off. But seriously, do you want to deal with these people anymore than you have to?

    Hey guess what? Shields are up with strangers anywhere. It's normal.

  • 3

    Ben_Jackinoff

    Very strange question. People naturally adjust their attitudes and speech on the person they are interacting with. If there are cultural, age-related and language differences, these will be reflected in the attitudes and speech of the speaker. If they want to be understood, that is.

  • 2

    Ben_Jackinoff

    As others have stated, this survey/article sounds like rants from your prototype disgruntled ex-pats who just like to blame everything on Japan for their own failures.

    I disagree. I think it is a rant from a person who is tired of being treated differently because they are different. However, expected to be treated the same when you are not is rather unrealistic.

  • -17

    sfjp330

    Ben_JackinoffFeb. 09, 2012 - 11:36AM JST. I disagree. I think it is a rant from a person who is tired of being treated differently because they are different. However, expected to be treated the same when you are not is rather unrealistic.

    Don't expect Japan to change. You can always go back to your own country and be treated equally.

  • 9

    Ben_Jackinoff

    Don't expect Japan to change.

    Excellent job at missing the point. I don't expect or think Japan should change in this regard. Human being all react in pretty much the same way to new or different things. Try not looking for complaints where there are none.

  • -1

    Sarcasm321

    Ivancough has hit the nail on the head: so much social interaction is scripted in Japan and therefore "predictable" and "reassuring for the natives. Foreigners either don't know the script or have torn it up and are therefore "scary"...

  • 1

    ReformedBasher

    miyazawa3, your references to unfamiliarity with foreigners is true to a point but if you are alluding to the Sakoku period being responsible for Japanese people's hestitancy to dealing with foreigners, I should point that Japan had a much longer history of dealing with foreigners than not dealing with them. Also, during the Meiji and Taisho periods (which took place after the Sakoku period), the country was awash with foreigners who had been invited to perform services and were generally held in high esteem.

    Rather, the propaganda during Japan militant regime in the 1930s and 1940s would be more responsible. Fortunately that influence is waning due to the younger generation(s!) no longer being indoctrinated for last 60 plus years and the higher number of people thinking for themselves since the propaganda machine was stopped, including the wartime generation who worked things out rather than live in the past.

    My own opinion is that Japanese people (in urban areas at least) still saying they are not not used to foreigners is the same as foreigners whining they are victimised over the slighest misunderstanding when they are not. (Taking into account that some really are though, by people who are also considered idiots in their own country)

    It's 2012 already and if people (Japanese and foreign) bother to look, they will see things have changed considerably. Time to move on and start talking sense.

  • 4

    ReformedBasher

    nigelboy, I've witnessed a lot of foreigners who speak no or little Japanese be treated well.

    But I agree that any foreigner (in any country) must learn to speak the local language, if for no other reason than common sense. Still, I would think attitude between the parties concerned would have more bearing than fluency.

  • -2

    ReformedBasher

    Godan, well said.

    Ted Barrera, my tips for train travel are,

    1. Try to sleep or pretend to sleep. You'll fit right in and catch up on some zzzzs.
    2. Don't offer your seat. Pretend to get off instead. This can fail if somebody else grabs the sea though. But to be honest, and if you caught the train when you lived in Australia, I love how most people in Japan line up for trains compared to the barbaric scrum that occurs at stations in Australia, not to mention the lack of constant whining of who gets a seat.

    Fact - the train seats in Japan have more leg room than in Australia (at least in Brisbane), provided you get a seat...

    Even so, the trains in Australia and service in general, while far better than less-well-off countries is nowhere near as good as Japan.

  • 0

    nigelboy

    Reformedbasher,

    I wasn't talking about being treated well. The issue here is about being treated differently, me thinks.

  • -6

    horrified

    ReformedBasher-

    Fortunately that influence is waning due to the younger generation(s!) no longer being indoctrinated for last 60 plus years and the higher number of people thinking for themselves since the propaganda machine was stopped, including the wartime generation who worked things out rather than live in the past.

    I think it's time for you to come back to Japan and see what's up. The influence (anti-foreigner propaganda) is not waning, but rather gaining momentum once again. This is in part due to popular right-wing xenophobic politicians such as Tokyo Governor Ishihara. It's amazing to see their influence on people far from Tokyo, even. Japan has reached a low point once again in it's social domestic mindset.

    .

    Ivan Coughanoffalot -

    I d say the answer to this question lies primarily in the way Japanese are taught to interact with each other. A large portion of any exchange is composed of the ritualized recitation of the correct thing to say or do, rather than anything with any intrinsic communicative value. The reason Japanese often panic when required to interact with an outsider is that the outsider is expected to not know his lines, so the encounter becomes a form of improv, rather than the ritualised Noh drama of memorised minutiae.

    This is the most accurate description I've read about Japan's social structure in a long time. Japanese are too busy working extra hours for little pay (with the economic downturn) to communicate with someone who doesn't know their lines. So those who aren't racist, and really mean well, just don't have the energy to deal with people who need help to remember their script.

  • -1

    cleo

    On a lighter note, I was intrigued to witness how folks here fell over themselves to 'communicate' with my father when my parents visited some years ago. He was like a magnet drawing young and old alike. Perhaps because he resembled Father Christmas?

    I had the same experience when my Dad came over (a long time ago now), and he didn't look like Father Christmas. I'm not sure what it was, some mixture of curiosity about/sense of hospitality towards sensei's parent plus esteem for oldies plus fascination (fascinated horror?) at the thick Lancashire accent. Whatever it was, my Dad lapped it up and went back home thinking Japan was a wonderful place full of wonderful people.

  • -3

    incognito12

    The examples are whiny and petty. Some of these foreigners are the ones with attitude.

    Like the Danish guy below, for crying out loud.

    "Actually, it’s annoying when many Japanese people show me a product and ask ‘Is this product available America too?’ I have to tell them I’m not American.” (Danish man)

  • -12

    nigelboy

    “At first, I was happy when Japanese people gave me compliments like ‘You are good at using chopsticks’ and ‘You speak Japanese very well.’ However, now that I have been in Japan for a long time, these sort of compliments sound like that they are looking down at me.”

    Yes. They are looking down on you.

    本音: After all this time, You're still not good at chopsticks. Your Japanese isn't that good.

  • -2

    ReformedBasher

    @horrified

    I come back every year and stay for several weeks. So please give me a break.

    And Tokyo <> Japan. I've got friends from there but have no intention of ever living there unless I'm paid a good deal of money. On the up side, there is a dojo there I am very interested in.

    Good luck with Ishihara though. You have my sympathies, to the extent that you put up silliness in some shape or form no matter where you live.

  • 3

    smithinjapan

    nigelboy: "Before someone counters with "That's not true, Nigelboy. I speak fluent Japanese blah blah blah", you qualify under "not well enough"

    Nice try on a 'pre-emptive retort' to knowing that your statement is a blanket statement and therefore not correct in many situations, so I'll just say, "That's not true, Nigelboy". But not for the reasons you may think. SOME Japanese (not all) most certainly DO behave differently around foreign people. In many cases they go out of their way, at least on the surface, to try and help foreign people (particularly if they think/know the foreign person is new to Japan or seem lost, etc.) where they might not with other Japanese.

    Some of the quotations above do indeed smack of insecurity or a kind of negative reaction to what is perceived as different treatment, but different treatment DOES exist. The first person quoted who complains that the people at his bento store 'still treat him badly' doesn't seem to take into account the possibility they might trying to be making him feel more comfortable at their own expense, not trying to treat him differently, per se, or undermining his language ability.

    I LOATHE being told I use chopsticks well, or hearing the, "eeeeEEEEEHHHH??? You can eat raw fish?" or other statements I've heard in the many, many years I've been here, but in cases other than those where people should know better (ie. people I've known since coming here or soon thereafter) I always keep in mind, as others should, that for some it is the first time they've seen you as such (using chopsticks/eating sushi), and it's just a way for many of starting a conversation.

  • -4

    herefornow

    about Japan as it really is, not as it exists inside the heads of a handful of people.

    cleo -- if that were the case, you wouldn't be allowed to post here. Respectfully your situation -- educated foreign woman married to Japanese man with children living in the countryside -- is probably representative of about .0001% of the population of Japan. The reality of Japan is in the major cities where a young Japanese man, fresh out of a prestigious Japanese university, and employed by one of the major banks, told me, his his opinion, the world can simply be divided as "Japan and everywhere else."

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    What DOES bother me about how one might be treated differently by some Japanese is when a dinner party, or drinking party, or what have you, ceases to be a party with people talking, laughing, and drinking, and instead turns into a Q&A where the Japanese guests seem to form a circle and fire off questions they probably wouldn't ask each other -- in many cases very private -- and make very bizarre generalizations based on your answers. After years of this I'm a lot more selective about whom I visit for dinner and/or go out with, though there are the kind of 'obligatory' year-end parties I can't avoid. I realize these people aren't being offensive or intentionally intrusive, but it's not at all the same as if they were just at a party themselves, and hence the difference.

    I appreciate all the help, or attempted help, I get from the Japanese public, and likewise I have at times been exposed to the true feelings of some people who are not at all comfortable or welcoming towards foreigners (usually when they're drunk), but to say Japanese do not act differently with foreigners would not be correct -- at least in many cases, if not most. If there's an up side to this it's either that they act more as they would like to around you (as opposed to being an automaton at the office or home), or that they can learn through such exchange. So, try not to be harsh if you experience such differences. If you lost control or cry about how unfair it all is or discrimination because of Japanese acting different, chances are it's YOUR problem, not theirs, and it's YOU who fails to change/adapt and insistence on your way being the right way.

  • 3

    cleo

    herefornow - well all the time I've been here I've been educated, foreign and a woman, nothing I can do about that, but I haven't always been married to a Japanese man, haven't always had children, and haven't always lived in the countryside. Haven't even always spoken very good Japanese. So while I realise that my situation now may not be representative of the majority of fotb foreigners, I have trod much the same path as many.

    One young Japanese man, fresh out of a prestigious Japanese university, and employed by one of the major banks is also representative of no more than a very tiny percentage of the population of Japan.

  • 3

    iceshoecream

    The only attitude that really bothers me is when people hide behind the excuse of "sorry, but I'm Japanese so I'm not good at _____ or I can't _____(dance for example)."

  • 0

    Franchesca Miyara Yang

    cleoFEB. 09, 2012 - 08:40AM JST

    I am a long time resident and am fluent in Japanese and have a Japanese spouse and kids, but I don't live in a tiny "apato" or eat rice every day. I don't feel like an outsider. I do enjoy the smiles and courtesy, and try to give as good as I get.

    Like Godan, I take exception to the loaded question. There is no such entity as 'the Japanese', nor is it true that 'the Japanese' change their attitude when they communicate with 'foreigners'.

    Same here, you basically described my life in your post. Thank you Cleo, I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling this article is a joke.

  • 2

    Wurthington

    The funny thing with speaking Japanese... the better I speak the language... the less I'm complimented on it.

  • 5

    choiwaruoyaji

    I would say it's the threads built on unfounded generalisations and assumptions that are the most boring.

    I don't agree.

    Japanese friends and acquaintances who have visited my country often make generalizations about the people and their behavior... some of the things they come out with about my countrymen (and women) are very funny... hilarious even... and quite often they kind of ring true. Whatever, it always makes for a lively discussion. I don't think what they say is 'unfounded'. It's based on their experience. Extrapolating to the whole population may be taking it too far but I still like to hear what they have to say about my country and its people.

    I think most of us take people as they come. We know that generalizations should be taken with a pinch of salt. They are harmless and interesting. What's not interesting is a crotchety old-timer who thinks they know Japan and the Japanese better than everyone else and tries to put a wet-blanket on the discussion,

  • 1

    Maurice Wright

    Aside from the fact that this article lacks any input from "the other side", I can only feel that this is how they would feel should they travel to America, Britain, Russia, etc. Even in societies where cultural differences are taught I have seen this kind of treatment. Sadly, I live in America, and have seen Americans treat foreigners the same way (either intentionally or not I have no clue and will not be considered by me). This is more apparent when there is a major language barrier or one side has problems interpreting accents and dialect.

  • 2

    JapanGal

    It is not just adult to adult for the changes.

    All people around the world, and none excluded, talk to little children and pets differently too.

    It is part of human nature.

  • -2

    NeoJamal

    “Sometimes, when I see foreigners in Japanese dramas and animation, most of them seem stupid. It makes me uncomfortable if Japanese people think that foreign people are like that.” (American man)

    Not at all, doesn't this man pay attention to all the Hollywood TV and movies playing on mainstream TV channels and cinemas in Japan? Doesn't it strike odd that white people who make up less than 1% of the Japanese population have a disproportionately huge presence in Japanese media?

  • 8

    zichi

    All people talk differently to foreigners, than when communicating with their fellow citizens, especially when different languages are involved. For instance, when in France, people change their attitude once they know you're not French. This isn't just some Japanese trait?

  • 3

    sf2k

    hold your own in Kendo, that always goes over well

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    chouiwaruyaji: "Japanese friends and acquaintances who have visited my country often make generalizations about the people and their behavior... some of the things they come out with about my countrymen (and women) are very funny... hilarious even... and quite often they kind of ring true."

    This goes both ways, of course. The only thing that bothers me about when Japanese generalize about foreign countries and their peoples after travelling is when, while talking about being in that country, they STILL refer to the people of that nation as 'gaijin'. But lots of people here generalize as well, and worse yet, people in your native country and mine who have never travelled to or been exposed to Japanese country will generalize as well. I remember telling some people that I was coming here before moving and some asked me questions like, "Do you speak Chinese though?" or when I mentioned my girlfriend (at the time) was from Japan they would say, "You've got a Chinese girlfriend?" Pretty stupid, especially given that they are adults, but all they hear about or have been exposed to when it comes to Asia is 'China', so that's all they know. No different than what you describe, really, save that the Japanese in such cases have travelled (keep in mind it's usually in a J-tour, so it's like a Japanese bubble).

  • 6

    BurakuminDes

    “At first, I was happy when Japanese people gave me compliments like ‘You are good at using chopsticks’ and ‘You speak Japanese very well.’ However, now that I have been in Japan for a long time, these sort of compliments sound like that they are looking down at me.” (Australian man)

    A buddy of mine used to turn this around on the locals. He'd ask "Can you use a fork/spoon?" and look on in wide-eyed amazement when they said they were able to. Kinda freaked them out a little, and one or two got the irony! Turning around generalisations can sometimes be effective.

  • 2

    thepersoniamnow

    The Japanese language and culture is regulated by the Shi-Kata system. There is Shi-Kata for everything. How to behave, how to speak, how to move, and how to live. When you deal with someone (foreigner) who does not adhere, understand, or perhaps has not even heard of this aspect of Japanese culture, it makes your average person very nervous here. Probably mostly because if you in a system where there is something for everything, the only times when a Japanese does not know what to do or say, is often a uncomfortable time.

    Many people who come to Japan often feel the Japanese are very robotic. This is probably because they do not understand how the Shi-Kata system works. However if your brain and life is wrapped around a pre-wrapped system, interaction with a culture that values individualism, ideals, and independent thinking (just for starters) makes for a unusual interaction.

    I think that negativity that is drawn from these interactions (racism, stupid questions) is often due to how differently each party thinks and feels, more than hostility and deliberately trying to offend.

    -Japanese citizen who grew up abroad and is trying to make sense of his country.

  • 2

    tmarie

    I certainly get treated differently and any visible minority who says that don't or haven't is lying. Sometimes I get treated better than the locals, other times it is obvious I am getting treated worse. Take the good with the bad I guess.

    My husband is so sick and tired of the chopstick comments, the Japanese comments, the questions about my country, the questions about our marriage that he now starts giving it back and comments that they wouldn't make such comments or ask such questions to the locals so why on earth would they think it is okay to ask/say such things to me. Thank god for that because I am so sick and tired of the same crap that I no longer smile sweetly and say thank you when the person speaking to me CAN'T use chopsticks properly and keeps making comments like "zenzen daijobu".

  • -2

    Cos

    after 20 years here i am REALLY tired of the so called compliments on my use of chopsticks,

    I never got those compliments in many years. I wonder why. What do you guys call chopsticks ?

  • 2

    David Chiang

    Its funny. I am Japanese-American and when I am in America people treat me as a foreigner. They say things like, "Oh, you speak very well." Even though I was born and raised in America... This is one of the things that minorities and foreign looking people have to put up with. It may not make you happy, but suck it up. Japan being such a homogeneous country anybody that stands out is going to be spoken to differently.

  • 2

    David Chiang

    “Sometimes, when I see foreigners in Japanese dramas and animation, most of them seem stupid. It makes me uncomfortable if Japanese people think that foreign people are like that.” (American man)<

    This guy is an American man and he has a problem with Japanese media?? How about American movies and TV? How many stereotypes are created or strengthened by American media? Most of Japan's views on how Americans act are based on watching TV Shows and movies... A couple of years ago I brought a hispanic and a black friend to Japan and we visited some of my parents friends and they were scared out of their minds. She acted normally, but later when we were about to leave she asked me if they were in gangs. Now both of my friends are college educated and dressed nicely, but these images are the only interaction that many Japanese people will have with people of different races.

  • 2

    mtwildman

    I've been here on and off for about 6 years and have had zero negative interactions...yes the occasional obachan looks at me w/a who is that alien from another planet look, but generally i have never encountered any over the top bad vibes here...at the onsen i always get into interesting conversations and at my Aikido dojo all are always very friendly and helpful...Sensei who is almost 80 and very spry is always giving me info on the less available teachings of the art...of course it's not all roses but w/an understanding that we are guests here and respect the people and their culture difficulties should not a cause for problems.

  • -1

    avigator

    I will tell them I learned how to use chopsticks in China, (actually Taiwan), even though I was here already for a while. I just used forks. But in Taiwan I could not speak the language and there were no forks in the local market, so I had no choice.

  • -1

    Antonios_M

    The funny thing with speaking Japanese... the better I speak the language... the less I'm complimented on it.

    Haha, that's so true! Not to mention that everybody notices your mistakes, whereas before everyone said "Nihongo jouzu desu ne"...

  • 2

    herefornow

    cleo -- so what, you "trod the same path as many". But, not really. My fiance, who is a non-Japanese Asian, has lived in Japan 22 years, is a permanent citizen, and speaks fluent Japanese, still repeatedly gets stopped at subway stations by officials to show her ID. But when she is here with me in the states, she is treated like everyone else. Guess it boils down to whether you want to overlook and excuse a society where citizens can immediately identify someone as a foreigner, and then be forced to make a conscious decision on how to tteat them -- like running away from me when I stand on a subway platform -- or not. For me, ten years of that kind of treatment was more than enough. And, while your point about the well--educated young bank employee not being representative either is fair, you miss the key point -- He SHOULD be MORE open to foreigners and the outside world since he has the benefit of a superior education and a is employed by a global company. More imporantly, it is the men (mostly) like him who will be the future leaders of Japan, and who will be setting the tone for the society, writing laws, etc. I guarantee you there are dozens of like-minded guys at the Foreign Ministry and the Interior Ministry. And if that does not concern you, then I don't know what will.

  • -1

    Ah_so

    2% of Japan's population is non-Japanese and to tell you the truth the places in Japan, outside of the Dejima bastions like West Tokyo, that I've had the most difficulties, are the places where Japanese have the most interaction with non-japanese - Wakkanai, Otaru, Kushiro, Nagoya and Shizuoka.

    2% of Japan's population may be Japanese, of that 2%, probably 1.5% are of Korean ancestory living in quite concentrated areas. I lived in Niigata with a population of about 3.5m and at the time a known foreign population of about 3,500. It may have been a massive under-estimation, but it was never more than 0.1%, or 1 in a thousand.

  • 6

    DentShop

    The funny thing with speaking Japanese... the better I speak the language... the less I'm complimented on it.

    Incredibly true. If you can answer people where you are from, you get a "jouzu!!" if you warn your nieghbour not to park his car in your space anymore or you will start inviting his teenage daughter over for "coffee" - nary a compliment.

  • -2

    cleo

    herefornow - Subway station officials have no right to ask anyone for ID. If your fiance is Asian, how can they tell she isn't Japanese anyway? Because she's with you? What reason do they give for asking for ID? No one has to show ID to ride a train.

  • 0

    nigelboy

    SOME Japanese (not all) most certainly DO behave differently around foreign people. In many cases they go out of their way, at least on the surface, to try and help foreign people (particularly if they think/know the foreign person is new to Japan or seem lost, etc.) where they might not with other Japanese.

    smith

    This is true during the "initial" stages. But this again boils down to language ability. And this, I will say, is universal.

    Some of the quotations above do indeed smack of insecurity or a kind of negative reaction to what is perceived as different treatment, but different treatment DOES exist. The first person quoted who complains that the people at his bento store 'still treat him badly' doesn't seem to take into account the possibility they might trying to be making him feel more comfortable at their own expense, not trying to treat him differently, per se, or undermining his language ability.

    Again, not saying that "different treament" doesn't exist. Most of it has to do with that individual ability to communicate. And let's face it. Most foreigners, especially from Western nations, don't speak the language well enough. That's why such perception exists.

    I LOATHE being told I use chopsticks well, or hearing the, "eeeeEEEEEHHHH??? You can eat raw fish?" or other statements I've heard in the many, many years I've been here, but in cases other than those where people should know better (ie. people I've known since coming here or soon thereafter) I always keep in mind, as others should, that for some it is the first time they've seen you as such (using chopsticks/eating sushi), and it's just a way for many of starting a conversation.

    Sorry but I don't buy this at all. First and foremost, your first interaction with a certain individuals starts off with an actual conversation BEFORE the use of chopsticks. Hence, that individual can determine from the very start based on that conversation assess how long you've been here or how well you adapted here in Japan. Therefore, if the initial conversation leaves no doubt that you are fluent, the most you get out of it is "xxxsan wa nihon nagai desuka?"

  • -3

    BurakuminDes

    No one has to show ID to ride a train.

    I got stung being asked for ID on the Narita Express platform a few years ago. Are you sure whitey does NOT have to show it? Meanwhile, my lovely Chinese friend tells me she has never once been asked for ID in 9 years here in Japan...

  • -1

    Mr Sushi

    i LIVE in USA.. and i went to a Japanese market for various items and of course a pack of chop sticks.. the JP lady at the counter said to me... "You know how to use these?".... and i replied .. "Mochiron desu".... if a JP person would ask me this in AMERICA, i can only think how they would act if i went to Japan one day.. funny

  • 0

    cleo

    Going into Narita they ask everyone to show ID, foreigners and locals - that's because it's Narita and they're still worried about the anti-airport terrorists (and in recent years, common or garden terrorists). Security guards and police at Narita looking for suspicious persons are not the same as subway station officials whose job is to check your ticket, not your ID. If your lovely Chinese friend goes to Narita, they'll ask her for ID just like they ask everyone else. As a blonde, blue-eyed whitey, in 35 years I have never been asked for ID except in circumstances where Japanese are also asked for ID - opening a bank account, getting a credit card, getting documents from the yakuba, etc. And going to Narita.

  • 0

    BurakuminDes

    As a blonde, blue-eyed whitey, in 35 years I have never been asked for ID except in circumstances where Japanese are also asked for ID

    You've been lucky cleo. As a fellow blue-eyed whitey, I've been here for 7 years and been asked for ID in a few situations - waiting on the Narita Express platform to go back to Tokyo; walking from my apartment to the gym (1 minute walk); riding from the conbini at night. Not saying it stressed me out too much (except for the gym one when I did not have gaijin card) but it is interesting that in 9 years my Chinese lady friend has never been asked once on the street! It certainly does not worry me too much - just makes me curious!

  • -1

    MrDarryl

    I'm wondering why people think it strange that Japanese people change their attitude because they may ask questions or upon meeting a foreigner for the first time. I think most natives do this to foreigners of their own countries. Some of the mannerisms and customs of Japanese people don't make much sense to foreigners so they would require adjustment, if not explanation, anyway. Couldn't it be that the Japanese are thrown off a little by foreigners because of the lack of exposure?? It's not everyday that many Japanese communicate with foreigners. They see them a lot, but talking and interacting is a different story.

    On a personal note, I feel it is almost necessary to change your attitude towards anyone unfamiliar with a situation or unfamiliar to you in a situation. You must test the waters and act accordingly on a case by case basis. If, after a while, you still feel like you are being patronized after years of interaction, speak your mind (assuming you can) and see how differently the scene changes. All Japanese are not ignorant or slow. Many may not be accustomed to the situation at hand.

    I wonder how all of us word react when meeting pygmies in the rainforest of South America for the first time. JAT

  • -3

    Stormsilver

    Many Japanese can’t help it because foreigners in Japan are a minority. (Scottish man)

    How stupid is that ? Of course foreigners are a minority and thanks God it is ! If foreigners become the majority in Japan, then the Japanese are not at home anymore and it's not Japan anymore.

  • 2

    MASSWIPE

    "Why do Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners?"

    For the same reason that most white Americans used to change their attitude when they communicated with non-white people. Think of this comparison: If you are white (and I'm guessing most of you are white), try to imagine what kind of person you'd be today if every single significant person around you while growing up--your teachers, your classmates, your neighbors--had been white as well. Think of how much more blinkered, ignorant, and insensitive you'd be today had you grown up in such a strictly mono-racial environment. Think of how awkward and uncomfortable you'd find it to talk to anybody who wasn't white. This was the world as white Americans knew it well into the 1960s, before racially discriminatory restrictions on immigration were lifted and segregation was outlawed.

    Welcome to the world that most Japanese believe they grew up in (regardless of the demographic realities)--a one-race nation. But in good time, such attitudes will change, just as they did among white Americans.

  • 4

    southsakai

    After living in Japan for over 5 years now, i sometimes feel it's been a real roller coaster ride with the locals. Be really up and down at times. I've realized now Japan is one very unique country in how foreigners are viewed and treated.

    I've been to establishments where I have been completely ignored, even though i was in the front of the queue. The staff would not even look at me as though I did not exist. Strange. Were the racist or just nervous of dealing with a foreigner i don't know. But cases such as this is very rare.

    Most other times at business establishments I get pretty good treatment, some kind of a special treatment. and hey' I ain't complaining :)

    I don't mind Japanese people asking me if I can use chopsticks, do i know how to speak Japanese or it it okay to sit on the floor. I don't believe they're treating me immaturely. I think the other way around where they are being considerate to me and try to make things easy for me.

    For example people offer me a sppon or fork sometimes even though I can use chopsticks fine. I appreciate it and think nothing of it.

    Of course there will always be a few that try to mock you and look down upon you for being "Gaijin". This is unavaoidable and will happen in such a close knit homogeneous society.

    But i think this will happen anywhere, and actually I have lived in places like Canada and Australia, I have been in much worse situations because of my race where physical violence is common and comes to you naturally just because of how you look. Luckily this has never happened to me in Japan. Hopefully it never does. But i know all good things will come to and end someday :)

    I get stared a lot and in the beginning it was very annoying. But now it does not even bother me one bit. In fact when someone stares at me, I just look back and smile and it's all good. I even had people come up and talk to me and we became friends after.

    I love Japan and will be going nowhere. I've decided to settle in here now and make the best of it. These small things about how Japanese people view foreigners don't bother me anynore.

  • -5

    southsakai

    Wow my comment above full of grammar mistakes. 6am, i think i need a coffee to wake me brain up! lol!

  • -2

    southsakai

    ReformedBasherFEB. 09, 2012 - 11:56AM JST nigelboy, I've witnessed a lot of foreigners who speak no or little Japanese be treated well. But I agree that any foreigner (in any country) must learn to speak the local language, if for no other reason than common sense. Still, I would think attitude between the parties concerned would have more bearing than fluency.

    ReformedBasher you must be speaking of my type :) Well i agree with you 100% percent.

  • 0

    lrodriguezsosa

    Japanese people don’t study much about other races and cultures, do they?

    Because in the US people study a lot about other races and cultures, right? LOL

  • 1

    nigelboy

    I LOATHE being told I use chopsticks well, or hearing the, "eeeeEEEEEHHHH??? You can eat raw fish?" or other statements I've heard in the many, many years I've been here, but in cases other than those where people should know better (ie. people I've known since coming here or soon thereafter) I always keep in mind, as others should, that for some it is the first time they've seen you as such (using chopsticks/eating sushi), and it's just a way for many of starting a conversation.

    So to continue, any person that brings up about your ability to use chopsticks after the conversation simply means that the language ability of foreigner in questionis below par.

    The funny thing with speaking Japanese... the better I speak the language... the less I'm complimented on it

    @Wurthington

    So true.

    Furthermore, the better you speak the language, the less questions about your home country and dare I say more "normal" conversations.

  • 0

    DS

    A big part of the 'problem' is that Japanese often don't know how to talk to each other. A great deal of initial conversation between strangers (if it occurs at all) is stilted and uncomfortable until they can feel each other out, get information on each other's rank, age, status, etc. Once that is accomplished, they can select the correct language to use (humble, polite, honorific, etc) and get on with things. If you take some time to observe how the Japanese interact with each other, you can see this process in action.

    There is a lack of spontenaity (sp) in how things are done that seems alien to outsiders who are used to a different style of interaction. As others have said, ritual is important. In conversation, in manners, in how/where you sit, in how you deal with service personnel. It just isn't possible most of the time to have a casual chat with people you don't know- in line at the supermarket, on the train, etc.

    What others have said about treatment of genuine visitors is true, though. When my parents (retired schoolteachers from Canada) visited, they were treated with amazing courtesy and hospitality whenever they were out and about. They had people physically guide them to their hotel when lost, translate menus in a bakery, and take them to the correct train platform. So, for people who are obviously totally outside 'the system', Japan can be very comfortable. But those of us who are somewhere in the middle- look like outsiders, but can function more or less as insiders- cause a mental disconnect that short-circuits the locals.

  • 9

    yasukuni

    Okay, I'll offend the people who bash Japan here.

    I've never had a bad experience with police in 20 years. Once I was asked to show an ID card, but that was very politely. I like the idea of an ID card. Doesn't bother me in the slightest, in fact it's handy if you don't have a driver's license. People treat me nicely. Never had anyone yell at me. I've been stared at - but hey, I've been in Japan so long that I stare at gaijin and wonder what they do here. People stare at my kids who are haafu (and I don't mind). My wife sees other families with haafu kids and wonders what their story is too.

    I'm terrible with kanji -yeah, it's terrible (but I can hardly write English), and nobody complains if I write stuff in romaji. (Yeah, it's lame - I should be better.) But nobody complains. This country is great to foreigners!!

    As for speaking Japanese and people answering in English or changing ....well, that hardly ever happens, and when it does it's just funny. But here's the thing. Most people speak to me assuming I speak Japanese. And don't bat an eyelid. But, in my first few years, people spoke back to me in English and it annoyed me because I thought I was good at Japanese.

    but.....I wasn't as good as I thought I was lol So, maybe sometimes when you have been here for just a little while, the words you use are either wrong, unnatural, or your accent is all over the place that you may as well be wearing a banana suit.

    I've met foreigners who think they are great at Japanese because they know a lot of words, but the way they talk is just so unnatural - their intonation, but also the content of what they say.

    So, give it a few years, get better and better, and if in the meantime you have to put up with people staring, or kids saying hello, or people asking where you come from, just remember it's better than a punch in the head, or a knife in the back.

    Kind of amazed that with all the problems there are in Japan at the moment, there is still an article like this.

    Japanese are okay. And they have a lot of things to worry about now, so give them a break.

  • 2

    yasukuni

    Oh, same with Cleo. My dad came here, got a rail pass and travelled all over the place. He thinks the Japanese are the friendliest, kindest people on earth.

    If an old japanese guy went traveling in most of our countries we'd have to give them a "be careful of this, and don't do that" lesson.

  • 0

    tmarie

    The funny thing with speaking Japanese... the better I speak the language... the less I'm complimented on it. I find the better you speak it, the worse you get treated in some cases. You aren't that cute, helpless little foreigner that they can talk about in front of you, assume that you need their help... You become that foreigner who can voice your opinion and disturb the "wa" when voicing said opinion. Perhaps it is just a phase but I miss the days of smiling like an idiot and pointing to things and not being upset when people tried to speak English to me. Now? I spoke to you in Japanese, you obviously understood what I said but now you try it on and repeat my order back in Japanese - or worse yet, repeat it back to the Japanese person with me?

    If your fiance is Asian, how can they tell she isn't Japanese anyway? Indians, Vietnamese, Filipinos... All asian, none Japanese looking...

  • 0

    tmarie

    Back in English, damn it, in English!

  • 1

    tamanegi

    Great posts guys! As for me i just change my attitude when dealing with japanese. In Osaka where i have lived for many years i've learned manners and courtesy do not count. I am a total oyaji, pokerface, no please , no thankyou, i use zero english in public, when freaks want my attention i verbally berate them in loud osakaben and move on . I snap at bad service just like a local. All of this works for me and through this the locals don't have to change their attitude towards me one bit.

  • 0

    tmarie

    Tamanegi, I will say, snapping at them and being nasty like a locals does indeed get you what you want - I just wish I didn't have to go into my Osaka obachan character to get it done. Had a chat about this yesterday with a friend in Tokyo. She's Japanese and said the same thing. We don't like having to be a cow to the staff to get things done properly, but the way they train the staff here means that if something has gone wrong or there is a problem, the only way you get taken seriously is by being a cow. Or a man comes to the rescue. Both ways do my head in. I hate it. I have NEVER gotten angry with staff in an English speaking country. Japan? India? HK... Had to get nasty. :(

  • -5

    AmericanForeigner

    Yes tmarie, dealing with Japanese in the workplace can be a chore due to these communication issues. Keep your chin up and berate people when you have to. Believe me, it's the only way!

  • 3

    choiwaruoyaji

    As for me i just change my attitude when dealing with japanese. In Osaka where i have lived for many years i've learned manners and courtesy do not count. I am a total oyaji, pokerface, no please , no thankyou

    I can't agree with this.

    My parents brought me up to be polite and courteous. I hate losing my temper and always want to keep my cool.

    That's my standard and I will never change it for anyone.

    except when posting in JT forums :-p

  • 0

    HansNFranz

    I second the statement that Japanese who have stayed in a foreign (non-Asian) country for an extended period of time are much more interesting to communicate with. They are not only more natural and treat the foreigner as a normal person, but also the topic range can be much wider and divert from the usual "your Japanese is very good", or "Oh, you are not from America? I didn't know there were people from xyz in Japan." base.

    It has come to a point where whenever I encounter a Japanese person who has no experience with foreigners either by having stayed abroad or having had contact with them here, I try to avoid any communication going over the bare essentials, as I don't have time for that. I have also told people very directly that I'm not an English teacher when they clearly approached me to squeeze in a free English lesson in the elevator or wherever. I have to say I quite enjoy their embarrassment for being told off so "rudely" by their standards. They've got to man up a little bit and I'm glad to help them with it ;-)

    What I never get over is the fear in the eyes of older ladies when they see me enter the subway, the convenience store, or the coffee shop, and the move for their handbag to check if it's still there. That happens even when I've shaved and wear business attire. I wonder if they've seen The Ladykillers once to often.

  • 1

    Rank_Amatuer

    Well I'm going to japan next month for the first time with my two teenage boys, and as I only know japan as a neon lit world populated by Ninjas and schoolkids who have superpowers and fight with really BIG swords, im sure i will have some times when the Japanese people think I'm acting strangely.

  • 3

    Olrik

    Having visited Japan and dated several Japanese ladies I can confirm that we foreigners are indeed incapable of learning the Japanese language and customs, but do on occasion make acceptable mascots...

  • 2

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Part ignorance and part racism but most of the time it is not with evil intentions, but sometimes we have to be careful when you have idiot drunk Japanese who start spewing evil, vile, racist rants.

  • -4

    Tamarama

    Ah....really?! This is a load of cr*p. What do people really want from their experience in Japan? The same that they have in their home country? Do you want to become Japanese? If these are the worst things about living in Japan, then I have to say.....grow up, suck it up, and accept that there could be a whole lot more to really complain about than there is. People get treated like a foreigner because, well, you are a foreigner. You also have the great privilige of living in a wonderful country, earn, for the most part, a decent living and have a rich and diverse experience. I often wonder if these kinds of threads are a reaction by people from the mainstream middle class who are experiencing for the first time in their lives the experince of being treated as different. Kind of like an immigrant might in their own country.....

  • 2

    tmarie

    **I can't agree with this.

    My parents brought me up to be polite and courteous. I hate losing my temper and always want to keep my cool.

    That's my standard and I will never change it for anyone.**

    Sadly though, sometimes keeping your cool doesn't your broken thing fixed, your crap quality replaced... I don't enjoy but it seems that that is what you have to do sometimes to get the service you should have gotten in the first place. I worked in service for years and hate being the cow but if it means saving me 30,000 yen you're right the gloves are coming off.

    Part ignorance and part racism but most of the time it is not with evil intentions, but sometimes we have to be careful when you have idiot drunk Japanese who start spewing evil, vile, racist rants. Ignorance is never a good excuse though. "Sorry officer, I didn't know drugs are illegal here" doesn't work in court. Nor should claiming that they didn't know touching my hair and face is rude.

    What do people really want from their experience in Japan? Experience?? This isn't a ride or a trip to the zoo. Most of us on JT are lifers who just want to be left alone to get on with our lives, our jobs, our family like the locals do. We should suck up racism and discrimination? Would you tell a minority that "back home"? I sure as heck wouldn't.

    **You also have the great privilige of living in a wonderful country, earn, for the most part, a decent living and have a rich and diverse experience. ** The "privilege"? Many of us would make the same or more at home, are well educated, much more than your average local, pay a lot more in taxes than your average local and would scoff at the claim of a "diverse experience" based on where we came from and have been.

    I often wonder if these kinds of threads are a reaction by people from the mainstream middle class who are experiencing for the first time in their lives the experince of being treated as different. Kind of like an immigrant might in their own country..... Mainstream middle class folks don't often pick up and immigrant to a different country. Immigrants in our countries have laws to protect them from intolerance, racism and discrimination. We don't here. You need to stop thinking that some of us are here for a few years and will go home. I AM home. And would just like to be treated like everyone else. As I asked above, would you tell immigrants in your home country to suck it up? Would you tell them living in your country is a privilege? I would hope that you aren't that ignorant and can see the ignorance in your above post.

  • 0

    Rolf Schlumpf

    That one made me laugh: Japanese people don’t study much about other races and cultures, do they?” (American woman) ... Hmmm, they do in America?

  • 1

    Darryl Woodrow

    In all my times in Japan people have been very pollite or indifferent, which is nice, the only encounter with an impollite Japanese I have had was a taxi driver in Narita. We approached the taxi, he took a look at me and said [Take the bus, theres a bus stop near here] I told him that I was in a hurry and if he could take the quickest way. He then trned his rear view mirror to face up so as not to see me then took the long way to the hotel where I was staying (I knew it was the long way because the previous 3 times the drivers went a different, and cheaper route).

  • -7

    horrified

    tmarie -

    Mainstream middle class folks don't often pick up and immigrant to a different country. Immigrants in our countries have laws to protect them from intolerance, racism and discrimination. We don't here. You need to stop thinking that some of us are here for a few years and will go home. I AM home. And would just like to be treated like everyone else. As I asked above, would you tell immigrants in your home country to suck it up? Would you tell them living in your country is a privilege? I would hope that you aren't that ignorant and can see the ignorance in your above post.

    Wow! You nailed it head on, sister! Do we have to be tolerant of racism? If we truly love this country, then we owe it to everyone here to help bring them out of the dark ages of racism and ignorance.

  • 1

    Sierra Conyers

    Its all just one big modern mess. There should be no held expectations for Japanese to realize cultural competence when some other countries don't.. Like America (where I'm from)...I'll have a discussion with someone about asian culture, they automatically assume its Chinese based. As if, they havent seen countless numbers of symbols, or even heard diferent dilects and yet people tend to sum it all up with kung fu movies.

    I've lived in Japan for 2 years and I had to learn a few things involving the concept of communication. I have a low tolerance for things but I've grown a love/ loathe relationship on some factors Japan has. So if in fact they have the tendency to look down on ones abilities surrounding their cultural norm....its no different than "foreigners" dealing with Asians who are outside their cultural backgrounds.

  • 2

    Samantha Ueno

    I didn't really mind being different, used it to my advantage sometimes even, but sometimes I do just want to blend in, you know? I got to really like wearing masks on the train during flu season, for example. It would be hard to live somewhere where you will never really fit in for life. And think of halfy kids too....if they look too foreign they are treated like celebrities half the time and like disabled half the time. That's how I see it, and I love Japan but America may be the better way to go for my family.

  • 1

    FruitsBasketFan

    Most Japanese either would peek a look or talk behind a counter or something when they see a "hafu."

    And ask one another: "Is he or she a hafu?"

    I got that from time to time at times when I was over there.

  • 0

    FruitsBasketFan

    Mostly it is out of curiousity or amazement....but they did not approach me because it would have been rude (they assumed that I was a "hafu" who grew up in Japan and thus treated me like a regular Japanese customer by leaving me alone unless I ask for something).

  • 0

    Tamarama

    tmarie, allow me to respond to your post.

    Most of us on JT are lifers who just want to be left alone to get on with our lives, our jobs, our family like the locals do. We should suck up racism and discrimination? Would you tell a minority that "back home"? I sure as heck wouldn't.

    Did you receive a sentence in Japan, tmarie? Are you a prisoner of Yamato? You don't have the option to leave such a horrid place? Racism and discrimination occurs world wide. It would be nice if it didn't, but it does. Especially within pockets of a largely monocultural society. It would be the same if you were in China, or Iran, or Indonesia. I certainly wouldn't tell a minority in my country to 'suck it up' because, whether I like it or not, I can see that they go through it every day of their lives. Do I like it? Nope. Am I realistic about it? I think so.

    would scoff at the claim of a "diverse experience" based on where we came from and have been.

    I'd say you are so blinkered by your own bitterness and disillusionment at this point that you can't see the true value of your very experience.

    Mainstream middle class folks don't often pick up and immigrant to a different country

    That would be immigrate, and you are wrong. The middle class are usually exactly the ones who move, because they want to improve their lot and they have the wherewithal to do so.

    Immigrants in our countries have laws to protect them from intolerance, racism and discrimination.

    Laws are one thing, but social attitudes can be something entirey different altogether. I hear people like you complain about how hard life in Japan is, and all I can really think is you know nothing of true hardship in life. If this is the most you have to complain about, you aren't doing too badly at all my friend.

  • 0

    Lazzaris Alberto

    “Japan is not a country with many immigrants like America and Europe. I think many Japanese have a hard time >communicating not just with foreigners but also with other Japanese who are outside their sphere. That’s the ‘soto-uchi’ >concept.” (American man)

    I was wondering who told this "American man" that EUROPE is a "COUNTRY".

  • 4

    st240

    When I was younger, I didn't see many foreigners, except 2 or 3 generation chinese and Korean, around my house. This couple of years, more people come from overseas, and now I have no day that I don't see foreigners. I lived in Australia for 5 years, and now I know how to interact with people who have different culture, background, skin colors etc. I think situation in Japan will change in 10years, because more foreigners live around us, and we start realising there are many different cultures and thoughts in the world and have to understand them.

  • 2

    lumines

    I had an experience once with my boyfriend, in a small town. We got lost in our way to the Prefectural Office and it was getting darker (almost 5 p.m in winter). So we try to approach an old lady to ask for directions. She saw from a certain distance that we were foreigners (at least we thought so, because she look at us on the face, we don't have asian features though we are childs of Japanese), and she didn't even bother to look at us anymore and when my boyfriend tried to ask her, she made an angry face and avoid us and crossed the road! It felt like she thought we were going to steal her or ask for money.. That was a bitter attitude from her and my boyfriend felt outraged, it took days to take that image from him. Perhaps she just distrusted strangers approaching to her, but anyway, it was an isolated case for me. The other ones were little things, like people staring at us in the market/restaurants, etc., and though I don't like to drag too much attention, I got used to it.

    Some friends of mine also commented of cases when they went to certains stores, and they have been followed by security guards, or being stopped at the exit of stores to check out their bags (well, in that particular case, the cashier lady forgot to take off the alarm tag from the clothes). Affortunately they stil had the receipt, so they could prove they didn't steal anything, but it was an embarrasing moment nevertheless. Well, come to think of it, it could happen anywhere in the world, not only in Japan..

  • 0

    Jotter Verhaeghe

    This is a problem with no solution. Because foreigners are different, they also believe different treatments to be normal. The Japanese can never know what type of foreigner they are talking to. Foreigners who speak Japanese prefer Japanese, but regular tourists prefer English. (some Middle Eastern foreigners will not like to talk to women, others will talk a lot,...) The weakness of the Japanese system is that they don't change their attitude because of experience, but just remember: I helped a foreigner (or this foreigner) once like that and it worked, so I'll do it again in the same way. This means that they don't get more used to talking with foreigners. If you want to be talked to in Japanese, just speak Japanese to them before they talk to you and act like a regular customer. I'm blonde with blue eyes, but I hardly ever get talked to in English. Also never forget: you are always still a foreigner. Sometimes you will need the special treatment, no matter what.

  • 0

    peanut666

    There are two things gong on. First when foreigners travel to Japan they tend to be treated well out of respect and courtesy. In most other countries, especially western countries, people treat foreigners with neglect and often poorly. It is a common site to see a Japanese tourist asking directions in S.F. and the American person looks like they are in a hurry and yelling at the tourist in English and slowly, thinking that is going to make them understand better. Also, Japanese people tend to think most tourists are not culturally educated in speaking Japanese due to ignorance and poor education, so like a child, most Japanese will try and help.

  • 1

    Reckless

    Truth is most foreigners in Japan are rather well-traveled and international thinking. Therefore, it is a bit unfair to hold average Japanese to such a high standard. Same in the States, where I am considered a world traveler by my family, On more than one occasion, my uncle who served in Korean War and was a POW said "Jap" without thinking and without any ill will around my Japanese wife.

  • -5

    sfjp330

    RecklessFeb. 14, 2012 - 09:41AM JST Truth is most foreigners in Japan are rather well-traveled and international thinking.

    Truth is that most foreigners in Japan are misfits and rejects that cannot make it in their own country. They are nothing special.

  • 3

    Reckless

    sfjp330, please speak for yourself. I am sorry you cannot fit in. Perhaps a manner and social grace class would help. Think Dale Carnegie.

  • -5

    sfjp330

    Reckless, Facts are, most foreigners in Japan have long weak resume with constant changes of jobs. They have difficult time holding on to one job. Are you a misfit? Probably. Most of foreigners in Japan have gone from organization to organization searching fo understanding and truth and still have not found it. you talk about high standards, I guess this is your definition of high standards.

  • 0

    Wilke

    sfjp330:

    Fact is, most foreigners in Japan at any time are tourists on holidays.

  • -6

    j4p4nFTW

    @st240

    I think situation in Japan will change in 10years, because more foreigners live around us, and we start realising there are many different cultures and thoughts in the world and have to understand them.

    Japan must resist this change. I feel so sad when I see members of the younger generation who feel this way. Japanese have a unique culture that must be treasured, relished jealously and kept to ourselves. There is no need to waste one's time with other cultures beyond knowing their weaknesses for marketing purposes to sell them goods. The younger generation needs to ignore other cultures and focus on Japan.

  • 0

    serendipitous

    I think we all change our attitude depending on the individual we are speaking to at any given time. That is human nature. The looks, sex, accent, smell, and vibe of the person we are speaking to will probably affect our attitude towards that person. It certainly isn't only Japanese people who do it. Humans do it!

  • 2

    Thomas Smith

    Interesting. You can almost tell from the comments who's been here for more than five years or a decade or longer. Some differences really take a while to see. Tmarie's really nails it though, living in Japan is no privilege. This is my home, I just want the same respect others are afforded. Clutching your purse, making rude comments and laughing, closing the elevator door on purpose in front of me, running away just because i happen to be walking a street at night....these things happen rarely, but they do happen. It's not easy to shrug off and live with. Anytime someone rushes for a seat on the subway then realizes you are a foreigner and turns and walks the other way it's a reminder. And I'm a white male... Keep in mind it can be far worse if youre Latin, black or middle eastern looking.

  • 0

    Thomas Smith

    My "quoting" is not working well, apologies.

    >

    Always this kind of complains are coming, only from the western foreigners who lives in Japan.

    The Chinese , Koreans and other Asians lives in japan knows the truth and the reason behind this,

    Interesting this is not supported by my communication with nikkeiJin and long term Asian immigrants to Japan. Often the complaints sound quite similar. It may be a problem of Japanese "not hearing" the complaints honestly, not asking, or people I talk to trying to commiserate/form a collective conclusion however.

  • -6

    AmericanForeigner

    I think the Japanese will always consider us as foreigners no matter how long we live here or what we do to fit in. A woman I work with tried her best when she came over here, studied the language, did flower arranging classes and so on. Unfortunately she found out nothing really changes when a small child on the street saw her and said "hello". It was eye-opening for her at least.

  • -1

    sfjp330

    Many foreigners come to Japan for the opportunities. Though Japan had experienced a significant amount of migration in the last few decade, very little has change for J-government to relax immigration restrictions The J-government does little as possible to integrate its foreign population. Japan does not build strong links between immigrants and the local community and they want to keep it this way. The foreigners come to Tokyo and see such a high-tech, colorful city. They get this gleam in their eye, they say they want to move here. But setting up residence here is a completely different thing. Often, it just doesn’t make sense, so people move on.

  • 0

    Thomas Smith

    > sfjp330FEB. 09, 2012 - 08:08AM JST Article states: I’ve been in Japan for 3 1/2 years. Generally speaking, Japanese people are prejudiced against foreign people who don’t look like Japanese. Japanese people think that no foreigner can speak Japanese. Staff at a bento shop that I’ve visited for 3 years still treat me like I cannot speak Japanese.” (Belgian man)

    Well same thing can be said if your a Asian in small town in midwest or east coast of U.S. The Japanese people are no different than South Korean or Chinese people in communication skills with foeigners. I don't see anything special about western or American people anyway. Most are very self centered.

    It is not true that being Asian in a small town in America is like being a foreigner in Japan in that way. Being a foreigner in Japan is great orders of magnitude more difficult and uncomfortable.

  • -1

    Thomas Smith

    Love it that the "American man" thinks that Europe is a country :D

    He doesn't come off as very sharp. but keep in mind this article is translated and likely paraphrased.

  • 0

    Thomas Smith

    > Rolf SchlumpfFEB. 10, 2012 - 06:39PM JST That one made me laugh: Japanese people don’t study much about other races and cultures, do they?” (American woman) ... Hmmm, they do in America?

    Of course, as they do in most western countries. And growing up in a multicultural society you obviously learn a lot about other cultures.

  • -1

    Lazzaris Alberto

    This is a process. In the 60's, Indian people in UK would be treated very badly in the public. Nowadays you are going to read news like: A British man was kidnapped in Pakistan: "Paul Mohamed Kebab Allah", 38, was kidnapped by a gang of 5 year old gangsters....

    Or meet a black guy in the street who says: Good morning Sir, yes indeed it is a good weather for December, isn't it? Let's have fish and chips and a cup of tea.

    I believe in the future, my "kuru-kuru-blonde-hair-high-nose kids" are going to walk in the streets without knowing about this reality.

  • -5

    AmericanForeigner

    It is not true that being Asian in a small town in America is like being a foreigner in Japan in that way. Being a foreigner in Japan is great orders of magnitude more difficult and uncomfortable.

    Very true! I believe the struggles we face as Westerners in Japan need to be recognized much more by the international community as a whole and the focus can shift to what needs to be done to improve the situation.

  • 0

    Ianic Soledade

    Some of you have stated that you are "blonde haired, blue eyed, whitey's", and several others have claimed European descent. but I was wondering if I could get some input from any Black or perhaps Middle eastern or Latinio people who have gone to Japan and what they thought of how they were treated.

    I just ask because I am a Brazilian-American who also has African descent, but I have very Arab features (from my father's mother's side). I have always been interested in visiting japan and maybe staying there for a year or two (among other places) and want to know how the Japanese react to non-white or non-east-asian foreigners

  • -1

    sfjp330

    Thomas SmithFeb. 15, 2012 - 07:32AM JST. It is not true that being Asian in a small town in America is like being a foreigner in Japan in that way. Being a foreigner in Japan is great orders of magnitude more difficult and uncomfortable.

    Then tell me why only 4 percent of Vermont residence marry outside their own race?

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    Vermont is a race???

  • 0

    garomakaikishi

    what i found is if u speak japanese like a japanese (with japanese accent) they will always remember that. hence foreigners should brush up their accent!

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    nigelboy: "Sorry but I don't buy this at all. First and foremost, your first interaction with a certain individuals starts off with an actual conversation BEFORE the use of chopsticks. "

    You've never been to a restaurant, party, or person's house when they bring friends?

  • -3

    nigelboy

    You've never been to a restaurant, party, or person's house when they bring friends?

    Yes. It starts off with a "conversation". The use of chopsticks when you begin to eat.

  • 3

    echavez510

    I understand it can be frustrating at first for foreigners, but when living in Japan I needed to understand that many Japanese people were just as naive about "foreigners' culture" as I was about Japanese culture.

    These reactions toward foreigners are much more common in the outskirts of Japan rather than Tokyo, Osaka and any other "big" city.

  • 4

    chaschik

    I am not a resident of Japan but it my great hope to be soon. This website has been helpful in understanding better what kind of life to expect. But may I opine that whatever "foreigners" experience from the local citizenry is human behavior at its basic. That human beings have an Intrinsic response to things unfamiliar. It is not just a cultural response but rather a defense mechanism.

    In fact, what was described here is what happens in small towns in the US. I was a foreigner in a rural town in the South. As a teacher there I taught a Chinese exchange student whose first English was British(as in what is spoken in Hong Kong). He was completely lost in the rural South. He adjusted and earned the respect of many(including a retired Marine drill Sargent!). But the adjustment was not without some ugly events from the local boyos. He and I were very much alike. Both of us were outsiders. We both spoke a different kind of English. We were both perceived as oddities. And I am a Southerner. What it boiled down to was this: neither one of us were family with any of the locals. This lack of "acceptability" would isolate us no matter how much time we spent in the town or learned the local dialect. We both knew that the world is very big indeed. Yet family is all about separating who is and is not.

    I am not Japanese. I will never be Japanese. If I should live there, I will be grateful for any courtesy extended, biased or not. If the Japanese have quirks, well, sugah, so does the rural South and its residents. Don't get me started.

  • -1

    johninnaha

    A Japanese person years ago was surprised that I liked natto.

    Her comment was, "Are? Futsu no gaikokujin ha natto kirai to omotta!" (I thought yer average foreigner disliked natto!"

    I asked the obvious question - "What on Earth do you think a typical gaijin is?"

  • 0

    tomoki

    A typical gaijin is like a typical Japanese who do no like Natto unless they are accustomed to eating Natto at home. In some regions in Japan people don’t eat Natto. They typically don’t like Natto.

  • 0

    chris-kun

    Well, Im going to talk from my experience.

    I am from Puerto Rico (for those who don't know google it, we are part of the US and we speak spanish) and i've liked the japanese culture since i was 8 yrs old. Last year I was working at Disney in Orlando and I wanted to meet japanese people to share interests with. IT WAS REALLY HARD to meet japanese people, mainly because they like to socialize with each other,. I agree with the comments where many japanese dont communicate with foreigners because they are either affraid or just simply dont want to talk.. I dont know what it is with my lovely japs-- but THIS IS FROM WHAT I SAW:

    "If you know to much about the japanese culture (artists,shows,etc) its cool but you are weird, if you dont know anything about them you are more weird and inferior"

    Anyway, I made some good friends and I learned so much from them. But then again, i dont keep thinking much on the subject because the Japanese and their ''perfect society'' have their own views and like many other said, no country is perfect.

  • 2

    YuriyChekalin

    Everybody change when they talk to foreigners, Americans included. It's very simple: in another culture something you say or do might be considered insulting. So, you usually try to be extra careful with people from another country.

  • 0

    Thunderbird2

    I'm not a resident in Japan but I do spend long weeks in the country on my annual holidays. I have never been treated badly, and I appreciate it when people help me in shops or wherever as my Japanese is still quite weak.

    The only thing I don't like is the assumption that because I'm a westerner I must be American. In fact one old man who wanted to practice his English was surprised I was from Scotland... and then had to explain that the UK isn't called England.
    I've now taken to wearing either a Union Flag or Saltire somewhere on me so people don't assume I'm American.

    My ex (Japanese) has always treated me like an idiot though hahaha

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    nigelboy: "Yes. It starts off with a "conversation". The use of chopsticks when you begin to eat."

    There you go, you admit it. Good on you, for a change. Dabido wrote an interesting article that relates to this a couple of weeks back and talks about how psychologists and other scientists have come up with the term 'microaggressions' to label this kind of questioning by most Japanese when they first encounter non-Japanese -- be it "eeeeEEEEEE?? You can use chopsticks???" or, "You speak Japanese so well!" when you only say hello, to personal questions about your house and home. It's used, consciously or not, to 'keep you in your place', which is to say, the questions are intended to separate you from the Japanese and keep you as an outsider by questioning differences, pointing out you do something as well as they should all 'automatically' be able to do because they were born here, etc. It has nothing to do with language skills, as you have tried to pass off for most of this thread, although admittedly lacking he proper language skills would certainly make it easier for people to alienate you.

    In short, they feel threatened, whether they know it or not. This is Japan... THEIR home, not yours! So these monotonous questions are a way of coping with the insecurities of a lot of people here.

  • -1

    cleo

    Yesterday I was down at the allotment with a friend when a rice-farmer type who appeared to be about 450 years old strolled over. We chatted for a while about the weather and how it was affecting the tomatoes, what was the best fertiliser to use on the cucumbers, when to plant the lettuces out, etc., etc., ..... then he suddenly looked at me funny as if he'd only just noticed and said, 'Gaijin?' My friend quickly corrected him with 'Gaikoku umare no kata desu, koko ni naganen sunderasshaimasu yo' (She's a respected foreigner, lived here a long time.) It was very strange; we'd been happily talking for some time, and suddenly he decided I didn't understand any Japanese and started asking my friend about me. 'Ame-chan? Nande koko ni iru no?' (She American? What's she doing here?) I did all the answering, but still he insisted on asking her. Very strange. Haven't had that kind of reaction in a good 35 years. My friend and I had a good laff after the old bloke wandered off.

    I think it was perhaps the furrin courgettes and herbs that blew my cover. Or maybe it was my incomprehensible insistence that I was not intending to put chemical fertilisers on my organic veggies.

  • -1

    nigelboy

    There you go, you admit it. Good on you, for a change. Dabido wrote an interesting article that relates to this a couple of weeks back and talks about how psychologists

    Yep. It's called "small talk". In my experience, the "use of chopsticks" comes when it's clearly evident that the other person are still having trouble talking Japanese. If this is happening to you, you know you got a lot to work on. Like I stated previously, if your initial encounter and conversation leaves you no doubt that you are fluent, the most likely question are "XXsan, nihon niwa nagai desuka?"

    Keep working smith.

  • 0

    Thomas Carroll

    Went to Japan in the '80's with a Japanese friend, spoke very little Japaneses then, most learned from Aikido classes, hanging out with Japanese people in restaurant. Three weeks of fun, someone in Osaka asked me for directions on Roku-Jo, funny! Rode on the sleeper train from Kitakyushu to Tokyo, had a great conversation with a schoolteacher in my limited Nihongo. Had a lady run away from me in Osaka when I was lost and asked for directions. The people in my friend's town treated me as a celebrity, nearly got into a fight with a guy who asked me if I was a gaijin, when I replied " Onatta mo desu ka?", he was ethnic Korean! Went back with NY Aikikai 10 years later, got turned away from restaurant I had been to before, asked to sit with my friends, just have a beer with them, owners realized I was with Aikido tour, served me free food, guest bought drinks, of course I had to return and bring more paying guests! Third week in Japan we went looking at castles beginning with Osaka Jo. I would live there if possible!

  • 4

    ミチル花子

    Try being half Japanese growing up in Bakersfield CA. I was called a sinner as a child because my name wasn't "American". I was treated differently, Looked down upon, suffered prejudices and exclusions from a lot of people. I managed to have a few wonderful white friends. I also had a black Italian friend who also suffered great prejudice. Seriously, if you are different I don't think it matters if you are in Japan or any other county, you will most likely be treated differently. As an American in England, I noticed I was also treated differently by some people as well, I heard a lot of, "damn Yankee". Ignorance, prejudice and fear knows all races. It is not exclusive. At least in Japan there was courtesy, it may not seem like it to some people, but realize that the intent is not to be disrespectful. I can't say that about a lot of other places. So, that's my two cents, take it for what it's worth.

  • -2

    palanteboricua

    I was forced here, my japanese wife decided to haul her tuss with our kids and never look back!! Well, that was not going to happen on my watch!! Came and WHAM!! Hugh culture shock. No language, no customary manners, no nothing!! When I first faced Japan, all hell broke loose!! Surprised to learn japanese were VERY friendly but NOT sociable at ALL with foreigners!! And they intend it that way. RIde any public transport, and automatically none sat next to you...WHY (I asked myself)? Stand in a non-file line to pay for things, staff ignored you and handled their own till they were left with no choice but to DEAL with you...How come? Learn a few phrases to get by, they treat you as a MIRACLE - giving the impression you are NOT capable of learning their language....not to mention 30 to 40% of their vocabulary uses apologetic words. Well, yes....the first years (three to be exact) were P A I N F U L. Today, I have stressfully survived their day-to-day rejections. One thing I have learned for sure - Once an outsider - ALWAYS be viewed as an OUTSIDER!! Unless your financial credit standings speaks louder than words!!

  • -3

    palanteboricua

    but...I got news for you, JAPAN. It's only a matter of time (15 to 20 years when your aging population fades away) that major japanese corporate companies will be forced to hire foreigners to maintain their domestic and overseas operations since their young business japanese working force has no desire to learn a second language and wish not being posted in other countries. Their inward-looking lifestyle wants "an vogue, yet ordinary japanese life" and, on a personal note, good luck with that.

  • 2

    MokiDugway

    I would rather sit through the tedium of being asked if I can use chopsticks than sit through the tedium of listen to yet another gaijin whinge about being asked if he or she can use chopsticks.

  • -8

    Thomas Anderson

    Sieulos

    Rather than having every country of the world become like the USA, with a melting pot which is, in the end, not a true melting pot, it is better to let every country keep its own culture and people.

    It's funny because Japan is the exact opposite of this. Japan absolutely DOES NOT let other people keep their own culture. Yet paradoxically, Japan also imports some aspects from other cultures. Japan is more "Western" now than it has been in the past.

    Biologically, humans are divided into races - it is something we cannot deny -.

    Biologically, different races have very little genetic difference.

    Asians, Europeans, Africains, Indians, every race has a different mentality when they are born.

    Lol, you absolutely can not prove this. Sorry but saying this makes you sound like you are from the 1900's...

    If there are too many foreigners, Japan will not be the same Japan as today and will become like the USA, a divided country where communities don't get along with each other and even fight.

    Are you saying that the Japanese never fight among themselves? Bollocks, and it sounds like you're idealizing the homogeneous culture too much, which also has its own problems just like in the USA.

    The answer to this dilemma is obviously to promote tolerance, which is what you aren't doing. You're just making a bunch of assumptions that homogeneous cultures are always peaceful and do not fight, which is false.

    We live in a period of peace, but there is something to always remember : In the history of mankind, excessive immigration has always brought many wars.

    Sigh... I guess you're a hardcore far-right like Breivik...

  • 1

    keebod

    A Danish guy whines he get frustrated that Japanese people think he's American, and he has to correct them every time that he is not an American but Danish.

    Well, anyone who has got small eyes, and short in height must be chinese, and probably a ninja or kung-fu maestro? Do you think westerners have the skill or even awareness to differentiate Asians individually based on their country of origin?

    bollocks

    That's Brit. How about the typical stare at anyone brown skinned when in UK countryside?

    Hey! I know I speak fluent Japanese! Still the Japanese people treat me different

    Indian Accent mocks and jokes are conveniently forgotten? You can discriminate people if they speak with a different accent, but you don't expect you should be?

    Western characters in Japanese media are portrayed as idiots

    Exactly the same treatment given to Asians in hollywood movies, unless it's an asian themed movie.

    Random show your ID scenarios

    LOL. How about the 'truly random' check if you look like an arab/pakistani/indian/bangaladeshi?

    Europe isn't a country, goddamit!

    Asia isn't as well. So, you would definitely address each asian based on their country of origin, and not continent?

  • 0

    George Nishitani

    No different than the average day for a minority in the U.S. I've always found this very ironic when I was living in Japan. The only difference is at least the minority group in the U.S tries to speak English instead of trying to infest their language English on them.

  • 1

    Lew Archie

    What is the problem! The locals are anticipating that we don't speak any Japanese, and this is totally understandable as most of us don't. We get complimented on our limited use of Nihongo, we get complimented on our use of chopsticks and some of us take it as some kind of insult. Please people, lets not screw up Japan the way we have screwed up our own countries ie; Australia, GB, USA and so on. Political correctness doesn't need to infect every nation.

  • 0

    lgjhere

    A great new book that explains differences between America and other cultures, especially Japan, - "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to understand crazy American culture, people, government, business, language and more."

  • 0

    LivewithNature

    It's just a cultural shock and it probably what foreigners feel when they live in the countries where these commentators are from. It's a good opportunity to open one's eyes from third party's point of view and a challenging experience to start new life isn't it?

  • 0

    Susan Klee

    The times I've visited and taught in Japan, I've found that most Japanese are usually amazed that (1) I know a little of Japanese history; (2) I know a little about Japanese art; (3) I can eat with chopsticks; (4) I like sake; (5) I know the difference between Hokkaido and Honshu . . . you get the picture. We see what we know. Most Japanese are insular: "insula' = island. Therefore, they assume that people from other countries also know little about the world. Therefore, they are surprised when those others know anything of their nation.

  • -1

    Bonsaiii

    I just found this article so I'm a year too late.

    @napoleancomplexFeb. 09, 2012 - 07:43AM JST

    ***Shima-guni syndrome?

    In a nutshell.. no immigration.

    99.9% of the people are Japanese so dealing with foreigners for most is a rarity. I would believe that many have no idea how to deal with a foreigner in their midst, not in a mean way.. but more so of language/cultural barriers and possibly just ignorance (which is kinda mean..). I've been in several situations when I lived over there when I was the only non-japanese person in a group and people were freaking out if I could understand what was going on, if I knew how to use chopsticks, if I was okay with sitting on the floor.. stupid things, complete nonsense and an almost childlike innocence from them. Annoying as hell but I accepted it.

    Compare that with Canada (where I am from and living now) and almost nobody thinks anything of you if you're not white. At first glance, most people would assume you are Canadian.. even if you're white, black, asian, brown, purple, whatever. Hell, even if you spoke with an accent it wouldn't make a difference."***

    As an Asian living in Canada(Toronto) all my life, you have NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE SAYING DO YOU? Telling everyone on this site that Canada is a wonderful country is a a outright LIE. Canada is a wonderful if YOU'RE WHITE. Do you have any idea how RACIST TORONTO IS? Toronto by far is one of the most racist city in the world, not to mention dirty and smelly, do you know what happened in Toronto in the summer of 2009 for 6 weeks?

    Ever heard of the Macleans article called "Too Many Asians"? It's not something you would proudly want to tell your Japanese friends about.

    http://www.straight.com/news/henry-yu-macleans-offers-nonapology-writing-nonstory-called-too-asian

    AND NO, MOST white people in Canada do not assume you're Canadian, even if you're if you're ASIAN, BLACK and BROWN, that's a outright LIE buddy. MOST White people in Canada think ALL ASIAN LOOK ALIKE, and MOST Asians are Chinese. They also think that most Asians can't speak English. Sorry to spoil the truth, but ASIANS are second class people in Canada. That's the damn truth and you can take that to the bank. Give me a million bucks you'll never see me in Canada for another day.

    Now, regarding the article, not much of an article to begin with. All I see are westerners complaining about Japanese. The truth is westerners should be really complaining about themselves. Yes, it's not a lies to say most westerners that comes to Japan DON"T SPEAK Japanese. How do you expect Japanese to talk to you if you don't even bother to learn the local language? And NO learning how to say "Konnichiwa" and "ME NO Americanjin" does not mean you can speak Japanese.

    This is some garbage double standards westerner have about Japanese. They're expecting to be treated like GOD, in a foreign land, when they don't even both to learn the language or know about the cultures. Then cry about in Japan Today.

    Do the Japanese a favor and GET OUT OF JAPAN.

  • 0

    lucabrasi

    Learning Chinese is a lot easier for Japanese because they already understand the structure.

    Don't know about the rest of your post, but this isn't true. The structure of Chinese is far closer to English than to Japanese. The one advantage for Japanese is the use of hanzi (kanji), which they can already read.

  • 0

    marcomundo

    jananese people living in japan are not faking their niceness. The japanese treat foreigners the same way they treat their good friends. I'm an american, born and raised in los angeles, and I know how skeptical we are of strangers. Some cities in the US are friendy like Chicago, believe it or not. It just depends on the general history and social makeup of each city. I believe this is probably true in Japan also. I found Japan very friendly. I had a japanese born and raised girlfried. She was extremely friendly. When in okinawa I couldn't believe how nice everyone was. Including Americans living in Japan. I guess it depends on how you see things.

  • 2

    Paul Martinforeign correspondent

    Paul Martin says

    11/23/2013 at 10:44 am

    I live in Japan, My Sons are married to Japanese and my grandchildren are part Japanese. I am a foreign correspondent, former top British dj in America and Australia. I have lived all over the World. At 73 I have had enough experience as a World traveler and single father to know about the differences in countries. There is racism in every country, in the US for example there has always been separation by race, nationality,education and affluence. Where Singapore, HK, Korea and Taiwan. Japan has always been a completely different place to all the others though. There is a huge separation between the older Shinto leaning Japanese who still cling to the traditional Japanese ways and younger Japanese, many who have traveled, lived in and schooled in Western countries and many more who are married to gaijins, foreigners and who are a lot more open minded than their parents and grandparents,etc. I do NOT think that MOST Japanese are racist or anti-anyone, I believe a lot of it relates to NOT wanting foreigners to IMPOSE their ways or try to CHANGE the Japanese way of life which is rapidly becoming more Westernized as it is ! It is true that the wealthy, older property owners do NOT want to rent to foreigners and that the right wing politicians are determined to keep Japan Japanese and NOT multi cultural ! But it is a VERY safe and HONEST country and MOST Japanese have always been friendly, helpful and polite towards me and my family, so overall it is still a good place to live for everyone !

  • 0

    lgjhere

    A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that helps explain America is "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It paints a revealing picture of America for anyone who will benefit from a better understanding. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also informs those who want to learn more about the last remaining superpower and how we compare to other nations on many issues, Including Japan. I'm not sure the comments directed toward Japan are not applicable to other countries as well. The people there are very friendly toward foreigners, as I learned in the subway when I tried to get the gate to open and a dozen people came to my aid along with the station attendent to fix the turnstile. In two weeks travel there, never once did I see any grafitti or litter, nor did I hear any horn honking. It is a most traditional and respectful society, something that most countries could use a good enfusion of, including the US. Here’s a closing quote from the book’s Intro: “With all of our cultural differences though, you’ll be surprised to learn how much…we as human beings have in common on this little third rock from the sun. After all, the song played at our Disneyland parks around the world is ‘It’s A Small World After All.’ Peace.”

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