lifestyle

5 life-altering mistakes foreigners make when living in Japan

102 Comments
By Evie Lund, RocketNews24

Beyond silly mistakes like wearing toilet slippers on tatami or forgetting to add “san” to someone’s name, what other things do foreigners unknowingly do to reduce their chances of living happily in Japan?

Before going to Japan for travel, study or work, many people from overseas take the opportunity to read up on several of the country’s more common dos and don’ts in order to avoid committing any cultural faux pas. In Japan, a country with a lot of its own unique social rules and conventions, it’s all too easy for visitors from abroad to blithely inconvenience their hosts and embarrass themselves.

Pretty much every foreigner who has spent time in Japan will have tales of all the myriad ways they unwittingly did or said the wrong thing before fully acclimatising. But today we’re not here to talk about accidentally stepping on tatami mats while wearing shoes, or talking on the phone while on the train, or any of the other insignificant little social snafus that we’ve all heard of before.

Instead, we’re going to talk about the serious, potentially life-altering mistakes that many foreigners make when living in Japan, and which many people don’t even realise they’re making until months or even years pass. We’re talking about the kind of mistakes that foster distance between oneself and others, mistakes which hinder their attempts to acclimatise to Japan, and mistakes that scupper their own chances of having a happy life in Japan.

Let’s begin!

Mistake 1: “Gaijin Smashing”

The “Gaijin Smash”, a phrase allegedly first coined by an American working on the JET Program, means to exert your will over a Japanese person using your foreign-ness as leverage. A typical example of the Gaijin Smash that’s often cited is when a person pushes through the ticket gate at the station without buying the right ticket, knowing that the station staff might be reluctant to chase after and engage with a big, scary foreigner with whom they may not be able to properly communicate.

Sometimes Gaijin Smashing doesn’t really hurt anyone, like when the NHK man knocks on your door and asks you if you have a TV and you pretend to be extra-foreign until he goes away (the standard Gaijin Smash response is “terebi wa tabemasen lol” (lit. “I don’t eat television”), but in general, Gaijin Smashing is just a real jerk move. Not only do you upset other people, you also lower people’s opinions of other foreigners living in that area, and if that weren’t bad enough, you also smash your own chances of fitting in. How are you going to learn to navigate Japanese society like a native if you just go around smashing your way though every situation? Unfortunately, since Japan has so many rigid rules, many of which can seem petty and pointless, the urge to Gaijin Smash can be great for many foreigners, even those who’ve been in Japan for years. But aren’t those same rules a part of what make Japan the wonderfully safe, unique country that we love? Resist the smash, be a good person, and improve your Japan life.

Mistake 2: Cutting people out of your life

Foreigners in Japan can tend to fall into two camps when it comes to socialising. The first camp wants to get stuck in to Japan life, learn as much Japanese as possible, and make as many Japanese friends as possible. To facilitate this, they cut other foreigners out of their life completely, refuse to make friends or socialise with other foreigners, and only speak to Japanese people. Some will even go as far as to start actively hating other foreigners, hissing whenever they spot them in the wild and cringing with embarrassment over their public displays of foreign-ness.

The other camp is probably a little more laid-back about their new life in Japan and revels in the chance to make friends with other people from literally all over the world. They forge lifelong friendships with people from far-flung places, learn about those people’s cultures, and generally have an amazing time, apart from the fact that they find making Japanese friends to be a bit too much effort, and so they don’t bother. Some don’t even want to make Japanese friends — they’re happy being Bubble Dwellers.

Those in both camps are making a big mistake. There’s little point in moving to another country unless you’re willing to acclimate at least a little bit, and hanging with the locals is the best way to do that. It’s also kind of sad when foreigners see each other as rivals instead of potential friends with so much in common (a shared interest in Japan, for one!). Our advice is to make friends with whomever you want to, but don’t intentionally seek to cut people out of your life. Return that Gaijin Nod. You never know when you might miss out on meeting someone awesome.

Mistake 3: Favouring one culture over another

It’s always embarrassing to encounter a Western person in Japan who would much rather be Japanese. Whether they’re full-blown weeaboo or just a little bit too enthusiastic about life in Japan, these folk can seem pretty obnoxious, especially when they’re constantly trying to prove how “Japanese” they are, or bitching about their home country. Some will shrug off their cultural identity altogether, refusing to talk about where they’re from and only wanting to focus on their Japanese life. Abandoning your home culture is a huge mistake, since inevitably you’ll end up eating your words someday and will wind up isolating yourself from people back home, which can get really lonely. Just because you love Japanese culture, doesn’t mean you have to abandon or disparage your own. You don’t win extra Gaijin Brownie Points for watching only Japanese TV shows and eating nothing but Japanese food.

On the other hand, some people go a little too far the other way, and refuse to have anything to do with Japan, the country in which they’re currently residing. This is usually a sign of culture shock, and often manifests in only wanting to eat food from home, avoiding going out and aggressively rejecting anything remotely “Japanese”. Moving to Japan means you’re always going to be between cultures, but it’s important to remember that no one’s making you choose—you can identify with your home country and also enjoy Japan, too!

Mistake 4: Wallowing in negativity / Living in denial

Another big mistake some foreigners make is to treat Japan like some sort of divine force which has the power to bring either misery or joy to their lives. Japan isn’t responsible for your happiness, and if you’re constantly unhappy here, there’s a good chance you’d be constantly unhappy somewhere else, too. Culture shock is real and feels awful, but we’ve all known foreigners who choose to stay here year after year and yet just love to blame Japan for every last little thing that upsets them. Having problems at work? Blame Japan. Apartment walls too thin? Blame Japan. Stubbed your toe? Blame Japan.

Alternatively, you could become one of those people who has committed so heavily to their Japan dream that they’re no longer able to voice any frustrations about living here without inciting waves of obnoxious “but I thought you said you LOOOOVED Japan” -type comments from friends and peers. In that case, your only option is to plaster a big, happy grin on your face and pretend that Japan is a magical playground where nothing bad ever happens. It’s totally okay to vent to others in the same boat as you about some of the frustrations you’ll naturally feel while living here, you just need to make sure you don’t develop a victim mentality and start retroactively blaming Japan for your puppy Sparky being squished by that ice cream truck back when you were seven. The key to a happy, balanced attitude is in avoiding drawing comparisons between Japan and your home country. Instead of trying to decide which aspects about each country are better or worse than the other, maybe just embrace the differences.

Mistake 5: Getting stuck in a rut

When they first move to Japan, many people have visions of visiting each prefecture, hitting all the big temples and sightseeing spots, maybe getting some snowboarding or surfing in, and really getting into some of Japan’s cultural pastimes like karate or ikebana. Then work or school happens, months or years pass, and they realise they’ve barely left Tokyo and the only karate they’ve wound up doing is the “excuse me” chopping hand motion as they force their way through the crowds during rush-hour at the train station. Get too into the daily grind of commuting, work or school and you can find yourself living the kind of humdrum life that could be lived pretty much anywhere, with nothing to distinguish life in Japan from life back home. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and getting too comfortable and too used to life in Japan can make you feel less inclined to get out of your comfort zone and really go out of your way to appreciate everything the country has to offer.

Another common “stuck in a rut” type situation a lot of foreigners find themselves in actually happens in their working life. English teaching can be challenging but rewarding, and foreign teachers often get a lot of respect simply for providing a service (native English teaching) which Japanese people just can’t do themselves. It’s no wonder that a lot of English teachers get nice and comfy in their jobs, and even as their level of Japanese increases, they don’t really ever think about doing anything else. Of course, if you love teaching English, nobody’s telling you to give it up and go work in an office, and we’re not trying to dump on English teaching as a profession (after all, given everything we’ve learned about Japan’s level of English education, the country really needs good native teachers). But often, people who would actually rather be doing something else tend to give up their aspirations and coast along as English teachers for years, decades even, since it’s all they know in Japan. It might be harder to pursue your career dreams in Japan as opposed to back home, but you don’t need to choose between living in Japan and doing what you’ve always wanted to do.

So there you have it, five fairly serious, life-altering mistakes that a lot of foreigners tend to make when living in Japan. How do we know? Well, we may have, um, made a few of them ourselves in our youth… but time and perspective have shown us the error of our ways!

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- 4 Japanese beauty fads that Westerners just don’t understand -- “But we’re speaking Japanese!”: Humorous video confronts lingering stereotypes in Japan -- Genka Bar, where your drinks never cost more than what they’re worth!

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102 Comments
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Gaijin Smashing - "the station staff might be reluctant to chase after and engage with a big, scary foreigner"

Not going to work for me, this one. The station staff WILL chase after me since I look just like a Japanese. Worse, when he catches up with me, and I try to explain that I can't speak Japanese, he's going to think I'm faking that.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

It would help if you defined "West". Do you mean all countries West of Japan? or the "West"? Because they are a lot of differences in how People from each country conduct themselves here. Shouldnt stereotype too much.

12 ( +17 / -5 )

It’s always embarrassing to encounter a Western person in Japan who would much rather be Japanese

There used to be a fair few of these in Kyoto in the 80s and I often wonder what happened to them. I guess some of them died in Japan.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Just realize one thing: you are responsible for your own actions. Your attitude will have a remarkable influence on how you experience Japanese life.

This article would be even better if it provided some solutions to each of the five pitfalls. It just talks about what can go wrong. How about ways to avoid falling into those situations?

9 ( +11 / -2 )

"Gaijin smashing" is a life-altering mistake? A mistake, maybe, but life-altering? Besides, I always thought that a little "gaijin smashing" was a bit of quid pro quo for enduring racism/xenophobia in Japan. "Hey, you're not going to rent me an apartment? Okay, then a discounted train ride every now and then seems more than fair."

20 ( +25 / -6 )

Ok 2 problems with this.

4

Japan isn’t responsible for your happiness, and if you’re constantly unhappy here, there’s a good chance you’d be constantly unhappy somewhere else, too. Culture shock is real and feels awful, but we’ve all known foreigners who choose to stay here year after year and yet just love to blame Japan for every last little thing that upsets them. Having problems at work? Blame Japan. Apartment walls too thin? Blame Japan. Stubbed your toe? Blame Japan.

Things are different here, we all acknowledge that. This can be for the better or worse. I could easily make a Top 100 list of things that grind my gears about living in Japan, but I think you get the idea. For example, work-related problems can be Japan-specific, as labour laws here are never enforced. Employers get away with blue murder.

5

It’s no wonder that a lot of English teachers get nice and comfy in their jobs, and even as their level of Japanese increases, they don’t really ever think about doing anything else.

Okay, a rash point made without anything to back it up. How do you know that the person in question wants to be an English teacher for life? Most don't, which brings me to my point. As a foreigner, your options are limited here - regardless of your credentials. Japanese employers mass-hire 'blank canvases' annually amd there's no mid-career job market here. The market itself is a dead-end for most.

Legit one of the worst pieces I've read on this site.

15 ( +19 / -4 )

It was actually a pretty good article. I like how they examined both sides of the extremes for each point. I think the reason it will incite so much hatred is that it's going to touch a nerve in so many of the readers here. The truth hurts.

-3 ( +13 / -16 )

This is a very subjective opinionated article, nothing about living in another country is static. Give this guy 10 more years and see if he writes the same opinion. Id agree with mistake #2. Otherwise, Im all over the place, as all other gaijin I know, and could be in any one of the "camps" he mentions on any given day. Its pretty basic no brainer stuff really. When you live in a country where your the extreme minority and all the emphasis is placed on being Japanese or not Japanese, then allot of the "ruts" he talks about are only defense mechanisms. For example, if Im called gaijin daily, and thought of as inferior, then naturally Im going to protect my own self by promoting my home country, even if I dont believe it, to keep me grounded and sane, and to stay focused that is not the norm elsewhere. If he was living in the U.S. Europe, N.Z. SG, etc, then this article has merit. Seems a bit intelectually lazy too me, or disconnected from experienced reality. It seems he is too careful not to blame Japan, and blame the foriegner, which just gets a yawn from me because you can find/read/hear this amature apologetic stuff everywhere. The same gaijin, after 10 more years might of been fired, divorced, etc etc and have a different tune to their song. Yes, many gaijin get stuck in the rut of teaching English. Ok, well due to exclusionary policies and language inablity (even after decades of learning English) there are few jobs for non Japanese speakers. So yes, they either jump through multiple hoops to reach the unholy grail of working in a J enviroment or go home. Reverse that and place a Japanese in hawaii. They dont even need to learn the local language and can go online and find multiple jobs all over for them, due to unexclusionary polices (visa requirements aside) that welcome them.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Wouldn't most of these people be jerks in any culture?

23 ( +23 / -1 )

One of the things I do like about Japan (probably applies to other Asian cultures also) is that Japan is the great equalizer. This means that all are affected equally without regard to nationality, race, color, education and relegion. Kind of an opposite and ancient take on the more recent equal opportunity laws in the U.S. and elsewhere ) Give somebody enough time, and you can share the same "truths" and "fundamentals" you have discovered about Japan, and realize what you thought was discrimination against you, has happened to somebody else, sometimes in the exact context or situation. I must admit I do enjoy and sharing these cerebral moments. Sometimes I dont even get theirr name, we just vent, connect to the real and get relief. Everybody goes through the stages and camps as this guy has posted also. They come on the scene with lectures, how to cope, then they have an experience, and join the "negative" camp. Then they leave. Thats why this article gets another yawn.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

I find the gaijin living in the bubble to be the most prevalent. They only go to the same restaurants with the limited English menu, say daijoubu a lot, and know nothing about their host country. When they have a friend of ralative visit, I always love to listen in to the conversation. They try to come off as if they know everything and anything about Japan but they actually know nothing...except...daijoubu.

One of my friends once said, "How do you know how long a gaijin has been in Japan?" "Ask them how many words of Japanese do they know, and that number of words will correspond to years!" Knows 13 words = 13 years.

Daijoubu?

-30 ( +6 / -34 )

That's why it feels like I've been here forever!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Mistake 2: Cutting people out of your life

The other camp is probably a little more laid-back about their new life in Japan and revels in the chance to make friends with other people from literally all over the world. They forge lifelong friendships with people from far-flung places, learn about those people’s cultures, and generally have an amazing time, apart from the fact that they find making Japanese friends to be a bit too much effort, and so they don’t bother.

I don't consider a "life-altering" mistake trying to socialize with as many different foreigners as you can. I never lived in New York, but I think one of the best things of living in Japan is the opportunity of knowing people from all the corners of the world, from Southeast Asia to Pacific Islands, Africa, Europe and Americas. Besides, after years in Japan and getting fluent in the language, you simply grow tired when you realize that for everytime you meet a new japanese person they will come with exactly the same silly questions, and most of their "sugoi" among another praisings to you over literally anything are as fake as a three dollar bill.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Was guilty at times of some of these things. At first I made a big effort to learn Japanese etc., and went from zero to passing level 1 of the JLPT pretty quickly. After a while though meeting Japanese people, I found it too much hassle to break through all their stereotypes before actually having a conversation with them.

I did also get stuck in a rut for a while. Work was going well and I was making 10M yen plus each year, but I wasn't investing in my own personal and professional development in the way I do now.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Waiting for the hilarious replies from the weeaboos and bitter expats.

-23 ( +2 / -25 )

Thunderbird: I learned to deal with the same silly questions when talking to someone new by firing off all the answers to the common questions in fast succession first. It works. But then there is no conversation left to be had.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I think the take away from articles and conversations like this is that you have to live your truth. Ive been through all the peaks, valleys, deeper valleys, etc and what Ive learned about Japan is that you have to trust yourself. If something doesnt feel right, it usally isnt. Thats your truth, not some other clowns. The other clown might have a myriad of issues/excuses themself to justify their "truth" Its not applicable to me. you might get called a D bag in the way you react, but in the end its your truth. Ive chased my tail and chased the holy grail of companies etc, usually to find them quite unholy, only to realize I should of lived my truth to begin with. We all must sacrifice to get somewhere, this is true, but what many yawn inspiring articles like this fail to mention is the chase ones tail perpetual trap that Japan offers to foriegners; they only mention its symptoms. Thats low hanging fruit, easy to pick. You got to get past that to make any progress in Japan. I think Japan affects all foriengers pretty much the same in the end, its how they deal with it and are honest about it.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Spot on. Thank you.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

My only problem with marrying a Japanese woman is that now I feel I'm stuck in Japan. So I guess it is the same as Mistake 5: Getting stuck in a rut in my case.

17 ( +18 / -2 )

"Gaijin smashing" is a life-altering mistake? A mistake, maybe, but life-altering? Besides, I always thought that a little "gaijin smashing" was a bit of quid pro quo for enduring racism/xenophobia in Japan. "Hey, you're not going to rent me an apartment? Okay, then a discounted train ride every now and then seems more than fair."

Yep, I live for my family and myself, not to represent the entire gaijin population. I have bent the rules a few times and saved cash in the process. Wouldn't following the rules like sheep put me under Mistake #3?

0 ( +6 / -6 )

I think one of the biggest mistakes some foreigners make is trying to live their lives as if they are not foreigners. This just leads to alot of unnecessary frustration and mental health issues in my opinion. For example, the gaijin who gets really bothered by Japanese people who keep speaking to them in English even though they answer back in Japanese (and have made a huge effort to learn the language), or who ask about the person's 'home' country even though they've been living here for 20 years.

I think seeing yourself as a representative of your home country who's just temporarily living in Japan is a good way to stay sane (even if you've been here for decades with a wife and kids and have no plans to leave). I know this is a bit controversial for some people though.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I guess some of them died in Japan.

I can think of many worse places to die. Some people (like me) don't have much of a home to go back to in their home country. Family is dispersed or has also emigrated, for example. On balance, Japan is a pretty decent place to be.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Number two is interesting. After reaching a high level of Japanese I realised that the vast majority of Japanese people worth speaking to speak English anyway ( unless of course you enjoy entertaining the locals in the izakaya with your hilarious tales ).

9 ( +13 / -4 )

5 is real, lol. Every time I'm planning for a vacation out of Tokyo, while searching for tickets/hotels, I see ads for Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Korea which cost only a little bit more than shinkansen to Osaka for example. Every time, I opted for "international" experience, while thinking "I can go to osaka anytime, it's very close!".
7 ( +7 / -0 )

Instead of trying to decide which aspects about each country are better or worse than the other, maybe just embrace the >>differences.

In a nutshell, asking you to drop your common sense and curiosity and just be another sheep in the herd. I will embrace any difference that my ethic allow to do but I cannot embrace mediocrity, corruption or whatever my common sense tells me it is not fair or not right just because others want me to do it.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It’s always embarrassing to encounter a Western person in Japan who would much rather be Japanese.

Yes, it is. Ha-ha, there are a couple foreigners in these JT forums like this.

6 ( +10 / -5 )

Regarding number 5, being stuck in a rut:

A more informative and interesting article would be reporting ways people have, in fact, changed their lives to "pursue dreams" whilst living in Japan.

And I'll say this point simply: being a jerk is being a jerk, regardless of locale.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think seeing yourself as a representative of your home country who's just temporarily living in Japan is a good way to stay >>sane

I tend to like this definition and I would like to add, as much as we can learn from Japan, Japanese can also learn from us by questioning and so there is a reciprocal benefit instead of preaching blind obscurantism, too bad this article are not outlining this.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@shonanbb

nice move shonanbb, I think I will try it someday. Already tried different sneaky ways to try to not get caught in the neverending dejavu like when someone asks the same stupid question I'm tired of and I say: そうね、ちなみに...(yeah whatever, by the way..) and completely change the topic. The problem is that the conversation might either run out of topics or the person will remember the question and insist on the "can you eat japanese food?".

Of course while talking with other foreigners the "where are you from" is inevitable, but apart of that, there will be always plenty of talk to enjoy, be it in english or japanese.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Mistake 5 with most articles here, is not all foreigners in Japan reside in Tokyo. Japan is not just Tokyo.

13 ( +13 / -1 )

@strangerland

It was actually a pretty good article. I like how they examined both sides of the extremes for each point.

I agree. I read this just after reading the piece about two people being arrested outside the Turkish Embassy in October when I enjoyed voting down knee-jerk comments from xenophobic hysterics and voting up comments from people who seemed to have thought for more than a moment.

Me - the place where I Iive just happens to be in Japan. I think the people more locally - that helps. Stereotyping and type-casting characters as 'Japanese' or something ethno-nationality like that comes a long way down my list.

I found a lot of the cultural shocks, responses and behaviours described in the article can carry over into other perspectives beyond simply (non/)Japanese.

Probably I shall be voted down now too.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Some good replies to this article. Made me think about the various stages of the experience. I agree it's easy to fall into a rut here. Especially with all the demands on your time--and the lack of any flexibility at all.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Akula: "I did also get stuck in a rut for a while. Work was going well and I was making 10M yen plus each year, but I wasn't investing in my own personal and professional development in the way I do now."

So what changed my friend? I would like to follow your lead and get out of my rut,,,

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's the same thing everywhere. Why should we only focus on making friends in a specific country when there is over 200? Just take what comes to you. Also, if you're in Japan then you should at least like it a little bit? It's like the foreigners in Canada who always complain about how better their country is. I always tell them to go back there. I like my country, but it's too cold for me to live there and it's the major reason why I won't live in Canada, but if I'm not happy in Japan there is much more countries where you can make friends and live a decent life.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Ive met gaijin who will deny and apologize obvious discrimination etc. I know they are experiencing what the rest of do, but process it, or fail to process, differently. Could it be a cerebral issue? Perhaps some of us try to process it, when instead we should dumb down ourselves and remain gaijin drones, magnets for abuse? Problem is when I dumb down, its an act, and feel worse and not my true self. any advice?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

we’ve all known foreigners who choose to stay here year after year

Another way to say that is: Japan NEEDS usafj and fully operational DOD Facilities. Some of these personnel DO NOT choose to come & "stay" here year after year.

and yet just love to blame Japan for every last little thing that upsets them.

I blame japan for its WW2 denials, the security law protesters, the US base bashers, an outdated caste / feudal mentality everyone here has, unfair labor practices, subservient japanese women . . . Yes, those are just some of things that upset me.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Hey... this is one of those article I like... in a sort of way it is saying exactly the same thing I am trying to say in all my comments.

Sure.. I like to be more brutal in my way to express my self in here...but the sentiment and the objective I totally share with this article.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Problem is when I dumb down, its an act, and feel worse and not my true self. any advice?

Alcohol. ;-)

All kidding aside, I've heard trying to have a hobby or interest and focusing on that can help. But that seems more like a band-aid on the problem.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Perhaps some of us try to process it, when instead we should dumb down ourselves and remain gaijin drones, magnets for abuse? Problem is when I dumb down, its an act, and feel worse and not my true self. any advice?"

Magnets for abuse? A bit dramatic. There have been ignorant idiots who have got on my nerves and I have always let them know about it if it really annoyed me. You'll the find these people embarrass and annoy the Japanese people worth spending time with as well. I've been with Japanese friends who've either cringed or lost their tempers with people trying to take liberties or be downright obnoxious with me. Hang around with people worth hanging around with.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Ive met gaijin who will deny and apologize obvious discrimination etc. I know they are experiencing what the rest of do, but process it, or fail to process, differently. Could it be a cerebral issue? Perhaps some of us try to process it, when instead we should dumb down ourselves and remain gaijin drones, magnets for abuse? Problem is when I dumb down, its an act, and feel worse and not my true self. any advice?

It has nothing to do with IQ or intelligence. It's simply ones ability to be a realist or an optimist, vs. a pessimist. It's all perspective.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I think seeing yourself as a representative of your home country

Except I don't particularly want to "represent" my home country either. If you do fall into that then you might end up more insane having to justify all kinds of nonsense. Plus, it rarely matters what you might say since the ingrained stereotype far outlasts any opinion or reality you might convey.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Chu-hi Hanging around people who are too negative about Japan (Japan haters) Not getting out of your apt and doing stuff! Not thinking about life after JET until the very last moment

When I was only JET I met soooooooooooooo many people that hardly ever left their prefecture, their town, or even their apartment. They never went on adventure and just explored not even on their bicycle around the city or neighborhood. Many also just hang out with other JETs and basically they are just living trying to hold onto the fun they had in the WEST. Going on adventures all over Japan from the mountains in my back yard, to train journeys using the seishun 18 kippu, and even cross country by motorcycle.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@strangerland

Thats some heavy stuff you just enlightened us all with. So when everday on the train somebody will quickly run away and find another seat just because Im a gajin, let me get you straight, your saying I should be an optimist and excuse that behavior? When Im told Im a gaijin, therefore not qualifed for some work or residence, or benefit, I should blame my gajiness, but remain optimistic? I could go on and on, but its a circle without exit.

Sounds like your victim to stockholm syndrome low selfesteem or something else; as for me I aint buying into all that, thats some toxic soup your selling, no thanks

0 ( +5 / -5 )

seeing yourself as a representative of your home country

Heck, no way! The UK has a lot going for it, but I'm not about to hang football hooliganism, binge drinking, UKIP and black puddings around my neck like an albatross. I'm a representative of me, thank you very much. That's quite enough to have to deal with, without shouldering other folks' burdens.

Could it be a cerebral issue? Perhaps some of us try to process it, when instead we should dumb down ourselves and remain gaijin drones, magnets for abuse? Problem is when I dumb down, its an act, and feel worse and not my true self. any advice?

You could try dumping your preoccupation with your IQ and focus a bit more on your EQ?

Knows 13 words = 13 years

I remember when my neighbours used to use stone axes instead of kitchen knives, and stored food in clay pots. :-)

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Except I don't particularly want to "represent" my home country either.

Moonraker is right. The first time I came to Japan was as an "ambassador" of my country for a 6 months program, invited by the government, when I had all the reasons to explain and represent very aspect of my country to the curious japanese, but after you come back, spend years here and have your new family you're just not into that anymore. I find it very tiresome trying to explain your habits, food you like, your attitude, way of life as a trace of your nationality, I eat pizza because I'm italian, I don't feel cold because I'm canadian, blah blah blah...you simply lose your personal identity to an image of a flag. Sometimes I wish I wasn't born in a so internationally "recognizable" country, coming from a total unknown country (an european micronation, Belize, wherever) might erase on spot all the pre concepts and bias torward you from others, the people you meet will start knowing you from your actions, not from a preconceived image.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@reckless I went back home and had more difficulty getting the sort of work I wanted than I thought I would. Helps in current case though that work has paid for study.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Somewhat stereotypical article, but I'm sure many of us long-termers can relate to a lot of what is pointed out. I have certainly met some of the types mentioned, like the gaijin who ignores other gaijin (for whatever reason), the Japan-bashing gaijin and the 'been here for years but can hardly speak a word of Japanese gaijin'.Anyway, it was an interesting read but shouldn't be taken too seriously.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Perspective really might be the key. I remember before I came here I used to read a website called Lets Japan. At the time, I was shocked over some of the comments on daily life posted there. "How could they dislike it so much?" I thought. Of course, now terms like Naked Theft and NYSINYD (Now You See It, Now You Don't) have entered into my lexicon. :-)

A good rule of thumb, I believe, is just this: If it was cool before but now it's just totally starting to suck, then it might be time to move along. If you have more to contribute/ learn from, hang in there.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So when everday on the train somebody will quickly run away and find another seat just because Im a gajin, let me get you straight, your saying I should be an optimist and excuse that behavior?

This happens to you everyday? Do you maybe not shower so often?

Anyways, why do you have to excuse or condemn anything? When this happens to me I'm thankful that I have more space in which to sit. I couldn't care less about the person who may be running away because I'm a foreigner, or maybe because I smell bad, or maybe because a seat opened up near the door that is closer to the exit that will be closer to the stairs when they get off the train, or maybe because who cares. I'd rather not waste the time and energy stressing about something that matters absolutely not one whit in the greater scheme of things.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Actually, the best way to change your life style every five years or so is to keep getting divorced and married again. Bliss and Anti-Bliss

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

@M3M3M3

"I think one of the biggest mistakes some foreigners make is trying to live their lives as if they are not foreigners. "

This.

Living in Japan as a non-native Japanese is always going to pose some unique challenges. That's true any time you move into a new culture. Its always best to remain open to new cultures, and to try to "fit in" as best you can, but it is also critical to accept that you ARE an outsider, and you always WILL BE an outsider. And most important of all, that there is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with being an outsider. If you learn the language and customs, you can actually "fit in" very well in Japan, to the point that most of your regular acquaintances will start to view you as "uchi" rather than "soto". Nevertheless, even if you manage to become a "Naijin" in some settings, it is important to come to terms with the idea that you will always be a "Gaijin" in Japan -- especially for people who have never met you.

Speaking as someone with a Japanese-sounding name, and 20+ years in the country, it doesnt matter if I can sometimes fool someone over the phone... theyre still going to see my face some day, and the obvious truth is that my face DOES make me a foreigner (or at least, it makes me "different"). The problem is that some people pretend that there's something wrong with people noticing the differences, and take it as a sign of "ingrained racism" or some such. The truth is, people notice these differences in every country on earth . . . and if you dont realise that for the fact that it is, all it proves is that you are a white, middle-class North American who grew up in a predominantly white middle-class cocoon and never had a chance to see how the real world functions until you got to Japan.

The question is how you deal with being "different". If it bugs you so much that you find yourself complaining all the time, and storing up frustration -- GO HOME. Some people just cant adjust to a different culture. There's no shame in that, but if you simply cant handle having people treat you differently, save yourself the frustration of prolonging your stay. Go back to whatever place you DO fit i.

For those who decide to stay, your life will be a lot less stressful if you learn to laugh about the cultural hiccups, or at least to keep them in perspective. For example, if you get tired of hearing the same lame questions every time you meet someone new, turn it into a teaching experience. When someone asks you "O-kuni wa doko?", tell them: "kuni ????? . . . OH! kuni! . . . Boku wa Musashi-no-kuni no mono. (or Sagami-no-kuni, Kai-no-kuni, Yamashiro-no-,kuni . . . etc.) Then you'll have the opening to explain both the inanity of the question, and the fact that an increasing number of non-Asians are now born in Japan, so the question may actually be unanswerable AS WELL AS offensive.

The question is whether you actually care enough about your adopted "home" to try to make it a better place (by teaching people more appropriate ways of interacting with foreigners), or whether youre just here for a paycheck. If you want to feel like you "belong" here, maybe the first thing you need to do is start acting as if you belong. Its fine to point out things about Japan that are unpleasant or could use improvement, but there are constructive and destructive ways to address these issues. If you do your best to choose the constructive path rather than just bashing Japan every chance you get, chances are youll be a lot happier.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The comments speak and relate more sense about lives of foreigners living in Japan than the article itself. The article is more like what I hear often from some Japanese friends.

Cyclops has a valiant point here. Check this news item on live door. Says a lot about the way Japanese think about the way they treat foreigners 外国人実習生の雇用を勧める企業のFAXが話題「給与は最低賃金が可能」 on livedoor website.

Commanteer has said touched on a very serious issue for many people today. All in all,the way the non-Japanese look at life depends on the circumstances of the individuals and the way things are done in Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Please change the title from "mistakes foreigners make" to "mistakes Westerners make".

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

there is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with being an outsider. If you learn the language and customs, you can actually "fit in" very well in Japan, to the point that most of your regular acquaintances will start to view you as "uchi" rather than "soto".

Nice to read something by someone who gets it.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

"Moonraker is right. The first time I came to Japan was as an "ambassador" of my country for a 6 months program, invited by the government, when I had all the reasons to explain and represent very aspect of my country to the curious japanese, but after you come back, spend years here and have your new family you're just not into that anymore. I find it very tiresome trying to explain your habits, food you like, your attitude, way of life as a trace of your nationality, I eat pizza because I'm italian, I don't feel cold because I'm canadian, blah blah blah...you simply lose your personal identity to an image of a flag. Sometimes I wish I wasn't born in a so internationally "recognizable" country, coming from a total unknown country (an european micronation, Belize, wherever) might erase on spot all the pre concepts and bias torward you from others, the people you meet will start knowing you from your actions, not from a preconceived image."

That's interesting. What tends to annoy many foreigners I know more is the habit of the more ignorant Japanese people to lump foreigners together or even their languages as a whole. I can remember our long-suffering translator being asked to translate a document written in German to Japanese despite the fact she made it clear she knew no German ( the response was something along the lines of you understand English and so I'm sure you can make sense of it ).

I'm sure we've all heard the mind-bending question "In Japan we......Do foreign people do this?".

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What tends to annoy many foreigners I know more is the habit of the more ignorant Japanese people to lump foreigners together or even their languages as a whole.

That's because the japanese are very stereotypical. Yes, it is annoying. Good post btw-

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@Akula: thanks and good luck to you.

I have no idea why the morons on this board gave me a thumbs down for asking you an honest question. Anyways, have a great weekend.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Gee I thought it would be something like getting really drunk and mooning the Imperial Palace or walking into a Koban and taking a pee on the floor.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

shonanbb: ""Ask them how many words of Japanese do they know, and that number of words will correspond to years!"

I hope you told your friend that he or she is a moron, because I can tell you that if someone knows hundreds of words it most certainly does NOT mean they have been here hundreds of years. Even your friend's ancestors would be back in China or Korea at that time.

"What tends to annoy many foreigners I know more is the habit of the more ignorant Japanese people to lump foreigners together or even their languages as a whole."

Precisely, which this, and other articles like it (this one slightly better) also do as well -- saying there are two types of foreigners (that most foreigners fall into). I don't know anyone who is either one or the other of these groups, but everyone shares elements of ALL of them, or has.

As for me, personally, I KIND OF do the 'gaijin smash' thing once in a while, if you can call it that. I don't run through ticket gates or lie to the NHK guy (did once when I first got here, but haven't since. I just tell him off in Japanese because I'm not paying when I don't own a television, despite him saying it applies if I have a cell phone), but there are some 'obligatory' customs I do not or no longer engage if it is simply obligation. I'll send a few Nengajyo to people I love or because I want to, but not others (even though I'll thank those who sent me one via email, by phone, or personally when I see them). I don't try to AVOID doing something because it is a Japanese custom at all, but just don't do certain giri-things when I don't think it's necessary. I certainly don't break any laws. So, if that's 'smashing', so be it.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

@therougou. Yeah thats my problem too. My Japanese wife is happy here and son is even happier so I have no way out. I like a lot of things about Japan though and I am slowly getting used to it. After mmmm 7 years.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@WC That's because the japanese are very stereotypical.

As are career military pogues.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So if dude is jammed and bought a house and has kids, of course he will tell you all is bliss. Good on you.

You got to respect others though; you cant have a fit when they tell their truth.

So my truth is this; everything in japan is but it isnt. They will tell you they accept you, when in fact they dont

You can try and make that work if you want to, but seems to be a waste of effort to me. As strangerland ridiculosly posted, I can change up my stink but it has no merit because once they have made up their mind during that 2 second window of opportunity to find a seat and see gaijinsan, they scoot. Stink or no stink. But nice try on trying to make it work.

Short term; absolutely. Enjoy japan and the nice people Ive met. Long term, cant recomend it.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

They will tell you they accept you, when in fact they dont

I've never had anyone tell me they accept me - or don't. Is this a question you ask people?

3 ( +6 / -4 )

This topic could be titled "5 life-altering mistakes foreigners make when living in _____"

It's the same thing for anyone who's making a home in any country that is not where they were born. I know Japanese people living in the US, Australia, Belgium and they whine constantly about their new country.

Japan is not that unique. It's just a country like every other country with it's own history and culture, yes, but deep down it's filled with the same people: great people, polite people, jerks, and we all gotta pay our bills and want the government out of our lives.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

"Gaijin Smashing" actually this is a great way to keep all the petty crap out of your life and the stress associated with it. yes I put on the whole Japaness when the need arises, but being a gaijin youll never really be treated the same as Japanese person so why the need to follow all there rules. Some may say your not being true to yourself and just putting on a act BS, but isnt that what most Japanese do everyday, do whats culturally accepted even if you dont agree with it. Doing one thing while thinking something different.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@paulinusa. No they are not all jerks. Thats a huge generalisation. Some people prefer a more cosmopolitan culture among other things.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@jimizo,

just asking for a little critical thinking here. Magnet for abuse, isnt that what any immigrant faces when they are a minority in another country? Take an Asian person, place them in the rural south of the U.S., Australia, New Zealand etc Would they attract stares, remarks, ridicule, "bizarre" treatment because they dont look/act like the majority? Of course, and sometimes the non white majority will be doing it, Ive heard this from Japanese themselves. Thus the analogy. Would it ever get better for them, or perpetual attraction for abuse? In some areas it wouldnt, thats an unfortuante fact. If you want to stay long term in Japan, Im just saying consider the magnet analogy.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

They will tell you they accept you, when in fact they don't

No one has ever - ever - told me they 'accept' me. I'd find it creepy if they did. Actions speak louder than words. Offers of help, requests for help, sharing of joys and sorrows, breaking of bread (onigiri?) together - these are the things that speak of acceptance. If you're sitting there waiting for someone to tell you they 'accept' you, you're in for a long wait. No wonder you have problems.

Magnet for abuse, isnt that what any immigrant faces when they are a minority in another country?

When you're home, is it second nature for you to abuse immigrants?

With my very non-Japanese looks I've attracted my share of stares and 'bizarre' treatment. But abuse? Never.

So if dude is jammed and bought a house and has kids, of course he will tell you all is bliss.

Loving wife, cute kids and a house to put them in, why wouldn't all be bliss?

2 ( +4 / -3 )

Harvey pekar - I agree. Too much is made out of the differences between cultures & countries.

Everywhere is different. The locals in my city here have any number of funny, nice or derogatory comments about the "neighbours" in the next cities. Hell even the west vs east side of the prefecture comes in for some interesting moments.

If I find something quite disagreeable, I don't mind to make comments about it. Unfortunately there is that portion of the foreign or native community that takes any percieved negative comment as "If you don't like it here why don't you go home".

Thank fully I rarely have to deal with such people in the real world.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@cleo,

well after reading all that im ready to go naturalize ) never seen such wisdom before, thanks for clearing it all up for me

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I just think these 1-5 examples are all just classic examples of human personality regardless of where the person lives. Those living abroad or even in their own countries fall in a rut or love hard a culture that's not their own.

Again, Japan is just another country. What is that quote, wherever you go, there you are.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Number two is interesting. After reaching a high level of Japanese I realised that the vast majority of Japanese people worth speaking to speak English anyway ( unless of course you enjoy entertaining the locals in the izakaya with your hilarious tales ).

Snob.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

For the western English teacher, Japan is great at 25, okay at 35, a problem at 45, a struggle at 55 and a disaster at 65 with no pension, no property and minimal savings. This is because incomes don't increase to match expenses and people should leave earlier or improve themselves and get better jobs.I hear them complaining that they don't get pay rises etc. This is because they are in part-time jobs in a foreign country and are genuinely not worth more than they get paid. They just don't like the market rate and they end up very bitter and often spitting venom. It's not Japan's fault that someone aged 50 with no relevant qualification and the dubious skill of only speaking his own language is not worth anymore money than a 25 year old in the same position.

The classic error for many westerners here is to not understand their real worth and to do nothing to improve themselves beyond an undergraduate degree. Immigrants everywhere need to fight a bit to prosper. They need to be smarter, they need to be qualified and they need to take a bit of stick. They also usually need to speak the local language well and be able to read and write it. If you're 35 and already feeling the pinch in Japan, skill-up or get the hell out. Even if you learn Japanese pretty well, most Japanese jobs will remain closed to you unless you read and write kanji like a native. If you are like me, and are an upper-intermediate level Japanese speaker who can work out the gist of most announcements and read nearly all the Tokyo train stations in kanji as well as a menu or three, all jobs that require true Japanese ability are closed to you. You need to improve your education, start your own business or get lucky. I did the third one, but most won't get lucky. Trying to raise a family as an English teacher with weak Japanese ability and 4 million yen a year doesn't work out too well, but it's not Japan's fault. Many unskilled Japanese have it tough too. The average salary here is only 37,000 US dollars a year and most of the poor are Japanese. Younger foreigners here need to think about this while they have time to change things, not become the disillusioned 50 year-old with no skills and a whole load of grievances that we all meet from time to time.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

Hampton, that was the most well written piece of advice I believe I've ever seen in a reply thread. You spoke volumes there, brother!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ Hampton, I disagree, the classic error most people make, regardless of their location, is to pass time and not save for the future. This isn't about being in Japan and that being an unfortunate side effect. I've seen many a person stay in a job where the pay starts out well but... as you said, does not increase. Like being a waiter or waitress. I'd like to also see some statistics on English teachers. On average how many years do they work in that job before the leave or move on to something else?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

yes I agree with Hampton. my problem was getting married. I made a ton of money, but my wife spent it all. if I had remained single. I could easily have wound up on a beach in Thailand by now.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@Hampton,

Absolutely 100% correct. You nailed it down perfectly. Bravo!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@hampton,

somewhat agree, but once again, everybodys truth/experience is their own, and I also disagree with some of what you said.

Yes, many Japanese wont skill up. Japan is not known for having an A to B mindset, if your a bedmaker, maidsan etc in a hotel, many will stay at that position for life. So when they loose their job, they go to Hello Work and face exclusion due to their age when looking for a job. At 40, getting recertified in IT, sales etc, even if paid for by the gov (many people dont know but Japanese can get free vocational training in many skillsets) may not seem worth it if every employer denies them a chance due to their age. Thats why this article gets a yawn, he didnt even mention the even greater rut Japanese find themselves in(perhaps because of the complexities of it, and its easier to target fellow foriegners), or the apathy that comes with it. I know many Japanese who are like this, so yes, it can be something to motivate you, but other places offer more so that can be a mental trap as well. If Japan doesnt offer then you can go somewhere else. So I agree with you about Japanese also facing a tougher climb, but it still doesnt excuse anything. Skill up can become an endless chase. You get every certification out there, and speak the language, only to get a job where your the only gaijin and never accepted. I dont really find that an ideal situation, perhaps you do, but I cant lie about it. And once you get that position, many japanese feel your not worthy of it and let you know it. Agreed with the obvious, an English teacher with an undergrad in history will face a tougher climb than say an experienced pipefitter due to simple economics, but Ive seen some bizarre things. Many times the japanese arent even interested in your skillset, just your look or race. In that case its about timing and luck, as you put it. This is the problem with situational ethics and case by case hiring. Basically, Japanese still hire new grads from universities and treat them as a blank paper to write on. This is their way. I prefer a place (and japanese also question why I would choose their system when there is much better outside) where Im hirred not by luck, look, ability to do more due to physical size but by merit. I feel your post also has a lecture tone to it, and its a bit disrespectful to those who might of tried but werent "lucky" like you.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

5petals, I was really addressing rut number 5, and the article is about mistakes made by westerners, which is what they mean when they say "foreigners" on English language websites. I didn't thumb you down, I think you make a lot of valid points. I do think there is an onus on an immigrant to skill-up, learn the local language and have a bit of spark. Of course some people spend money on education and find it doesn't work for them, but I think this is when older people attempt it and study non-marketable things. After the age of 40 there is probably no point trying the education route because the society is so ageist. That age may even be 32-33 in many industries. Treading water for too long in a semi-skilled job that feels okay at 25 but will be a disaster by 45 is a mistake though, and it is not Japan's fault that so many westerners do this. It is not about respect and I don't care about "acceptance". Most Japanese people view me as a foreigner in Japan and they always will. I don't have a problem with that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I just consider them life altering if one is on these five on the extreme side. Otherwise, we've gone thru all these, accept differences, learn and still survive with a grin.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@hampton,

fair enough, you make good points. Id promote "skill up and roll" instead of skill up and stay as there isnt an age factor in other countries like in Japan. I was once on a project and trying to get some experience in a certian sector, and a negative (seems the norm) japanese kept asking me, "then what" well when I said, "go home" it was if I commited a crime, but I shut him up. But he does make a good point. So you skill up in Japan, then what? They have this mentality, like they are in a rut. Thats the rut we should be talking about. As for English teachers, I dont know that scene, but if you got an undergrad, its not too much of a stretch to get an MBA and try the multinationals. if the japanese tell you after you skilled up with a smirk, moshiwake arimasen, san ju go san made...well you can roll with your skills somewhere else. For some reason, I never see this mentioned, that is the ability, the joy, the escape. Will your world end or begin if you leave Japan? instead its always the low hanging fruit story about them trouble making gaijin.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

my problem was getting married. I made a ton of money, but my wife spent it all. lol yeah but that a phenomena that almost all countries suffer from!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

True to form, Janpan, or Jampan, or Jahpan holds on to antiquated methods and identities. I wanna live long enough to witness countries like Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos surpass this one...personally, I'd do the blue collar jobs to secure a feeling of safety and job longevity. Language teaching options may be plentiful, especially part-time teaching staff. But why would companies wish to perpetuate a hire - quit/fire conundrum? In reality, westerners leave. A healthy reaction to working in Japan. The many who stay i assume have family and/or degrees related to Asia or finance or language teaching. I am 50 and am tired of sweeping and cleaning up after my teacher. "Sensei! Let me try my hand at making a vase, too! Aren't I your apprentise after all"? The language learning industry is a money making machine and the Japanese deserve to lose their money (they wouldn't need to fork it over if kids were learning a la Scandanavian...). English teaching is not for native speakers. Jgovernment should limit visas to those with masters in education, linguistics, or English, or tefl/tesl. That would keep the rabble out! Then oldies like me would have a good chance at a normal working life here. I have a degree in Japanese studies, but who cares?! Still, we could all agree that being purposeful about the where and why for all before you go and live abroad is a better approach than just winging it and taking whatever comes your way. We could all make MUSUBI in a lawson factory (other staff are thinking:"this loser can't teach or even wrap a riceball. Who let him in here"?!...By comparison imagine work in Thailand or Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh. Integrate, learn to speak like the locals, etc. It may not work out even then, but complaining foreigners should meditate long, deep, and hard before they whimper about marginalisation. Jgovernment, get a grip. Start up an NHK English only channel with English only programming. Then I'll pay that gdam fee...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@ Loggediin I have a degree in Japanese studies! Looks like #5 Yes you are in Rut!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There one more mistake that should have beeb listed:: marrying the wrong Japanese. A bad marriage is hard enough in your own country. It is infinitely worse in Japan, particularly if you are here for the duration. If you have kids it is infinately worse.

The one thing I recommend is to marry your equal. If you are a professional then marry a professional. If you are intelligent marry someone who is intelligent, particularly someone who is mature and broadminded. So-called international marriages need extra care.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

After reading this and the comments I see how focus can be a distraction. I am an American living in America and can easily say I feel like a Gaijin here. Unscrupulous employers, people moving to another seat (perceived discrimination) are we not allowed space?, questions about my life are daily where I am now. Life is in control, and only fools believe they control fate. If fate has landed upon you and surrounded you with good wit and company then you are truly blessed. If fate puts unscrupulous people and situations at your feet then deal with it as best you can. Being of good manners is a positive wherever we are and whatever we do. I will see if fate will make Japan a good or highly challenging place for me.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

dumb article, yeah balance is the key to living in Japan, or anywhere for that matter. Hell doing anything in your life should be well balanced. one thing annoyed me and that being "gaijin smashing" not the smashing so much, as the writers comment about making local opinion of gaijins bad. Who gives a shit about local opinion?? I quit caring what Japanese think 20 years ago. A better piece of advice would be " you can please some people some of the time, but you can't please everyone all of the time"". That would be way more useful for the noob that this article I assume is directed at.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I find it helps to remember that Japanese people also are only living here temporarily.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Don't marry a local or you'll never be able to leave. Definitely don't have a kid here or you'll never be able to leave. I've avoided both for 20 years. When my pension pays up I'm out of here. Retiring in Japan? Living in a nursing home in Japan? Naah!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Don't marry a local or you'll never be able to leave. Definitely don't have a kid here or you'll never be able to leave.

These are pretty blanket statements. I've known a number of couples who have married here and left, some of them with kids. I'm working on a move elsewhere in Asia myself in a few years, with my wife and kids.

I think the qualifier for your statement is likely "...if you're unskilled". And even then it's not entirely true - I've known English teachers who went home with their Japanese wife and kids.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Honestly, I wish I can go to Japan if just to have the opportunity to make those mistakes . . . or not! (LOL)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@smith exactly "Japanese laws"., of course I follow as should everybody else living here, "obligatory customs" only when I want too, will never be truly treated like a Japanese (not that I want too) so why the need to follow there customs. If thats a "Gaijin smash" well then im guilty

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"but we’ve all known foreigners who choose to stay here year after year and yet just love to blame Japan for every last little thing that upsets them. Having problems at work? Blame Japan. Apartment walls too thin? Blame Japan. Stubbed your toe? Blame Japan."

This basically applies to the vast majority of people posting here. Obviously, they would rather pretend they fall within a different category.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Being in Japan, or any other country, almost always turns into a "love / hate" type relationship if you're a foreigner. My wife and I moved back to the USA almost 4 years ago.... and believe me its no different for her living here. She likes the ease of travel but hates the food. She likes what money can buy in the USA but dislikes much of the quality. She likes the ease at which she's able to do her banking and pay bills but worries about identity theft. She hates all the stories of guns, drugs and violence and thinks Americans are crazy but enjoys many of her American friends. I think it may be that the Japanese avidly identify themselves as quite different from the rest of the world to the point that a foreigner might also feel his or her relationship with Japan might also be special and unique.... but in my opinion, just about any person living in a foreign country will develop a like / dislike attitude.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

THe author left out the biggest gaijin mistake of them all:

After living only a few years in Japan, trying to pawn off their experience as some sort of guide for others.

Anyways, good discussion.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have lived in Indonesia, and all trough Europe, including Russia but wow this is my greatest challenge.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

NHK - just pay it. Socializing - Socialize with people you like. Don't socialize with people you don't like. Favoring one culture - You will like parts of one culture for some things, and parts of another culture for other things. There's nothing wrong with that. Negativity and Denial - I'm not negative. No, I'm not... Stuck in a Rut - You can be stuck in a rut wherever you live. You don't have to travel to find a rut.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"but in my opinion, just about any person living in a foreign country will develop a like / dislike attitude."

well thats a very sweet and another no brainer post, but its not quite that simple in Japan. It all rolls back to if your Japanese or not Japanese; whether youll get a meaning job besides bento making or English teaching, housing, etc. I dont think your wife was ever asked her nationality and age during a job interview in the U.S., was she? Was she excluded because of her nationality or gender? Yes, Im sure youll reply with "horror" stories of all the discrimination she faced in the U.S. But stay on point; during any interview, was she ever asked her age and what country she was from and if she had any kids? Was she ever told before entering a public establishment "so sorry, Americans only?" Was she ever told when looking for an apartment, "so sorry, Americans only" There are many things I dislike about the U.S. and other countries so that excuse doesnt apply.

"I have lived in Indonesia, and all trough Europe, including Russia but wow this is my greatest challenge."

Sorry to hear that, but welcome to the club. Least your honest about it

"Stuck in a Rut - You can be stuck in a rut wherever you live. You don't have to travel to find a rut."

True, but once again, your not being completely honest. Remember, there is age, gender, nationality, race etc discrimination still prevalent in Japan so it all rolls back to that. Even if I have entered the "club" and been "accepted" by Japan Inc, I will be expected to work there for life, and a slow cook begins. I dont buy into any of that and cant promote it, so dont hate on me for a different view.

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@5petals,

So what is it that you do for a living? It's hard to determine whether everything in life that happened in Japan was based on pure racism that happens only in japan (especially with vague responses). For example, people moving away from you once you sit in the train. It may be due to racism but it could also be a number of different reasons: you smell, you're morbidly obese or who knows what else. Your job interview... What was the position? What new skills did you acquire? How competitive is that market? What's your job experience? So many factors on this as well. That's the problem with internet posts since its all anonymous and hard to confirm whether they're telling the whole truths or half truths (not saying that you are).

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Anyone have any tips for foreigners trying to learn vocabulary with Kanzi? I'm studying Japanese in hopes of reaching business level one day.

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I did acclimate to a degree first in Korea but was never allowed to fully enter the society. I took the girls and their cousins to amusement parks and movies but was coopted as an English teacher to fill in much of my spare time as my wife and most of her friends had learned their English at school from a teacher who learned English from another Korean teacher. They knew the words but needed help learning to pronounce them so Englishmen and Americans could understand them. Free English classes continued when I was transferred to Japan....that was some time ago though I have been retired from the Military for some time now.

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Thank you for this article. It's a healthy reminder that our dreams and goals are not to be used as a place to run to or escape to, but to grow into. If we're miserable at home, we'll just bring misery where we go. The only one responsible for our happiness is ourself.

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