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Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/11 01:24
Hey everyone!
This post is half a rant and half a real question on how to deal with these things.
Here is the fact: I have been living in a mostly rural area of Kyushu for the last two months with my girlfriend (she is japanese). However, after the first boost I am starting to feel pretty weird, and realize things, or better to say some things, just don't seem quite right.
I should better start off saying my japanese skills are very basic and I can't really interact with natives at a proficient level (just basic sentences though, I understand while it's still hard to make anything sound decent or natural).

Wherever I go, I stumble upon the frustration of being a foreigner, or perceived as different. This goes in two ways: One is being treated as a sort of attraction; the other is being ignored, when I am with my girlfriend, and her being asked things in place of me.
I actually find both very insulting, as I am not even asked to check what my japanese skill is.

I had no problem with it at first but it's becoming annoying. THe other day we had to wait for a seat outside a restaurant. A family came out, I was drawing to kill time. The mother with a baby approached me, and sat nearby, then she said in english "Look! Look! This is a japanese baby! Kawaii ne?"
I was honestly puzzled. I was not sure how to interpret that.
Then, I went to the gym a couple of times and once I just did something I shouldn't have cause I can't really read kanji (I am honestly, passionately hating them :D ). The person in charge of the room came by, walked pass me and told my girlfriend I was not supposed to do that.

Then again, in another restaurant, after having been indirectly (to my girlfriend) complimented for how I used chopsticks (I felt like I was a baby, if not an animal performing some human action), the person asked my girlfriend things about me without inquiring me directly, not even trying. As if I am not even able to say where I am from.

It feels bad day after day, so I was wondering if you guy who have lived here for longer have any advice for me. I would hate to break up because of this, but life in japan is starting to really suck. Does it get better with improved language skills? I don't think I am particularly dumb, a lower-level individual or anything like that, and going through these nuances just pisses me off at the utmost level.

Thanks in advance
by CaptNemo  

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/11 12:09
My non-Japanese husband (obviously non-Japanese looking) have spent many years in Japan, I am talking about decades, speaks decent Japanese, reads the local newspapers every day.

We go out somewhere, we happen to get lost, he asks a cop in polite Japanese for directions, and the cop happily tries to explain in his broken English, hubby ends up thanking him in English because that is the language the cop apparently prefers to respond in, and we get lost again.

We go out to a restaurant, he places an order in Japanese, and the waiter looks at me when he confirms our orders.

Those are things that have been happening all the time while we live in Japan, and he says that you can't live in Japan if those continue to bother you. I guess he got used to it (be it good or bad)... he is of the view that in Japan a foreigner will always be a foreigner. And yes we plan to stay in Japan for good.
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/11 12:20
I have heard people complaining about this before and while these things of course happen, especially in the rural areas, It just never really bothered me.

Japanese is one of the hardest languages in the world for English speaking people to learn so it is not surprising that Japanese people assume you cant speak it.

There is also the embarrassment factor. ppl dont want to create an awkward situation so they speak through the person they know can understand.

You will also get some who just start talking to you as if you should understand fluently.

No one is doing it in a direct attempt to be rude. So I dont let myself get bothered by their good intentions.

Can I ask you, in your home country you came across an opportunity to talk with a Japanese person, would you not want to show them that you have some grasp of their language? I live in the country in Japan and also in my home country so I love the opportunity to speak Japanese when a new person comes to our town. The Japanese also like to use their English if they get a chance.

Probably every foreigner in Japan has heard the chopstick thing. multiple times. I still nod and smile and act a little embarrassed and then move on. again, they are trying to be friendly, not malicious so why get annoyed.

You will always be a foreigner in Japan. My community know me, know im fluent and live with my Japanese husband and his family. They treat me normally now BUT one step out of my area and Im back to being an unknown foreigner.

Just dont let it bother you. Or let it bother you. Its really only something you can decide because it wont change whatever you do.
by Guest (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/11 12:23
lol AK you got the same answer out slightly before me! Im glad your husband is the same. I also would like to stay in Japan permanently. Currently came back to my country for medical reasons but im terribly homesick for Japan.
by Guest (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/11 12:23
I am living in Japan for 5 years now, have a wife and a daughter.
I can understand your feeling, but you should also consider well this a very homogeneous country.

Yes you have to take effort the learn to read and speak Japanese. If they ask your girlfriend something, you should be the one answering. I speak Japanese, although I still make mistakes. Still if there is something they ask my wife or even my daughter, but I am the one who answer.

I am being honest, if you don`t want to learn Japanese, than why you want to be in Japan? Many international relationships/marriage end because of not understanding or taking effort.

Loosing the feeling of being a foreigner will never disappear, you will be always the foreigner, all you can do is accept and make the best. Some people try to avoid you, some people try to talk to you, like the woman and her baby. I think she was just trying to make an conversation, although English is difficult she tried, so should you.

I wish you best in adapting with the Japanese culture and society.
by justmyday rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/11 12:29
Hi "Guest",

I was starting to smile, seeing that you've responded almost at the same time with a very similar answer :)
Yup, my husband is that way (we've been married over 20 years, and he's lived in Japan so far in total longer than that, starting with his young student years when even Tokyo station only had Japanese signs so he had to memorize as a picture...) so he's seen a lot over the years, but says yes foreigners will always be foreigners in Japan. (Oh and I am Japanese)
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/11 15:07
If you dont speak japanese to expect things to improve at all.
Kyushu might be slightly different, but in tokyo gaijin are so common that people dont look at you too strangely (95% of the time).

So simple, learn japanese or of course you wont be able to have a normal life in a country which you do not understand the language. Especially since japanese are not so talented with english ...

All the best
by frenchdude (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 18:39
Thanks everyone for replying :)
Of course, the fact that someone tries to talk to me in english doesn't bother me at all, the opposite! I was just a little puzzled by the awkward situation with the child, which would definitely not happen in my country.

justmyday, well it's not like "I want" to stay, it's more like "I have" or I can say good bye to this relationship.

And yes indeed, efforts, but I also had (have) goals and things to do to achieve them, and carving out more time to also study a language is very hard, especially if I see it being useless (for the aforementioned reason of someone just ignoring me and going straight to my girlfriend to talk).

So basically I was just looking for advices on how to survive as foreigner
by CaptNemo rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 19:38
Just embrace it - I know it seems alien to you, but they are just shy in communicating with you directly. I have never felt isolated and I speak very little Japanese... people warm to you though your attempt to interact... they will respect that you cannot speak fluently, but appreciate you trying.

I always find it so fun when people are inquisitive about who I am and where I am from - I get approached all the time by people asking who I am and if I can't talk back they will ask my colleague or friend.

If you have the mentality that you are being secluded or feeling distant, then naturally you are going to be... change your thought process to a positive one.. and soon things will change for you :)

It may sound silly, but it works for me :)
by Olivia (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 19:39
....carving out more time to also study a language is very hard, especially if I see it being useless....

So basically I was just looking for advices on how to survive as foreigner


I understand that you're feeling a bit like a fish out of water but having made the decision to come and live in Japan with your girlfriend, as long as you continue with the attitude that learning Japanese is useless to you, I cannot see any way that you're ever going to make a success of this. Attaining some fluency in nihongo is - without a doubt - the single best route for you to feel happier about your time in Japan. Of course you will always be excluded and sidelined as long as you consider proficiency in Japanese to be unimportant to you.

If you truly value your relationship with your girlfriend and want it to succeed, making the time to learn Japanese better should be your single focus of endeavour. Once you achieve a reasonable level of ability, you will find life so much better.

Right now, this is the only advice you need about how to survive as foreigner. It's up to you....
by Saru Bob rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 19:47
CaptNemo,

The mom & child incident had me puzzled for a long while - so I am sure that if it had happened to me (or to my husband and me) we would not have known how to react.

I guess... that mother must have just wanted to strike up a short conversation with you in English, and probably her experience has been that foreigners (in general) tend to squeal with joy when seeing small Japanese kids/babies. So she probably just wanted to get your attention with that, and expected you to break into a huge smile and agree that she/he was cute :)

One thing different between you and us is that we live in Tokyo - where there are many foreigners, both those who speak Japanese and those who don't, so people don't automatically assume that westerner-looking people know no Japanese. Where you are, it still might be that people assume otherwise.

Once you start picking up the language more that you can engage locals in conversations (for example, if you notice that someone is walking past you to your girlfriend, you can respond "is it about me?" in Japanese so that they will talk to both you and her, in Japanese), things will be somewhat different. Or at least being handled as "invisible" will lessen. Still, like I said, it does happen that my husband places an order in Japanese and the waiter turns to me to confirm the order. Which bugs me a bit even today, though, my husband doesn't seem to care at all :)

I guess my non-Japanese husband doesn't let incidents like being responded to in English though he spoke to them in decent Japanese bother him - "they mean nothing malicious, it is just out of habit, etc."
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 20:04
justmyday, well it's not like "I want" to stay, it's more like "I have" or I can say good bye to this relationship.

That would probably be a good thing; this relationship does not seem very healthy to me.
by Firas rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 20:20
Thanks for the encouragement guys! Although I can't make it as the single focus (I had committed to severe art training since my goal in life is opening my own atelier) I am certainly trying to put some time in it.

@firas: Forgive my little irritation, but I find it hard to accept cheap judgements. On which base are you saying what you say, exactly?
by CaptNemo rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 20:21
Watch this first
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLt5qSm9U80

and then, this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLBShiGoJFo

See how the Japanese react to it. May or may not relevant to your predicament.
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 20:32
CaptNemo.. don't worry about Firas' comment... if you read these forums often, you'll know that he pretty much only ever respnds with negative assumptions.
by Saru Bob rate this post as useful

Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/12 21:12
you're feeling a bit like a fish out of water but --------I support 100% what Saru Bob want to say.CaptNemo,Which visa are you bearing.If you come Japan with student visa,Then study is your First Priority.Without Nihongo,You cant get even a part time Job.You are not only one,But we millions of Foreigner Reside in Japan years after Years.We also have Japanese wife or Husband.If you cant adjust with Japanese life,Then Its your problem.Why you blame Japanese society.You get a secure life.In India,My friends monthly income is 10000 rupees,But in Japan,I earn more than 20 times what My friend get.If you want a healthy Bank Balance,A cute Japanese wife,world class transport system,Then do some homework and take the right Decision.
by jo (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/13 09:46
See how the Japanese react to it. May or may not relevant to your predicament.

The Japanese? I am a Japanese but I donft think all Japanese people are the same. You should read Mark Petersen who have been teaching English in Japan and is fluent in Japanese. He warns about using gtheh to some nationalities, like the Russians, the Japanese, or the Americans.

The first video is a short comedy about the misunderstanding of a Japanese waitress. I like Ken Tanaka or David Ury, but canft laugh on this movie. If I meet a foreign-looking person, I would think first that she/he canft speak/hear Japanese because, in fact Japan has not so big influence to other countries so it is very unlikely that this person have learned Japanese in a native level. But if she/he speaks fluent Japanese I would be happy to communicate in Japanese. So the thing is, 1. it is very unlikely that so many foreign-looking persons speak Japanese fluently (of course, in this video they do, because they gathered for this reason), 2. It is very unlikely that the waitress act like this. Of course, if one foreign-looking and Japanese (Asian)-looking couple comes to a restaurant, the waitress may most likely to talk to Japanese (Asian)-looking person first, but this is entirely different thing. I donft say this never happens, but is very unlikely. I am afraid this video tells foreign people inappropriate knowledge about Japan.

The second video is the thought of Japanese persons about the first video. I think many of them didnft understand the intention of the video. I think it is too unrealistic for them (for me also).
by frog1954 rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/13 10:35
@AK

I know what you mean about the waitress. If I order or want to order and I am with my wife they always confirm with her. I don`t know the reason because I can speak fluent Japanese, and when I am alone then it seems no problem.

But like your husband it doesn`t burden me.
by justmyday rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/13 13:27
Sorry to hijack this thread but need to clear something on frog1954 post.

'The Japanese' in this case, point to those Japanese people interviewed in the video. It will sound totally different if I were to write The Japanese people.

Also 1st video, THE waitress keep insisting talking to THE Asian looking woman eventhough the foreign looking people keep speaking Japanese to her. Not just once.
Again this is not to generalize all Japanese people do it but it happened, quite alot and most of the time unintentionally,without they knowing it. Which is why 2nd video, made by Japanese,who interview Japanese people response to the 1st video.


The second video is the thought of Japanese persons about the first video. I think many of them didnft understand the intention of the video. I think it is too unrealistic for them (for me also).
Which I rest my case, and why the reason 2nd video was made.


by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Overcoming the feeling of gaijin-ness 2017/4/13 16:28
negative comments can be seen as positive sometimes.
Harsh advice or statement can make people think twice and make a good decision.

I believe when you expose your life and feeling about japan in a thread you can accept the fact to be judged

When he said: "i don't think this relation is very healthy to me", i believe that was because of the words you picked.

it seems you want to be in Japan to learn some kind of japanese art/craft.
Thats your first goal. your gf is helping you to achieve that goal by making your life easier. ?
What is more important to you ?
-gf ? then you need to learn japanese to stay with her in Japan or move to your country with her (if she is fine with it).
- learning japanese art stuff ? then you need to learn japanese to stay in japan as well..

that sum it all
by frenchdude (guest) rate this post as useful

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