Life in Japan

A German Alien in Japan – Introduction

Hello and welcome to the brand new blog series smilieA German Alien in Japansmilie aka “Life as a foreigner in Japan”.

Being a foreigner in Japan has its good and its bad points and I’m sure everyone who has lived in Japan for several years like me has their own experiences and strange encounters.
I always joke about it, but actually it’s the truth: By now I could write a book about all those experiences.
Instead I decided to share my experiences as a foreigner in Japan with you in this new blog series. smilie

 

PURPOSE:

I think and hope that this will be an interesting series for anybody.
For people who live or used to live in Japan, for example. I also love to read about other people’s experiences concerning life as a foreigner.
I’m going to share some of their sugar cream with you soon, too! smilie

I also think it’s important to know for people who intend to come and live in Japan for however long!

As a tourist, it’s maybe not necessary, but sometimes it will help you understand certain situations better and deal with them accordingly.

 

TOURISTS IN JAPAN:

When I first came to Japan in 2007, it was as a short-term tourist.
Of course I read stories about a few things concerning Japan and so I felt prepared.
One thing was that they’d stare at you like WOAH, but at that time I didn’t recognize it at all.
I was almost disappointed at the lack of staring. smilie
Yes, they did stare, but not much.

Why is your experience as tourist often so much different from people who actually live in Japan?
Well, there might be many reasons, but I think it’s because most of you (esp. for your first visit) choose the major tourist spots such as Tokyo or Kyoto.
Naturally there are a LOT of foreign visitors and Japanese people there are used to seeing foreigners. They even expect foreigners to be there.
Thus, there will be much less staring.
Then, if you’re like me, you’ll be so fascinated and in a dream world and stare at all the awesome things around that you always wanted to see and now they’re RIGHT in front of you that you just won’t notice people staring at you. smilie

Generally you’ll experience Japan in a different way as a tourist. It’s not only the staring! It’s EVERYTHING!
Let’s face the truth, most tourists who come to Japan speak no Japanese or very little. And that’s okay, because they’re just visitors.
Japanese people know that, of course, and try hard (or sometimes just avoid you because they have no confidence in their language skillssmilie) to communicate with you in English.
As long as you are a non-Asian foreigner, they will think that you can speak English ONLY. They won’t ever expect you to be able to speak Japanese.

However, that’s okay. You are just a tourist!
If you answer in broken Japanese, they will be super happy and won’t ever stop to praise your “awesome” Japanese.
After a simple “arigato” they’ll enthusiastically shout out a loud “Sugoi! Nihongo jouzu!” (Wow! You’re Japanese is sooo good!!”) smilie
And you might be smiling and happy like a little child.smilie

 

FOREIGNERS IN JAPAN:

Ok, so now imagine you are a foreigner living in Japan! Imagine you’ve been here for many years and you speak Japanese (almost) fluently.
Imagine Japan has become your second home. You have a car, an apartment, health insurance, you pay taxes, buy your food in the supermarket just like everybody else. You separate your garbage properly and bring it out in the early morning.
You’re NOT different from anybody else living here ………………… you’d think!
But you still are a foreigner! And being a non-Asian foreigner, everybody can tell IMMEDIATELY that you are NOT Japanese.
Even worse if you are TALL, you stand out even more. Maybe you’re even black or you have blonde hair and blue eyes? Oh Jeez! There we go! smilie

To the Japanese you’re just that, a foreigner.
And in their mind at least all Western-looking foreigners have to be from America and thus speak English, but surely no Japanese.
Most of the time, they will treat you exactly like those tourists.
After a simple “arigato”, they’ll scream in joy and praise how great your Japanese is. And you, you get annoyed. smilie
They will clap their hands when they notice that you can use chopsticks or like to eat natto or goya. smilie

Conversations will most likely start like this:
Random Japanese person: “Haro, whea aru u furomu? (*Hello, where are you from?) American, yes!!?”

Now, it’s all up to you how you react to that. I don’t know how or what other people answer.
Most of the time the foreigner actually WILL be American or at least form an English-speaking country, so the Japanese have their point in expecting that. It’s simple mathematics, statistics.
However, in my case it’s different!
I AM GERMAN!

I never cared much about my nationality AT ALL before I came to Japan. I might be writing more on this some other time.
However, being expected to be American annoys me for some reason. No offense to American people, it has NOTHING to do with me not liking American people or anything. smilie It’s just being thrown into a pot I don’t belong to. Do you get what I mean?

Usually I answer that kind of “question” in Japanese.
Whenever somebody approaches me in English I either don’t react at all, esp. when they shout something from behind (I mean how should I know they’re talking to me, right? Just because they’re using English? So what?) or I answer in Japanese!
The kind of faces you get to see, shocked, amazed, perplex etc. are all worth it, but I’m not doing it for the faces.

I live in Japan. It’s just normal to study the language of the country you live in, right? Especially if you want to stay for a certain time or maybe forever. Well, for me studying the language was ONE reason why I came to Japan in the first place. I’ve never been in Japan without at least knowing some basic words and phrases anyways.
And then I also don’t understand why we should communicate in English when this is Japan and I live here and they live here and English is neither their nor mine mother tongue. It just doesn’t make sense at all! smilie
So usually – outside of work – I don’t use English at all! smilie
And it works well because their English level is usually very low and my Japanese – while far from being perfect – is always good enough.

 

Some foreigners ruin it for the rest of us!

I don’t understand those people who have been here for much longer than me but only speak basic Japanese if at all. smilie
Many of those people are married or have at least a Japanese partner and plan to stay long-term.
Why don’t these people have any motivation to study the language of the country they decided to stay for possibly the rest of their lives?
I know some of those people very well. Some of them can’t even communicate with their own kids because the kids speak Japanese much better than the other language (whatever it is).
And it’s not only the language. I experienced it every day, with my previous co-workers for example.
Whenever I asked them something (e.g. where to get a credit card from, how to do this and that) – because I thought they’d been here longer than me, so they should know it (right?!), they just said that they have no idea because their partner did all of that for them. smiliesmilie

Now, I tried to avoid using gender specific words in the last paragraph, but to be honest 90% of those people ARE men. Foreign men. Foreign lazy men.
I know they’re busy. They have a family and their work, but they’re in Japan and it’s really EASY to get LOADS of input and improve their Japanese – at least orally (not talking about studying kanji).
They have a Japanese wife at home. They have a perfect setting for studying and progressing fast, but they prefer to use English with their wives because “it’s easier” … yeah, easier for them!!!!! smilie

Japanese don’t always have a “good image” of us foreigners.
For example, we stink, we are dangerous, we keep a gun or a knife with us all the time, we cannot eat with chopsticks, do not like Japanese food (esp. natto, raw fish, anko, senbei etc.), are loud, rude, tall and because we don’t know and understand the Japanese culture we have no common sense. Furthermore, our brains are inferior to the Japanese ones which is why it’s impossible for us to ever master their language.

That’s why – depending on your outer appearance, of course – people might change to the other side of the road, won’t sit next to you in the train – even stand up when you sit next to them – and why life in general can be really difficult for us sometimes. smilie
By difficult I mean that apartments are more often than not, not rented to foreigners. Most of the time it will be the company you work for that has to rent it.
Why? Well, because foreigners are loud, will have loud parties every night, won’t know how to separate the garbage properly, and and and …

It can be very difficult to get a proper credit card in Japan – even for people who have been here for more than 10 years.
There are restaurants, hotels and other establishments that won’t let foreign people in.
You’re not allowed to vote in political elections. In 99% of all cases it’s impossible for you to get the Japanese citizenship / a Japanese passport even when you were BORN in Japan (but neither of your parents is Japanese).
I could go on for much longer ……

Why do they have such a bad image, you ask?
Well, unfortunately there are quite a few “bad” foreigners out there. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, I’m simply writing about my experience here, ok?! smilie
Most of the time it’s young foreign guys who have barely finished university yet (mostly from America, Australia, Canada, the UK or NZ) who come to Japan to “have the time of their life”. It’s like a loooooooooong vacation for them.
They have parties, play video games and whatnot every night. They don’t care about the garbage at all, too annoying anyways, so they just throw everything in one bag and that’s that.
They sit in the train and scream their conversations while having 2 or 3 cans of beer.
They’re visiting a historical property site with signs EVERYWHERE in many languages and cute pictures so that the most stupid person should understand that it’s NOT ALLOWED TO SMOKE and what are they doing??? Exactly …. smilie
And don*t get me started on all those “J chick hunting & fucking guys” … that’s another story per se.

So, I kinda get where it’s coming from.
However, there are a lot of “normal” foreigners out there, too! Those who actually sleep at night (or at least are quiet), separate their garbage properly, pay their bills on time, cause no trouble at all.

And last but not least, don’t think that all Japanese people are nice, polite and have common sense!!!
I could tell you stories ….!!
There are many black sheep among them as well. Some of them do party, are just freaking loud, don’t care about the garbage ETC.

Of course, Japanese people will get angry at those people as well, but it’s a whole different story if it was a foreigner who did it!
Fresh oil for the fire, I’d say! They go berserk! Just like expected – and there their rant has started again.

Life as a foreigner in Japan

 

A FEW LAST NOTES:

THE TITLE:
Maybe you’ve been wondering about the title of this blog series already?
Why didn’t I just call it “Life as a Foreigner in Japan”.
Well, for the exact same reason I mentioned earlier. Yes, I am a foreigner, but I’m NOT American, my native language is NOT English and I don’t want to be thrown in the same pot as all foreigners. I can’t change that, though, because Japanese people will just throw me in there no matter what, but I can change the title of my own blog posts, so there you go! (^-^)smilie
I am German and ever since moving to Japan I’m actually proud to be one – .. at least most of the time! (^-^’)

To be honest, the second Japanese people hear I’m German, their attitude usually changes and they’re really happy and warm towards me.
MOST Japanese people really like Germany – of course that has to do with the world wars, too, but not only.
Japan has copied many things from Germany after the war and even nowadays a deep friendship and political relations connect the two countries.
Only the ones who hoped to be able to practice their English on me are sometimes disappointed! ;P

GENERALIZATION:
Now, when I’m always saying “Japanese people” this and that, I might not be better than them saying “the foreigners“, so I have to admit that there are quite a few exceptions to the rule as well and I’ve met some of them and will write about them in the future.
To make things easier, though, I will keep writing “Japanese people” in future posts.

I mainly posted about the negative things of being a foreigner in Japan today. smilie
Of course there are some positive things as well. You often can play the “gaijin card” to your advantage in many situations when Japanese people wished they could do it as well! smilie
I will write about that in the future, too! Stay tuned! :D

Woah, okay this was a VERY long post.
Thank you for reading through it all. smilie This was supposed to be a general introduction to the topic out of my personal view.
I will write more in detail about certain points in the future, but especially share funny, annoying, strange encounters and conversations I had in the past few years. I hope they will be interesting & amusing for you.

 

Feel free to discuss and share your opinion or experience!!
I’m totally looking forward to hearing what you have to say! smilie

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70 Comments

  • Do people tend to think you’re an American a lot? I’m actually American and I usually get asked if I’m European (usually French) which to me is very odd…

    I don’t think it’s fair to make judgements towards foreigners and their Japanese abilities though ^^ I think that everyone has their different reasons for coming to Japan and their different uses for Japanese. I personally think that if you’re going to live here that you should pick up some of the language, but you don’t necessarily have to always be studying or be fluent or even use Japanese all of the time. But personally I had a traumatic experience while studying Japanese/ living with a host family my first year in Tokyo, which lead me to being scared to use Japanese even four years later… and I get a lot of crap from people for speaking English with my husband. Foreigners tend to think that I should use him to learn Japanese (which is somehow okay…) but then when they find out that we speak English the tables are turned and he’s suddenly using ME and that’s just WRONG… but the other way around isn’t? Personally I use Japanese when I need to/ want to/ or feel comfortable doing so.

    I’m curious, but do you ever meet Japanese people who want to speak German with you? I have a Japanese friend who is much better at German than she is English (we usually speak in Japanese) but when she meets German people she whips it out and gets really excited to speak German because she has really fond memories from her time there.

    • Yes, they do. As far as I remember nobody EVER assumed that I’m European!
      When I tell them that I’m German some of them actually say: “But I thought all Germans were tall, blonde and have blue eyes?” …. :hihi:

      I think it has to do with WHERE you live in Japan, really.
      As you might know I lived in the boonies for 4 years. Even I hear all sorts of languages every time I visit big cities. I think Japanese people there are just used to that variety and don’t assume so easily that people are American anymore?
      In the countryside, they rarely meet any foreigners – so American is always the first that comes to their mind. :sweatdrop2:

      I recently moved into an even smaller city, but it’s closer to the bit cities, so I have yet to see how things are here. I can’t possibly tell after just a few years.

      Yes, I remember you mentioning that on Twitter to me, too.
      From what you say you’re different from the people I was talking about. It seems you at least attempted to study Japanese seriously but then stopped for the mentioned reason.
      I think it’s sad that it happened to you and I hope you will find joy studying a little bit more in the future again. :D
      I was more talking about those people who REALLY don’t give a sh** …

      Personally, though, I still think you always should learn the language of the country you decided to live in – no matter how difficult.
      I swear things get easier, too! :satisfied:

      Very good question! :D
      Unfortunately, no! All the more NOT where I live. My best Japanese friend used to study German, that’s how we get to know each other, but that was still back in Germany.
      We were both female, the same age, she wanted to study German and I wanted to study Japanese.
      After her retunr to Japan, I visited her and her family once. She’s been to Germany many times after that. I was invited to her wedding. Now she also has a little girl.
      I really miss her a lot. I just met her recently, but as she lives in Yokohama, it’s just too far to meet often. :(
      At first (still in Germany) we would speak mainly in German as her ability was just much stronger than my. After my move to Japan things changed. She also lost her ability to speak German more and more. Nowadays we speak in Japanese only. I have no idea how good her English is. We never even once spoke in English.

      However, many people I meet (mainly through my traveling) and also my conversation students are TRULY very interesting in German culture and language and are so happy when I share it with them. They rarely get a chance and they seem to learn so many things they didn’t know yet.

      German used to be a major language for doctors in Japan until a few years (10-20?!) ago. So, some old psychologists and doctors are still able to speak it nowadays.
      Some people I know (even my boss) used to study German in addition to English at university, but as none of them ever really gets to use it, they all mainly lost it. :sweatdrop2:

      No wonder your friend is so excited. :happy: She probably rarely gets the chance to, huh? :/

      Thank you so much for your interesting comment! :hearts:

  • You are awesome, seriously that’s all I can say. You pretty much think the way I do yet put it into words so much better.

    I must be the rarity though as I have two Japanese credit cards and two small shopping loans (one for Lasik, one for a Fanclub tour to Hawaii) and I am honestly confused as to how. So next spring I plan to try for a loan on a house / manshon.

    Keep writing, it’s great!

    • Hello Alita!
      Thank you so much for your nice and encouraging comment! :D

      I know it’s not impossible and personally I have never tried to get a credit card. I’m fine with my VISA debit cards – which are easy to get (only problems with my long middle name not fitting on the actual card and stuff like that).
      However, I heard from many other foreigners who tried many times and failed every single time.
      Some were successful after many tries.
      No idea if there’s any secret trick to it?! :mukatsuku:

      Oh, you’re going to buy a house? Awesome! Good luck with that! :D

  • Oooooh :D
    Juuuhu, das hört sich super an! Kann gar nicht darauf warten, was du sonst noch so zu erzählen hast :kyah:

    Das mit dem “Deutsche sind unsere Freunde” habe ich schon öfters gehört. Mein bester Freund war vor einigen Monaten in Japan mit seinen Eltern und hat es geschafft, dass zwei ältere Männer sie gar nicht mehr gehen lassen wollten, weil, wie sie sagten, Deutsche und Japaner doch so gute Freunde sind (“Wir haben zusammen gekämpft, weißt du?”). :disappointed:
    Aber ich finde es interessant zu hören, was du so für Erfahrungen gemacht hast.
    Ich fliege im September zum ersten Mal für drei Wochen nach Japan (zwei davon sind Sprachkurs in Tokyo) und ich bin wirklich schon seeehr gespannt :sparkling:

    *seufz* Ich glaube, ich werde dort ziemlich auffallen. Bin groß, blond und hab eine Haut, durch die man fast durchsehen kann (aber nicht im positiven Sinne T__T). Ich finde es schon sehr schade, dass man als Ausländer eigentlich nie auf vollkommene Akzeptanz hoffen kann :(
    Schon sehr schade, aber ich muss sagen, dass ich es irgendwoher auch verstehe. Wahrscheinlich, weil ich gerade intensiv japanische Geschichte lerne ^^”

    • Hallo!
      Freut mich sehr, dass dich interessiert, was ich zu schreiben habe!
      Vielen Dank für den lieben Kommentar! Sowas motiviert ungemein! :D

      Ich wünsche dir jetzt schon mal viel Spaß!
      Ich denke nicht, dass du so arg auffallen wirst, immerhin wirst du in Tokio sein, da rennen genug “auffällige” Ausländer rum! ;P
      Und blasse Haut ist hier der Renner! Die Japanerinnen rennen ja regelrecht vor der Sonne davon, tragen lange Handschuhe und Sonnenschirme mit sich herum und benutzen Gesichtscreme mit einem “Whitening”-Effekt. Gruselig! :huh:

      Ich glaube, das ist ein Grund, warum viele von uns nach ein paar Jahren Japan wieder verlassen. Es ist schon schwer mit dem Gefühl umzugehen, nie ganz akzeptiert zu werden bzw. nie ganz dazuzugehören. :(

      Ich bin noch dazu jemand, der nicht gerne im Mittelpunkt steht. Plötzlich jeden Tag angestarrt zu werden wie ein Hollywood-Star ist definitiv nichts, was ich genieße! :/

  • I admit I concur with a lot that you said, but since I come from actually studying Japanese at university most of my friends speak Japanese or at least have a very strong interest in it.

    Concerning the “American” thing. As I usually whip out my Japanese right away (and strangely people start talking to me in Japanese most of the time instead of English) the biggest mistake I usually get is “Australia”. I should really wear the “No Kangaroos in Austria” T-Shirt more often. I just add, “the one in Europe” to my country and it usually works out though :)

    I’m looking forward to that new series. I’ve only lived in Japan for a year, but I experienced a lot of what you mentioned.

    • Australia vs. Austria *lol*

      I speak only in Japanese, too, but still they ask me where I’m from after some time.
      Some can’t believe a foreigner can speak Japanese that well and ask me if I’m half. *lol*
      On the phone they’re sometimes completely shocked when they ask for my name and suddenly get to hear a foreign name.

      Some Japanese people just seem to be deaf when you speak Japanese to them.
      Years ago I thought it’s because my Japanese wasn’t good enough, but now I know that some of them just see the face of a foreigner and then in their mind a button is switched and they are in “I can’t understand this”-mode. Very annoying! :mukatsuku:

      • I’ve been told my pronunciation is quite good, so it’s a surprise when I say something and then they turn around and see this foreigner standing there, lol.

        I don’t know if it’s because of where I travel or because of some kind of aura that I now have, but either people just assume I speak Japanese or they hope it. It’s really rare that people start to speak in English with me…

        • In my experience it REALLY depends on where you travel to!
          I’ve been to so many places, rural to metropolitan.
          Most of the time they’ll speak to you in English in the bigger cities or areas that feature some tourist attraction that also attracts foreign tourists.
          I’ve been to some rural spots or attractions far out – and USUALLY nobody approaches me using English there.

  • Als derzeit deutsche Austauschstudentin in Japan verstehe ich nur zu gut alles was du vor allem in Bezug auf Nationalitäten gesagt hast!

    Gut, ich bin erst 7 Monate hier und habe auch (leider ;___;) nur noch 4-5 Monate hier, aber meine Erfahrungen habe ich auch schon gemacht. Ich hasse es in einen Topf mit den ganzen Amerikanern geworfen zu werden und mir von irgendwelchen – vor allem Mittelstufenschülern – auf Englisch irgendwelche “hello” oder “how are you (natürlich in mega schlechtem Englisch…) zurufen lassen zu mussen. Angestellte im Kombini oder sonst wo, die nach meinem Einkauf “thank you” sagen… oder wenn man mir sonst wo anders auf Englisch antwortet, wobei ich auf Japanisch gefragt habe!!… vor allem bei Letzterem kann ich nur noch den Kopf schütteln. Bei dem unverständlichen Emnglisch hätte ich es auf Japanisch besser verstanden. Was nicht heißen soll mein Japanisch sei das Gelbe vom Ei, schließlich bin ich selber noch am lernen. Ich bin leider auch noch typisch ausländisch mit blonden Haaren und blauen Augen… total frmed also. Aber irgendwo regt es einen dann doch auf, dass sie von einem überhaupt kein Japanisch erwarten und scheinbar nicht mal zu realisieren scheinen, wenn man sie auf Japanisch anspricht. Was mich aber richtig auf die Palme bringt ist, dass einige Japaner scheinbar annehmen ich könne null Japanisch und sie müssten auf Englisch bestellen (ich arbeite seit einem Monat in einem Café in Gion). Hallo!!!! Ich arbeite in Japan in einem japanischen Café, da kann man ja wohl annehmen ich kann zumindest etwas Japanisch. Das Schlimme ist ich verstehe diese japaner auch nicht, wenn sie mir auf englisch meinen ihre Bestellung vortragen zu müssen. Ich gucke die immer nur mit großen Augen an und versuche zu enträtseln welche Sprache sie sprechen und was sie mir zu sagen versuchen. ich glaube deshalb denken sie erst recht ich sei hohl.

    Naja, worauf ich eigentlich noch hinaus wollte: in Deutschland habe ich nie besonders viel darüber nachgedacht duetsch zu sein, es war mir egalm, ehrlich gesagt hatte ich nie so viel für Deutschland oder die deutsche Sprache übrig. Aber seit ich hier bin, wächst mir meine Identität als Deutsche irgendwie mehr ans Herz. Ich will nicht mit diesen ganzen Anderen unter einen Hut gestopft werden! Ich habe ein enorm großes Mitteilungsbedürfnis alle Japane rum mich herum wissen zu lasen, dass ich Deutsche bin und nichts anderes! Ich merke auch erst jetzt wie schön ich die deutsche Sprache teilweise doch finde.
    Das sind irgendwie so Gefühle mit denen ich nicht gerechnet hatte und die ganz neu für mich sind. Ich bin irgendwie froh zu sehen, dass es dir scheinbar ähnlich ergeht!

    Mir gefällt dieser erste Eintrag sehr gut und ich werde bestimmt eifrig weiterlesen. Es ist so interessant ähnliche Erfahrungen und Denkweisen zu entdecken und aus erster Hand zu hören was du alles erlebt hast. Ich hoffe wir bekommen viele interessante Episoden zu hören ;-)

    • Du sprichst mir aus der Seele!
      Durch diese Phasen bin ich auch gegangen. Genervt und wütend bin ich oft heute noch darüber.
      Es ist nicht mehr so schlimm wie am Anfang, aber es ist auch etwas, womit ich mich wohl nie so richtig abfinden werden kann.

      Das mit dem Englisch kenne ich. Ich stelle mich dann EXTREM doof und sage, dass ich kein Englisch verstehe, ob sie das bitte auf Japanisch nochmal wiederholen könnten. *g*
      Gaaaaaanz nervig ist es, wenn man es irgendwie eilig hat und die meinen, sie müssten JETZT anfangen, ihr Englisch an dir ausprobieren.
      Ich musste mal ganz dringend einen Zug erwischen. Frag also im Rennen auf Japanisch den Bahnangestellten, ob er mir sagen könnte, zu welchem Gleis ich müsste. Der strahlte und meinte, er könne mir das jetzt in aller Ruhe auf Englisch erklären. Natürlich hab ich kein Wort verstanden und auch keine Zeit dafür gehabt …… Oh Mann!!!!! :disappointed:

      Und für manche Japaner ist es halt wirklich so, dass sie ein ausländisches Gesicht sehen und dann auf “was auch immer aus dem Mund da kommt, versteh ich nicht”-Modus schalten. Ich hatte es schon oft, dass mich Japaner nicht zu verstehen scheinen, wenn ich auf Japanisch spreche. Anfangs dachte ich, es liegt an meinem schlechten Japanisch. Aber jetzt, viele Jahre später, weiß ich, dass es daran liegt, dass die einfach auf “Durchzug” schalten.

      Danke für deinen lieben und interessanten Kommentar!! :D

  • I agree with all you said.

    When I lived in Germany I was lucky to have studied it in school, though while I could recite Shiller and Goethe poems, I didn`t know the simple words necessary to shop at the grocery store or the butcher`s. I did learn them. I do feel one should at least try to learn the rudiments of the language of the country one lives in. If you stay no more than a year, well maybe just that is enough. But if you are really going to live there longer, you truly should learn. It is my biggest beef against the myriad Latinos who have immigrated in the US in recent years, that they don`t even try. They live and work here, and just don`t understand English, don`t bother to learn, even though there are many free evening classes of English as a foreign language.

    On being married to a foreigner, I did meet in Japan a French guy married to a Japanese woman he had met elsewhere, he decided to live in Japan, and has learned to speak the language by studying hard.

    I happen to live in America, and speak an unaccented English. but I was born in France. I always mention it if I have the occasion of speaking a bit longer with a Japanese person. I don`t want to be put under the same umbrella, so to speak, as my cultural background is different. I am just a tourist in Japan, of course, but I have tried to learn Japanese and have picked up a fair bit. I have also learned a lot about the history of the country, and read many authors, both classic and modern. I did notice how one gets complimented out of proportion for knowing a bit of Japanese. But then, remember that during the war, Japan had not bothered to use a code, thinking their language to difficult for other people to understand! A little of that must linger…

    • I think a big problem in Japan is that the Japanese don’t expect you to speak Japanese and they make it very easy for you to get along with English.
      A lot of foreigners only hang out with other foreigners or the few Japanese who can actually speak English well enough.
      Why exactly did they come to Japan anyways then? They can hang out with English speaking foreigners in any other country in the world as well.

      And it’s just NORMAL to study the language of the country you’re gonna live in for a long time, right? I know it can be difficult and nobody expects that people can speak fluently after only a year or so, but people should at least put some effort into truly integrating.

  • When i was in Tokyo sitting down while waiting for my mum and her best friend who is living in Japan to catch up, there were two teenage Japanese girls sitting at the next table who kept staring at me. ><

    LOL!

    • Welcome to my world! :disappointed:
      Though staring is harmless! I had people point at me. Kids scream “FOREIGNER!!” as if I was someone who escaped from a prison and the police needs to know, so they can catch me…

  • Hey, sehr interessanter Post. Werde diese Seite auf jeden Fall weiter verfolgen. Aus welchem Teil Deutschlands stammst du denn?

    • Hallo Sebastian!
      Freut mich, dass dir der Beitrag gefallen hat! :D
      Ich komme ursprünglich aus eher südwestlichen Gefilden, auch wenn ich mich so langsam mehr und mehr in Japan zuhause fühle. Gefährlich!! *g*

  • When I was in Japan, I did got the looks and the stares LOL, I remember that they would think my brother was my dad and such. I really didn’t had any bad experiences (just one or 2 japanese-pride-drunkers), but I always tried to be a good gaijin and behave well :thumbup:
    In my case, I had the same problem as you, they thought I was american, moreover because I am tall and white, and got surprised when I told them I was from Mexico (well, they barely knew where mexico was… anyway…. :notamused: :disappointed: ). But, if I do get to go to Japan soon to study, I will try to make people change their stereotypes of bad foreigners :reading:

    • They thought your brother is your dad?? *lol* :hihi:
      Any idea why?
      I think to Japanese people we often look older than we are because they just look so freaking young! I often run into people where I think they’re still students, but actually already carry their kids around. It’s unfair that Japanese people stay so young in their outer appearance! :hum:

      It’s gonna be a tough job to try doing that!
      You can change the mind of a few, but you’ll run into new people every day and you have to start from zero!!! It’s very tiring and annoying sometimes! :sweatdrop:

  • I’ve always wondered what it must be like living in Japan if you are not a native English speaker but “look like” one. I was always being asked if I was American (and often Australian) and then had to explain that I was British, which usually resulted in a whole “England and Scotland are actually different countries” conversations. ;) I’m looking forward to reading more posts in this series – thanks! (^_^)v

    • Thanks! :D
      Hehe. Yes, a lot of Japanese people don’t know much about foreign countries. Adults usually know a bit about the major European cities for the simple reason that they like traveling.

      Another funny thing that happened recently was that through a German friend I met a girl from NZ. We greeted each other in English and talked for a while and then she said she figured out my accent. She thought I was from Canada!
      My friend and me both had to laugh. She actually thought I was a native speaker of English! Getting that from a real native speaker makes me proud. I guess my English pronunciation also improved quite a lot by coming to Japan (mainly through my job, of course).

      My Japanese improved A LOT, too, of course. Only my German is getting worse and worse! :ehehe:

  • Hi!
    Great post! I mostly agree with you. For me it’s exceptionally
    hard to learn better Japanese, because all my co-workers MUST
    speak English with me. Company rule. Even i am the only foreigner.
    So when we meet for some drinks, they mostly tend to just speak english with me,
    even i start talking in Japanese.
    Anyway, i’ll not give up and put more effort into learning Japanese.
    I’m also looking forward for new posts.

    • Thanks coolio! :D
      Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of chances outside of work to get at least a lot of Japanese input. The rest will come naturally.
      I also mostly had to use English at work most of the time, but I got so much Japanese input from my kids and nowadays I mostly only speak Japanese with my co-workers. Only with the very few foreign co-workers I speak English (and that only because their Japanese is not good enough ….). :thumbup:

      I don’t quite get why your co-workers have to speak in English with you, though??!!

  • it’s tough being a foreigner in japan. =T i guess it’s tough in most asian countries anyway, but especially japan. i was born in the usa, but i am vietnamese, and being asian, i guess i could pass as a japanese person (at least i have in the japanese market i’ve been to xD). but i think i’d still feel so out of place and intimidated if i visit japan, cuz i’ve only learned a little bit of japanese and there’s so many rules and politeness required there that i’m not used to. @_@

    but i think that caucasian ppl in japan can easily become models? at least that’s a good thing, kinda?

    • It depends. Japanese people often can easily figure out if somebody is Japanese or Chinese or whatever.
      I don’t want to scare you, but if you look Asian, maybe even could pass as Japanese but then you can’t speak Japanese, they’ll think you’re stupid. Of course not everybody will!
      Or even worse, they assume you must be Chinese, Korean or Filipino. Quite a few Japanese people don’t like those races.
      I will post another story where I was traveling around with a Japanese co-worker who couldn’t speak a word of Japanese (a long story …) – and the reaction of other Japanese people to that.
      Might be interesting for your, so stay tuned! ^-^

      Well, Western models are sometimes really popular, but I have the feeling that especially “hafus” (half Japanese, half Western) are extremely successful recently.

  • Love this!

    I hate to say, because I am one, but I think that American military members- in particular the men- have ruined the image of foreigners in the minds of many Japanese. We are the “unwelcome” ones despite how much our being there keeps the economy afloat in many cities here. But we’re the ones who populate the country with bi-racial children, leave women in tears, trash the bars and talk loudly on the trains. Not all of us of course, but it is hard not to group us all into one big category.

    I wish we could be judged individually but I doubt it will ever happen until Japanese people open their selves up to welcoming strangers. They won’t even introduce their selves to one another if they are strangers it seems like, so we have a long way to go. But I love Japan and I love the people.

    • It is often quite bizarre, though.
      On the one hand it is as you say and many Japanese people think bad about “Westeners”, but on the other hand they idealize Western standards. We are cool, we are beautiful, they want to speak English with us and be like us. It’s weird, but ambivalent things like that are just so typical for Japan.

      Thanks a lot for your comment! :)

  • hey hey…
    das doch mal ein artikel… hab mal wieder zufaelig vorbei geschaut und mir das dann ma durchgelesen… irgendwie hab ich wenig zeit im moment…
    aber es ist genau wie du es sagst… oder fast genau so… fakt ist wirklich das die meisten die aus englischsprachigen laendern kommen (auch ich rede nur von meinen persoenlichen erfahrungen) sich auch wenig fuer die sprache interessieren… die wissen wie sie bier bestellen und ansonsten haengen die mit ihren landsmaennern ab… so nach dem motto ich sprech eh schon die weltsprache, also brauch ich nichts anderes… natuerlich gibts ausnahmen (das schreib ich jetzt aber nicht hinter jede meiner aussagen denn das sollte jeder wissen)…
    das man hier auch in tokyo ganz anders behandelt wird hab ich allerdings noch mit bekommen, das ist aber schon 9 jahre her mittlerweile… da hast du auch hier nur wenige auslaender gesehen… wenn ich mich recht erinnere habe ich ausserhalb meines ryokans damals nur einmal auslaender getroffen… ob das besser ist oder schlechter weiss ich nicht… ir gibts naemlich auch viel zu viele leute die sagen “alle anderen auslaender bitte nicht in mein japan” und so will ich ja auch nicht klingen, denn dann nehm ich mir das recht hier zu wohnen… bzw das recht selber zu entscheiden wo ich wohne… fakt ist das ich an sich nie unter anderen auslaendern bin… ausser ich geh in nen laden (einen gibt es tatsaechlich in den ich ganz gern manchmal gehe) in dem manchmal auslaender sind… das weiss ich aber vorher^^ weswegen ich das mache weiss ich nicht… ich hab ne ganz menge netter leute getroffen, das waren aber groesstenteils touristen… die anderen sind echt wie du es schon sagtest meist leute die hier nur ihren spass haben wollen und meinen das waer malle oder thailand (ihr wisst was ich meine) und da hoert es bei mir dann auf…
    was noch dazu kommt ist die arroganz der leute immer… die anderen auslaender die ich treffe wurden entweder entsandt (und anscheinend schicken die nicht mehr nur die besten^^), sind einfach muttersprachler englisch, oder verheiratet (dazu spaeter)… auf jeden fall hat keiner von den leuten gross was geleistet… allen wurde irgendwas besorgt bzw alles gestellt und keiner hat sich selber gross um was kuemmern muessen… aber jeder von denen meint er haette es geschafft und haette sonstwas auf die beine gestellt… mal abgesehen davon das die beiden erstgenannten auch gerne wegen den jgals hier sind (so leid es mir tut)… zu den verheiratetetn da muss ich etwas wieder sprechen… es sind zwar tatsaechlich meist die maenner die einfach mal in der entwicklung stehen bleiben (man lebt halt nach der hochzeit auf der couch anscheinend), dafue sinds aber die frauen die den schritt erheblich schneller gehen als die maenner und sich oft haushalten lassen… soll sich keiner von angegriffen fuehlen, aber das sind halt meine erfahrungen… natuerlich macht es sich jeder gerne einfach, aber nur nach japan zu ziehen um seine eigenen triebe zu besaenftigen is ja auch nichts…
    und komischerweise haben selbst die lautesten touristen oft mehr respekt vor allem hier als die haelfte der zugegzogenen leute… so ists zumindest in tokyo bzw kommt mir so vor… vom land kann ich nicht sprechen, da war ich immer bloss nen paar wochen lang…
    ich kanns auch echt nachvollziehen das die japaner nicht immer bock auf auslaender haben… aber teilweise uebertreiben sie es auch… alleine das davon ausgegangen wird das nur die japaner was koennen (ich erlebe es jeden tag auf der arbeit) ist schon bedenklich… und es ist auch gerne scheinheilig.. ich rede jetzt nicht davon das man nicht direkt nein sagt oder awhnlichem, sondern z.b. verbote fuer auslaender weil man angeblich nicht den besten service leisten koennte aufgrund der sprachbarriere… mein japanisch ist mit sicherheit alles andere als fliessend, aber ich kann sprechen und mich verstaendigen und ich kann auch bischen was lesen.. und da merkt man dann oefters das das nicht um die sprache geht, wenn sie dir nicht direkt mehr abknoepfen weil die meinen du koenntest die preise nicht lesen… und das passierte nicht nur einmal… man wird halt taeglich diskriminiert… teilweise durch eine uebertrieben hoefliche art… merkt man nicht immer sofort, ist aber halt so… liegt mit sicherheit auch viel daran das ich grundsaetzlich alleine irgendwo bin und deswegen keinen japanischen backup habe (nur alle jubeljahre mal), von daher werden andere leute solche erfarhungen vllt gar nicht erst gemacht habe… ich hab die auf jeden fall in so ziemlich jeder stadt gemacht in der ich war.. und ich war oft hier bevor ich hier hin gezogen bin… wenn man zu zweit irgendwo ist (auch zwei auslaender) passiert das uebrigens nicht so… wie gesagt, vllt nur meine erfahrung jetzt und ich hab pech gehabt… fakt ist: die freuen sich ueber auslaender, freuen sich aber noch mehr wen die wieder gehen…
    mittlerweile passiert mir so was eher krasses aber auch kaum mehr… halt so das uebliche, keine sau macht dir irgendwo platz und alle meinen du bist dumm und du kannst nichts… aber da solten wir froh sein das wir sowas mit bekommen, denn das heisst erstens: uns ists es nicht scheissegal und zweitens: wir gehen den besseren weg^^

    • Hallo gorden,
      schön mal wieder was von dir zu hören und wow was für ein langer und ausführlicher Kommentar!! Vielen Dank dafür! :D

      Ich finde vor allem interessant, was du über die Ausländer sagst, die denken, es wäre “ihr Japan”. Ich glaube, da ist was Wahres dran und es gibt tatsächlich einige von denen.

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