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Do you consider the word "gaijin" racist?

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I don't know because I've heard many foreigners call themselves gaijin in my presence. But I never use it myself, it doesn't sound very polite or nice, has that negative connotation to it. Nearest reference would be something like 'haole' or the like.

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The word isn't racist; no word is (how can it be) but it is often used in a pejorative way by racist people. However, it is also often used with no malicious intent - it depends on the speaker.

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I know a lot of foreigners get upset at the word but it has never bothered me. I also use it to refer to myself and other foreigners all the time, sometimes in a humorous way.

Anyway, I agree that a word itself is not offensive; rather it is the intent by the speaker that makes any words or expression offensive, rather than how the listener interprets it.

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The word itself isn't rascist at all, but how it is used by many Japanese is very rascist. To me, "gaijin" means foreigner or more like "non-Japanese". But many Japanese don't think about the use of this word.

So when they are talking about "Western" people they just use the gaijin as if those Westerners are all part of the same group, which shows a lack of respect for different cultures. The Japanese very often forget that each country has its own culture and set of beliefs, they just prefer to dump all the non-Japanese countries into the same group. This I believe is what causes the problem.

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Didn't we have the very same question a few years back?

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No. But 外国人 is definitely better in my book.

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Cleo... sam sit different day...

I find Gaijin to be quite an honorific term... at least you are not japanese...

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It depends, But i call the japanese i meet in Hawaii and other countries that i meet "gaijin", and MAN..you should she their reactions..PRICELESS... some try and correct me by saying NO!!!! , I am JAPANESE, and i say, chinese, japanese, korean, mongolian, you all look alike.. that pisses them off, but i remind them that , you are in a foreign country, you ARE a foreigner here, so therefore you are a GAIJIN, so get used to it OR, try and consider this encounter, the next time you see a non-japanese, try and ask where that person is from, AND, call the the name the are entitled to be called.

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I want to get a tight black tee-shirt made up with the word "Gaijin" across the chest in white romanji, and wear it with my camouflage pants and Adidas shoes when I am on stage playing gigs.

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The problem is that this word underlines the attitude that Japan has about foreign residents and visitors. Many Japanese still actively discriminates against people who are living here. They refuse to rent apartments based on our being from another country no matter how good our company and job are. They restict things we can be involved in and use the word as a wall to separate us from them. In any other place this would be seen as discrimination.

In Seattle we didn't call our Japanese student friends "foreigner" for us only redneck stereotypes from bad movies refer to people in that manner. Same should apply here.

We protect the rights of foreign residents equally under the law. Japan should try the same.

Why not just call us Ted, or Mary or that nice girl from down the street? We already have cards that call us Aliens. At least that tag has some humor to it. I say swap gaijin for Alien. At least we can have a laugh when we hear it, despite the alienation behind the world.

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Tkoind2.

I agree but if it isn't the G-word it is something else they will use. Same way that landlords across the globe will find excuses not to rent to certin people. Regardless of laws.

Same all over the globe. No news, move on nothing to see.

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Ah, come on people! Sticks and stones! I get more offended when I get stereotyped as an American.

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Just recently a woman cashier came running after me to give me my change, calling "Gaijin-san, otsuri nan desuyo!" I was rather pleased!

Fair dinkum - "I get more offended when I get steroetyped as an American"

You should take that as a compliment. xD

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with the word gaijin context is EVERYTHING!

Damax6, ha ha I have also done that, thats when those Japanese really learn what the word gaijin can mean.

And like others have said according to the vast vast majority of Japanese there are only 2types of people on this earth, Japanese & Non-Japanese( ie gaijin)

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Fair dinkum!;

I get more offended when I get stereotyped as an American.

I hear ya - I get WAY more offended if I get stereotyped as an ESL teacher.

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PuffinMuffin;

No. But 外国人 is definitely better in my book.

Bingo, but 外人さん or 外人さま are also acceptable.

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Yes, I think that to be called a Gaijin is wrong and racist. The correct term is Gai kokujin. Japanese do not understand how rude they can be when addressing foreigners as gaijin and if they do so knowing well what they are saying, they do it with no respect as the Japanese are inherently a racist culture.

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Just recently a woman cashier came running after me to give me my change, calling "Gaijin-san, otsuri nan desuyo!" I was rather pleased!

She should have called you 'O-kyaku-sama'. In that context 'gaijin-san' is definitely rude and uncalled-for. I think I would have given her a death-stare.

"I get more offended when I get steroetyped as an American"

I find it funny the way people get all effusive and apologetic when they realise their mistake.

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Ok, lets ban the G-word. How much reduced has banning of the n-word and stopped calling them "boy" changed the scene? Answer: NONE.

People will be racist when the want to be. Ban a word and they will find a new one.

It is NOT the word but how it is used and the inflection on it. Ban one and they will find another one. Kindergarten/Primary school should have taught you that one.

In short it is NOT the word but how it is used and inflicted by the user. It can even backfire as with the N-word where it can end up as a source of pride/respect.

HTH.

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If I accuse the poser of the question of being ignorant, am I a "racist?"

"Gaijin" refers to non-Japanese in general, which last time I checked wasn't a racial category. "Racism" is not a catch-all term for prejudice, discrimination, preferences, etc. It's because people throw around loaded words without understanding them even basically that we don't make more social progress than we do.

Anyway, it's a discriminatory word and it's a discriminatory country. No crap. You can like it or lump it as to both but these are just facts.

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rather gaijin than alien!

Every country talks about "foreigners" so what's the problem?

No issues calling me a gaijin or foreigner - I am!

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Use of the word Gaijin without the honorific 'san' or 'sama' is rude and offensive within the Japanese context. A quick "Gaijin SAN, deshou!" should correct most people immediately. ("Ijin san" is even more formal.)

Children tend to forget the honorific, without thinking. Parents and teachers usually correct children's use of such 'yobi-sute', but when it comes to the word Gaijin, maybe that's a grey area for many.

PS I have heard of Japanese employees working in a Japanese bank in London describing non-Japanese customers entering the bank as "Gaijin"... Just innocence? Inability to see things from other people's perspective? No sense of the ridiculous? LOL

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What a ridiculous question. It's no more 'racist' than any other word used to describe a particular group.

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Stupid question can only be answered with another stupid question.

Do you consider the word "foreigner" as racist?

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By definition it is (that’s what it’s all about!), though I don’t find it offensive.

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Exactly, Cleo.

Gaijin-san, otsuri nan desuyo!"

Ten'in baba, ogyougi warui desuyo.

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Cleo - I prefer to give the lady a break - after all, she did give me my change! Sure, "Okyakusama" would have been better, but, hey, she was flustered at seeing my gaijin face. xD

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Patrick_Smith...great post. I'm of just "average height", but feel excatly the same way about the rest.

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Depends on context (obviously) but I think white people are more likely to be called 'gaijin' or 'gaikokujin' while black people are more likely to be defined by their skin colour (kokujin). Don't forget the pecking order: 1. Japanese 2. Whites from Western Europe, US, Australia etc 3. Blacks from US etc, 4. Other Asians 5. South Americans 6. Black Africans.

I am from Australia and unless someone with Asian skin is walking around in a tour group with a camera and a floral shirt we tend to assume they are Australians. However, the opposite would never occur in Japan.

On the positive side, Japanese people don't TRY to be racist, they just don't know any better. So I always take everything they say about non-Japanese people, places and things with a grain of salt.

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It totally depends on the context and inflection of the user. Any word used to describe a person can be taken as offensive, racist, or demeaning in some way if the speaker intends it to. I don't take offense to being called gaijin if someone is simply using it to describe me as a foreigner because it's a fact - I am a foreigner!

People are offended so easily these days!

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I'm proud to be a gaijin and don't take offense at being called one at all.

Except if there is malicious intent, which there very rarely is.

My take is that 'gaijin' means 'non-Japanese' which means Japanese who use the word overseas when they see locals/other non-Japanese, etc. are not mis-using the term.

I always get a laugh with J friends when I glance at a gajin, glare and growl 'GAIJIIIINNNNNNNN!!'

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Bovinus - "I am from Australia and unless someone with Asian skin is walking around in a tour group with a camera and a floral shirt we tend to assume they are Australians."

ha ha, bring it on.

"On the positive side, Japanese people don't TRY to be racist, they just don't know any better. So I always take everything they say about non-Japanese people, places and things with a grain of salt."

ditto.

Good post!

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i just get soooo sick of the "us" and THEM mentality. i am a THEM, by the way. i think that the japanese are so full of the "us" and being "unique" and having extra long intestines blah blah blah that everyone from outside the country is the same. that is very small thinking. people from different countries have different cultures and we should not be lumped together. how about Americajin, Doitsujin etc. etc. etc? and yes, there are other cultures that take off their shoes when they enter their homes, many many people know how to eat with chopsticks and not all foreigers don`t carry umbrellas.

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The tone makes all the difference. Generally, it's not meant to be offensive, even though some people take offense at the idea of being an "outsider." Gaikokujin is generally better received, and gaijinsama is just plain funny.

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I always get a laugh with J friends when I glance at a gajin, glare and growl 'GAIJIIIINNNNNNNN!!' SushiSake3 you evidently have self-esteem issues if you think belittling strangers like that for the amusement of your beloved J friends is an acceptable way to behave. If you had any real wit and strength of character about you you wouldn`t feel the need to take someone down like that. Your parents are failures.

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What irks me is First Name + Sama. Bill-sama. Mary-sama. Scanners moment.

And "Yo bro!" in correspondence from strangers asking for favors. My answer: "No, bro!"

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Nigelboy: I think using the word 'foreigner' when it's not absolutely required is definitely rude at the very least.

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Yes, I think that to be called a Gaijin is wrong and racist. The correct term is Gai kokujin. Japanese do not understand how rude they can be when addressing foreigners as gaijin and if they do so knowing well what they are saying, they do it with no respect as the Japanese are inherently a racist culture.

Well not many seem to agree with you here. Why is the "correct" term gaikokujin? What makes it correct? The only reason I ever thought the term rude and abusive was because some helpful gaijin told me it was, but then I met Japanese people using the term without any perjoritive inflection and I knew it was not really the case.

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Gajin is not racist.

In my country " AMERICA " There are CREATIVE profanity for every race and religious preference.

So it is not racist calling me a gajin.

I find it kind of funny that many non japanese people feel RACISM. Usually these people don`t notice racism in their OWN COUNTRY to other foreigners.

I am a African American. I recieved many RACIST COMMENTS & ACTIONS in America almost on a daily basis. It started when I was 5 years old and has not ended since.

In Japan, I just get stared at. Curiousity Stare. But I have been called, " BOBBY ON THE TRAIN ! " On two seperate occasions on the JR TRAIN.

1 time it was a high school student. He was trying to impress his friends.

2 time it was a 20 year old. Telling his girlfriend that I looked like " BOBBY ". Its funny but they dont realize that i speak and understand Japanese. So I can hear every word they say about me or the topic of conversation.

The thing that really bothers me. Is the sterotypical " BLACK MALES " on Japanese Television.

Jayro Jetro or the anka singer he is ok. He is smart. Has a college degree. And talks intelligently in English and Japanese. So, I only like him. I can`t stand watching the other stupid looking black people they have on Japanese T.V. ( BOOBY BOBBY BOB SAPP YO SO GUY DES and other clowns )

I like being Gajin. I like being me. I don`t come here pretending someone I am not.

I have been in Japan for awhile. And I BELIEVE some forigners want to be Japanese. Maybe they dont like there own culture. Or their country. I know a friend. A co worker that told me. He NEVER will go back to his home country. He doesnt like the women in his home country. He doesnt like nothing. He doesnt want to go back.

I feel sad for him. I hope he will go back and see his family. Sometimes I meet foreign people.

I think you should do a news story on Foreign people who want to be Japanese. Who never want to go back to there country. You should do a news story on them.

WE ALL BREATH THE SAME AIR. LET`S LIVE TOGETHER PEOPLE. ERASE THE RACISM.

SMILE !!!!!

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Tantalos - "SushiSake3 you evidently have self-esteem issues if you think belittling strangers like that for the amusement of your beloved J friends is an acceptable way to behave. If you had any real wit and strength of character about you you wouldn`t feel the need to take someone down like that. Your parents are failures."

Not at all. I do this simply to underline the point at how stupid the labeling is. And it is labeling.

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'gaijin' is a Japanese word used in the Japanese language by Japanese people. Don't like it? Don't listen to the Japanese language. If you don't like how the Japanese use their own language, it won't bother them at all if you go home or stay home. But they're not going to change their culture for you.

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I think in many cases Japanese treat "gaijin" better than they treat other Japanese. I wouldn't even mind if they called me "big round-eye whitey" or something else. In perspective Japan treats people quite nicely. Without perspective it is easy to complain. At least the word isn't pronounced "gay-jin".

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Since the proper term is "Gaikokujin" I consider those who use the shortened form uneducated but not racist. A lot like when at a convience store the person at the cash register uses the "-ko" counting system.

RR

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I think that the word is TOTALLY DISRESPECTFUL. But, do the Japanese and gaikokujins actually think about the real underlying meaning when using it though??

外人 = 外部の人

外 = Outside 人 = Person 外人 = Outsider, Alien.

Japanese is a great language because you can break the words down and get meaning from the characters. Try calling someone an outsider next time you are in your country of birth.

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What's your point?

Foreigner = a person not native to or naturalized in the country or jurisdiction under consideration; alien, a person from outside one's community.

Foreign = of, pertaining to, or derived from another country or nation; not native, not belonging to the place where found.

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Foreigner = a person not native to or naturalized in the country or jurisdiction under consideration; alien, a person from outside one's community.

Foreign = of, pertaining to, or derived from another country or nation; not native, not belonging to the place where found.

Thanks for the defintion of the word foreigner. The point is that there is a word for foreigner, this being 外国人. Gaigin means Outsider or Alien.... See the difference???

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No I don't see the difference. gaijin=outsider/alien=foreigner Is English less offensive than Japanese?

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-yellowmellow

Actually, "外部の人" would mean something more like; "someone who came from outside".

The proper term for outsiders, or people who don't belong is "部外者". Hence the warning signs on restricted areas. "部外者進入禁止"。 外部 is used more as a term for the outer side of an object.

See the Japanese word for "surface damage" -"外部損傷"

外人=外国人 is the proper relation.

as in "person from foreign country".

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外人 = Someone that is outside the group or organisation. No included in the group or organisation. 外国人 = Someone from a foreign country.

I don't know about you, but I never been refer to a foreigner as an outsider or an alien. For example, which is everyday language?? A. The Foreign Student pays higher fees. B. The outside student pays higher fees.

You may have noticed that Immigration at the airport has changed the signs from Aliens to foreigners. Read into that what you may...

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I know, it's very confusing. It took me years to wrap my head around it.

for example: 入手 means "to acquire" 手入 means "to care for, to maintain".

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All depends on pronunciation and context. It can even be a term of envy in the workplace, since the foreigner so often gets to skate away early in certain situations or skip meetings, take the longer holiday, etc.

For your average young, consumer/pop culture addict though it is all too often supposed to mean or be interchangeable with "American".

And that means "gaijin" is a compliment when used to describe or refer to foreigners who are actually Canadians, New Zealanders or continental Euros.

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Barbarian: A member of a people considered by those of another nation or group to have a primitive civilization.

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外人 is not a real word. It's an abbreviation of 外国人.

Japan is full of them, even on official documents. On a drivers liscense, one might have the following abbreviaitons.

普通二輪自動車=普自二 大型けん引自動車=けん引 原動機付自転車=原付 大型特殊自動車=大特 大型第二種自動車=大型二

<strong>Moderator: Readers, please refrain from posting too many kanji.</strong>

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dang! I'm not used to the spacing on this new design.

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Taken from a dictionary;

「外人」(がいじん)は、外部の人間のこと。一般には「外国人」を指す。

Conq - See your point and I guess it just comes down to how you interpret the language. I just think that the correct way to say foreigner is gaigokujin and it is showing lack of respect/knowledge to call someone gaijin.

When it comes down to it Japan is a great country with the most polite of racists on earth.

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Dang! you nailed me with the 広辞苑。 一般=generally, most commonly....

I try not to let semantics get in the way of human interaction. Most of the time, at least.

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What are you people complaining about? Many of you arrived in Japan with jobs already waiting for you. Your beds are perhaps being warmed by Japanese women every night, and you enjoy the novelty status in Japan that sometimes comes with being Gaijin.

You people simply want to have it both ways, and in the process perhaps out of share boredom pick a fight about something that is not even a real issue. Listen up! They can call you Gaijin if they choose and if you want to interpret that as racist then you should all be deported in kimonos for being pedantic sissies.

I sense from some of these postings that not many of you would have a clue about what racism is. Try being an Aborigine in Australia, where the word has been shortened to "abbo" to degrade the status of being indigenous, and force to live on the fringes of white society in poverty and disease. Please give me a break!

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In my opinion it is fine when people you are familiar with shorten gaikokujin to gaijin. However, if someone I didn't know would address me as gaijin that could be an indication of a hostile attitude. It depends on the situation really, I wouldn't say it's a racist word per se.

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Nigelboy: I think using the word 'foreigner' when it's not absolutely required is definitely rude at the very least.

Huh? Can you give me an example??

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"Gaijin" and the equally annoying "Gaijin-san" is offensive. I hate this word! I would never go around calling Japanese people "Nipponjin-san".

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*Huh? Can you give me an example??

Like in "We were looking for a teacher/cook/shopkeeper/normal family to leave in this flat, not for a gaijin". Especially when the gaijin is more professionnally qualified or reputable than any nihonjin they will take instead.

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For those who can read Japanese there is a good Goo Wikipedia entry on the word.

http://wpedia.search.goo.ne.jp/search/1245166/%B3%B0%BF%CD/detail.html

Also, an article in English on Wikipedia.com.

Knowledge is good.

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Been in Japan for 4 years and love being called gaijin. It means I get to play by different rules. To me, being called gaijin is honourable and I always use it when I'm dealing with officialdom. I always say "gaijin card" never "alien registration card". God, gaijin sounds much much better than alien!

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Through observation I learned that the word Gaijin has racist and derogatory connotations, its intensity depending on the context and tone of the speaker. At its least offensive it is a patronizing word.

Gaijin may not be as strong as "Gringo," (term used to refer to US nationals) but it's very similar in its use. "American" is a much more polite term, and formal as well. Yet some people use "Gringo" to convey familiarity, it's patronizing and rude.

Gaikokujin is a formal term, which I welcome. The only and scarce times someone has called me a "Gaijin" it's been in either patronizing or derogatory manner, and always by strangers on the streets. No one ever at University or related research workplaces has used "Gaijin" referring to me (or at least, not in front of me).

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Azrael, exactly. Gaijin is nearly always meant in a derogatory way. The only non-japanese that don't mind this are the starry eyed newbies, as you can see on this thread.

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No, not really.

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I've been called "gaijin" so many times while living here in japan, that it really doesn't matter. Yes, its quite impolite to use, as I've seen parents smack their children on the head, or a teacher smack a wrist, but I choose to let that word be like water poured on a duck's back....

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Actually I'd prefer the term alien because when you think about it, we all came to Japan from a planet called Earth!

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The word gaikujin was made by the government of Meiji era instead of nanbanjin in 19th century. The word nanbanjin contains meaning of barbarian. So, foreign ambassadors protested, and then Japanese government made the new word gaikokujin for formal word. This is the history of the word.

And, please note. This country had been closed to foreigners until 19th century. And, even in 20th century, 1945 is the first year that most of rural Japanese had seen foreigners.

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Japanese call folks Gaijin even when they themselves are in another country. Example: I recently moved to Italy and my wife (Nihonjin) where we managed to connect with some other Japanese couples where naturally we begin to speak in Nihongo and of course begin referring to Italians as "Gaijin", when in fact we are the Gaijin in their country.

In my opinion many Japanese have a "fish in a bowl" type of conditioning when it comes to anything non Japanese.

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Sushi - "I always get a laugh with my J-friends when I glance at a gaijin, glare and growl "GAIJIIINNNNNNN!"

I'll bet your gaijin friends cringe when you do that.

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Japanese call folks Gaijin even when they themselves are in another country.

And there's the rub. The fact it's used in this way removes the English dictionary definition of 'foreigner'. The people identified that way are then simply 'not one of us': the 'Other.' And it tends to say just as much about what the speaker feels about themselves as it does about their feeling towards the 'others.' By identifying such people as 'not me', the person can feel more content and assured in their own identity.

In any respect, I'm not comfortable with the use of a phrase that sums up what the speaker thinks what you aren't (i.e. not Japanese), rather than wanting to see what you are. Starting off from a point of exclusion is not a great footing, IMO.

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@UnagiDon: gaijin-san/gaijin-sama? Well I've heard gaijin-san from Japanese talking about a foreigner, not directly to that person. But gaijin-sama? That's a first for me...

On the subject of foreign names followed by sama/san: I can get used to calling other foreigners by their last name followed by sama/san, more san actually. Once I addressed a customer's English name followed by san to one of my previous co-workers a long time ago, within his ear-range. He was graceful enough to give us a broad smile and repeat my words, the atmosphere suddenly lost all of its formality, a good thing at the time I think.

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how about 'butter-kusai'? I think it's rather worse than gaijin. Then again the term gaijin is also inspiration for comedians, anyone remember that short-lived trio(I think) who called themselves 'Za Gaijin'? They had a character called Dirty Harrymoto!

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forgot to mention: I addressed a customer's English lastname followed by san

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I like it when I'm addressed by my first name with -san-, as I call others in the same way or if the situation calls for it, -sama-. Better than -chan- anyway.

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anybody knows Nice Guy Jin? they use to rap very funny in some kinda Japanese

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Nope! Not in the least. You have to have a word for us foreigners. Besides, the term racist is a political term and in no way refers to humans. There is only one race, the human race. Best to use the word culturally biased or something to that effect.

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People tend to get freaked out and defensive when things aren't spoken how they would like them to. Easily assuming what is not intended. If you look at these people they tend to have prejudices more so than the person they are accusing.

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Somewhat racist.(Depends upon the context in which it is used.) But then I have not made it a habit to use such termonolgy. I think that's what this term has become a "habit". I am not sure if it is a good habit or a bad one.

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Gaijin (外人)= Outsider in a literal translation. It is an informal term for gaikokujin meaning from outside the country (of Japan). Also used to describe someone who is not Japanese. Japanese do not consider themselves as "gaijin" when they are in other countries, therefore, it can be said that it is a term with racial overtones as it relates to non-Japanese.

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sharky1 yes you've nailed it. There's nothing more need to be said. It's just the japanese user trying to exert their supposed superiority over anyone non-japanese.

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I'm not offended by it, but for some reason I don't like being lumped into the same group with "unscrupulous" foreigners, such as the type that sell phony phone cards.

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"Gaijin ( 外人 ) = Outsider is a literal translation"

Yeah, but what it really means is "barbarian." xD

Can't believe all those great posts about Za Gaijin's Dirty Harrymoto have been deleted...

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Bovinus - are you kidding me? How long since you've been to Australia? I live there now (I'm Kiwi) and don't go a day without hearing a reference to "abbos" "lebs" "asians" - 'assuming' that everybody in Australia is Australian isn't of much value if you still go around distinguishing by racial groups.

In contrast to morikun, I would prefer a term such as 'gaijin' which lumps all foreigners into one group, rather than distinguishing on race etc (although as noted by some already, 'kokujin' is also in use and other Asians are normally distinguished as well....)

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most of the japanese who use the term "gaijin" have no clue what the actual meaning is. to them it just means someone other than japanese. there are many words or sayings out there which the japanese have no clue about the true meaning or connotations . like "half" to most japanese it just means someone with 2 nationalities.or the other horrible saying "bakachon" camera. again, most japanese have no clue as to the true meaning. just have to learn to ignore the japanese naiveness.

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most of the japanese who use the term "gaijin" have no clue what the actual meaning is. to them it just means someone other than japanese.

most of the (insert your nationality here) who use the term "foreigner" have no clue what the actual meaning is. to them it just means someone other than (insert your nationality here)

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nah~! i don't mind

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I find using "gaijin" to refer to myself both diffuses any racist overtones while simultaneously pointing them up to any "clueless" Japanese people I might be with, kind of like the way gay men call themselves "queer" and (some) African-Americans use the "n" word.

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Two things bother me about the word. First, a lot of Japanese only apply it to 'Whites', using other terms to distinguish Africans, Asians and so on. Second, they use it when travelling outside of Japan to talk about the locals. The word's not racist, but the mindset of some Japanese is.

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Just walked into the Mini-Mart on Himejima Dori in Tsukamoto, Osaka and was greeted with an audible yet artfully inconspicuous Kirai Gaijin from the female attendant so in that context, yeah it blows. By the same token I have friends who unwittingly use it without the slightest trace of malice and who I know would be upset to hear that it upsets some people. Mongolboy`s last sentence sums things up nicely.

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Using English as the reference for language, the word "gaijin" is racist and very non-PC.

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Gaijin = Foreign Barbarian, lesser status than Japanese, Primitive, maybe even cute like a dog. Yes it is disrespectful! Just like the N-word is disrespectful to Africans. Saying that the Japanese dont know better is total BS. Thats like saying a old guy from Kentucky who slurs Africans by calling them P-Monkeys or the N-word. Japanese have a racist superiority complex that they are taught throughout their life, just because they dont admit it or perhaps even recognize it for the racisim it projects, dosent mean it isnt there. Dont let them slur you with the G-word.

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If being called gaijin is so traumatising you should heed the courage of your noble convictions and inform the locals, in your broken and execrable Japanese no less, that if it continues you will be forced to stop teaching them Engrish.

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I was just saying to my wife last night that someone would turn this into a 'race' issue. I've been proven right! ;)

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Do what I do. Every time I am confronted by the term 'gaijin', I respond with a 'chigaimasu, Igirisu-jin'. It seems the superior Japanese-ness soon wilts when confronted with some English-ness.

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nigelboy: If I introduced you to my friends "I'd say here's my friend NigelBoy" or even "here's my American friend nigelboy" but never "here's my foreign friend nigelboy." That would imply that:

You're 'not one of us' Being 'not one of us' is important (probably the most important thing about you) I'm not interested at all in where you come from; being 'not one of us' is sufficient.

That's exactly how I think the word 'gaijin' is used most of the time.

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Someimes we introduce people in such a way: This is Mark, Mark's Australian. Or this is American Karl. Please meet British Bob, or this is my drunk British friend Bob. This normal. So what's wrong with Gaijin Joe?

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It's been a LONG time since I posted on this board, but..I couldn't resist any longer. Well, as you can tell by my handle...I don't sweat the word in question so much.

I really think that the weight of the word comes with inflection (not infliction, as one poster repeatedly said...unless you are really really suffering). Voice tone and inflection tend to display the intent behind the word. AND, I would have to say that the word is not really "racist" as it is not ethnocentric. I hate to toss about an overused-to-the-point-of-being-cliche word here, but..I think the term Xenophobic would be more accurate. "Gaijin" is prejudicial in that it is saying "Not from round these here parts." It is not saying anything about actual ethnicity.

That being said... To all the gaijins here whining about it..Grow some thicker skin, ya crybabies!!! IF even hearing the words hurts your feelings so terribly, then politely inform your Japanese friends (assuming you have any) that the word bugs you. Maybe something like 外人と言ったら、気持ち悪いよ。外国人と言うのほうが親切と思う。Granted, it ain't perfect Japanese (before you great linguists lambast me for it), but it WILL get your point across.

OR, you can be like some of the others here...and just don't sweat it.

And, a small story that might amuse some of ya...About 6 years ago, there was a big Japan-America Society shindig in my hometown for New Year's. Everyone in my Japanese language class was participating, and I ended up being one of the guys drafted to wear a hakama. As we were prepping, one sweet little obasan mentioned to our teacher "Gaijin dekai dane!" (I think she didn't realize that even first semester Japanese students would know those words.) Our teacher--a native of Tokyo--replied, in accented English, "But..here. . WE are gaijin..desho?"

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I'm not sure about the racism, but I still don't appreciate people calling me "gaijin" - my reasoning for that seems to be slightly different from the opinions above.

First, to me gaijin is a clearly contraction of gaikokujin and not a separate word. Thus, it bears a striking resemblance to other contractions considered impolite at best, racist and offensive at worst. Sure, there are contractions that are neutral (Brit and Aussie from the top of my head. I can't think of any more readily), but I feel most of them are not. Sure, it all depends on the intentions of the speaker and all that, but I still cringe even at the most well meant and warm gaijin coming from anyone - Japanese or not.

By the way, I also don't consider adding -san or even -sama to it as an improvement.

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I was in a bar last night and a dozen brain-dead tandai j-girls invited me to join them at their table, where they were having a birthday party. After a while, one said in Japanese, "It's so interesting talking to a gaijin."

Not really degrogatory, except in implying that all foreigners are as interesting as I am, which is patently absurd. ;)

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Nessie: What's more important is how many of these tandai girlies did you sweet-talk into going home with you to extend the intersting talk?

<strong>Moderator: Back on topic please.</strong>

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Nessie, I dunno. I would find it a bit derogatory. It's like she's saying; "It's so interesting petting a panda". She sees you as an oddity to be played with (sometimes not a bad thing here in Japan- wink, wink, nudge, nudge) But like u said, she was probably too thick to realize it could be construed that way.

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Good grief, not this tired old discussion again. Of course there are some racist gaijin haters in Japan, but you don´t change that meddling with the language. Whatever new politically super-correct term you come up with, anyone using can still make it sound derogatory if he/she wants to.

Words change if reality changes... you don´t change reality by changing words.

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Michael No I do not regard Gaijin as racist..Hoever it is the intention of the speaker that uses the word which is important .. Actually I have been called worse in the Army :O)

Michael

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gaijin racist? nae not at all.

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Who cares? Gaijin is so way down the list of what i find offensive to foreigners in japan. Anyway, I hate the popular term of racism....definatively, I am member of the human race. How about prejudice or bigotted? but drop the word "racist" from every vocabulary. Calling someone racist for disliking a person because they are from another country or a different color is the same as calling someone a racist because they dislike the rival High School's football team. We are all HOMO SAPIANS. You can call me racist when I discriminate against E.T.

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what i suggest to you guys is ask the japanese what the word means & why they use it. stop assuming what they think it to mean. you will also get different answers in the different age groups. but, if it really bothers you guys, then just go home.

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I would rather be called baka than gaijin from a Japanese person. Yes it is racist. Japanese people say it's not racist "it's how japanese people are" they say but I've hear how Japanese use the word, the way they use it, their tone of voice so to me it's very racist for a Japanese person to say it too a foreigner. Even if they don't think they are being racist they are.

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Well I've been here for over 1000 years, give or take, and heard just about everything I guess. I'm not bothered by words one bit.

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@DrTofu: I also agree the combination gaijin+san/sama is weird to hear. And I'd rather hear gaikokujin as I and many said before. What makes me think of the 'R' word is the expressionless yet mind revealing stares(how do they manage that?). blech

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Well, I was half expecting that, but my post was horribly gutted by the moderator(s) and now my point is unclear at best... Oh well, I guess some words, unlike "gaijin" are inherently bad, racist and evil and cannot be uttered even to prove a point in, say, linguistic comparison of contractions... >_<

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The term gaijin literally is nothing compared to the slew of derogatory terms we have here in the US for just about every national, racial ethnic, religous group including sexual orientation and body shape. The Japanese "we/them" concept is hardly unique to Japan. Being called Xeno in Greece or Goym in Israel means literally the same thing. It's only natural that an isolated island country would develop that type of self identification. If you don't like being called Gaijin, then leave where you can be one of "us" instead of "them". Foreigners (gaijin/gaikokujin) here in the US have to carry green cards which state ALIEN REGISTRATION CARD on the top. "Alien" in the immigration context meaning Gaikokujin or Gaijin. Nothing wrong with it. Too many people try to compare Japan to the U.S., a country made up of immigrants from all over the world and consequently has developed, rather painfully, laws against racism. As for being offended that the Japanese consider all gaijin in one group, I can tell you that probably over 90% of Americans consider all Asians to be "Chinese". Of course we also consider all Europeans to be the same too. In summary I don't think the word Gaijin is a racist term. It can, as other terms can be as well, used in a racist manner.

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I think many are missing the point. Words are devisive and should be carefully chosen. Dropping the general use of the N-word certainly changed succeeding generations of Americans,and that word only lives in the vocabulary of the Black community.

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Derogatory names or ethnic groups in the US are based on the concept of "you are below us" and "we are above you". This is a carry over from the earliest racial history of the US involving the Native Americans and the African slaves. The Japanese concept is "Us" and "You others" which places more emphasis on "we are vastly different" rather than above or below. Of course historically that issue was handled through the laws. I do not think that when a J-person uses "gaijin" even in the most derogatory manner, it comes anywhere near the "subhuman" imagery attached, especially during WWII, to the English derogatory words. But you are correct that chilfdren, not only in Japan but in all countries need to be taught that certain words, labels, are indeed wrong. http://www.qualitybusinessmedia.com/funny.jpg

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It's obviously racist if heard by a foreigner. Even in English, if someone is called a "foreigner", even if s/he is technically, it's offensive. Like-terms: alien.

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It is a term abbreviated from "Gaikoku-jin" which generally refers to the people 1) who are born in a foreign country and/or 2)whose first language is not Japanese, 3)whose both parents have foreign citizenships, or 4)who live (are living) in Japan as a non-immigrant (i.e.; resident aliens/travelers/international students). It could be a derogatory term, even though a person does not intend to disrespect you, because it apparently connotes the meaning of 'filtering out’ those who look different from the vast majority of representatives(Japanese) based on color, skin tone, face, language behavior, and so forth. Japanese tend to create/initiate their identities by forming a group, and most of them are usually protective(conservative) in maintaining their identities by choosing the persons selectively. They separate the folks belonging to a particular group from the folks who don't as "in-group(s)" and "out-group(s)", respectively. I think this is the reason why non-Japanese will have a high likelihood of being 'screened-out' due to distinctive characteristic differences from most Japanese.

I assumed that the word was usually cast as a reference to Europeans/Americans in the past. But today, Japanese would not hesitate to choose the race to label down the folks, whether you're non-Japanese Asians/Pacific Islanders, or even if you have a Japanese citizenship.

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Personally, I don't care. Japanese can see I am NOT Japanese but got NO idea where I am from so they use a label that describes just that. When you meet a middle-eastern looking guy/gal do you know their origin country or if they even grew up in your country or not.

Answer: You don't and thus assign a suitable label(may it be racist/discriminatory, etc).

Just standard human nature.

Agreed if the terms are used in an obvious manner to ridicule/lower you than it is a problem.

HTH.

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When I lived in Japan as a kid, what bothered me more was the stares, kids flipping me off or yelling the bad words they knew in English or throwing rocks at me, etc. I'd just point back and yell "Nihonjin!" or chase them while cursing them. As a "haafu", I'm growing more and more resentful of that term. I used to use it all the time but after so many years I'm just sick of it, tired of explaining that I'm half and why I can speak Japanese, or to the British/Americans in Japan that I can speak English, etc. But I understand these terms and conceptions. I know the difference between someone who's just curious or prejudice.

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"Gaijin" is as racist or non-racist as the word "foreigner". How many here get offended when they hear the word "foreigner"? None, I guess. How about "alien"? It is often used, and to me it sounds MUCH more offending than "gaijin". But I guess that fact does not fit with some people's prejudices...

Anyway, if "gaijin" is considered offensive by some, I wonder how they think about "gaijin-san", which is also frequently used.

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It's okay to call me Gaijin if I'm called Gaijin San or Gaijin Sama but never EVER call me just Gaijin! I will not tolerate that and I'll go straight to my embassy.

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sarcasm123 - I disagree. To me, "gaikokujin" is a neutral word for "foreigner", while "gaijin" is closer to "alien" - impolite at best.

And I said it before (it was moderated out, let me see if I can express it in more politically correct way) - adding "-san" or even "-sama" to an offensive term doesn't make it better. While it's a much more emotionally loaded word, referring to a black person as "Mister nr, sir" or even "Your exalted nrness" wouldn't really change much, would it?

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I don't think the word itself would be quite so racist if the tone and inflection of "you're just a gaijin" wasn't there. I'm not an idiot (well, I don't consider myself one) and I can tell when someone is using the term as in just describing a foreign born person who doesn't look Japanese, or as a derogatory term as in looking down on me for where I'm from. And no, adding san or sama doesn't make it any better. If anything it makes it more insulting, if that makes any sense.

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@kalavinka: that's a tough way to be brought up but not unheard of. You will find that others in a similar position to yours, even as adults, cannot get used to the stares, and there's no reason why they should, non-half foreigners as well. Not to diminish your childhood plight. At first I thought it was because of my hair, it's rather unruly, it's not bad hair day type, it's every day unruly hair but I'm getting past that, I do not have it straightened anymore (talk about plight). I don't mind if ppl think it's wavy-permed hair. Besides this is all rather silly.

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Btw, when a family member of mine was being brought up in Japan (Hokkaido), kids made fun of him and asked him: anata wa nani-jin? His answer: ninjin desu. Smart kid, he's had great sense of humor since then.

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I suppose it depends on the context and how it is used; similar to the label "Jew" which is not a bad word but when said in a certain tone/context is racist...

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"I suppose it depends on the context and how it is used; similar to the label "Jew" which is not a bad word but when said in a certain tone/context is racist..."

Interesting point! You should try to write a post about Jews here once in a while: most of them get removed. The reason is that some already see the word "Jew" as a bad word, which is pretty strange to me.

All words used for calling minorities gradually end up being a "bad" word. I can't even say which word is the correct word in my home country now for calling Black people (is "Black people" still OK in English?). I feel it changes every half year.

The funny thing is that in most cases this phenomenon is driven by people not belonging to the minority itself. I very rarely hear Black people complaining about what they are called (unless it is one of the very old words), same for Jewish people, etc.

On the other hand, look at the foreigners in Japan!! They will insist the meaning of not only the word "gaijin" but also "gaikokujin" is bad, even if it isn't. It's telling for a population that sees racism and discrimination everywhere.

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About "gaikokujin", careful. I have heard reports of black servicemen in Roppongi, hearing that, misinterpreting it because of limited Japanese knowledge (they only heard the "kokujin" part), and proceeding to beat up people.

This whole "gaijin" debate is stupid. A word is what you put into it. Without context, you can`t judge it.

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To the question: Do you consider the word "gaijin" racist?

Answer: No.

End of story.

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PuffinMuffin, my kid says, "uchujin". That stops J-brats cold.

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nope the difference of politeness between 'gaijin' and 'gaikokujin' is only in the Japanese side. 'Foreigner' and 'person from a foreign country'...no difference for me.

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okay how about Gaijin Chan

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"gaijin" is no better or no worse than just using the first three letters of "japanese"-If you use this word you get deleted but the mods allow "gaijin" so double standards apply here.

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@zzonkerr: that's cool (^-~)v

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It depends on how glad you are to be one.

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I'm more offended when they call us aliens.

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The funny thing is that in most cases this phenomenon is driven by people not belonging to the minority itself. I very rarely hear Black people complaining about what they are called (unless it is one of the very old words), same for Jewish people, etc.

Ah, "Some of my best friends are..."

You've not heard of the NAACP or the B'nai B'rith and their works, I can tell.

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The term "Gaijin" may or may not be derogatory, and depends on the context and it's use. So much so that among us "Gaijin" there are differences of opinion as to whether that world is even offensive. In contrast, the three letter derogatory term for Japanese (both of them) no matter how it may be used, is always offensive and derogatory. I think that is an enormous difference between those two words.

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Stop playing double standards. You call them Js, Ju, N. etc. and turn around to cry wolf when ... is used on ya. Remove them pips on your shoulders and be yourselves. You are either a Ja or Ga Period!

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i don't think it's an offensive word for me... when they ask me "nanijin?" i simply answer them "wakaranjin desu.. yoropiku" .. but if someone will call me "gaijin san" heeeck! i bet you! i'll call them back in an "offensive word san" too!! like.. nandayo obaasan!! or debusan!! :D!

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I thought that the term gaijin meant foreigner which means that it is not denoting a persons race, but rather their citizenship, or immigration status in Japan.

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I don't care, staring is universally imp'lite!!

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If I have known the person for a short time and they call me a gaijin then no I don't think it is racist. However, if they continue to use the term gaijin after they have come to know me better and understand where I come from then I think it is racist.

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Of course it doesn't meet the technical definition of being racist, but it does have a racist connotation insofar as it divides people between us and them.

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I spent two decades in Hokkaido. I was a business owner, college professor and a Rotarian. During my time there, I met quite a few people who commonly used the expression, “外人” . Once in Guam when called out as a Gaijin by a young Japanese boy, I explained that he was wrong being that I am American, and Guam is an American territory. I showed him my passport, stepped in line with my fellow countryman and other visa holders. I then said that he would have to get in the foreigner line with the other “外国人”. We were passing through immigration. He asked his father if this was true. His father acknowledged that I was indeed correct. The boy started crying fairly profusely. I apologized to his father, wished them well, but I often wonder if that boy who’s now a young man points to non-Japanese people and calls them gaijin. Maybe I should have ignored him, but the way the word is used can be the same as calling someone a bad name etc, etc. Arguably, some people bring disrespect upon themselves through very dishonorable behavior. Regardless of their race, they are not gaijin, honkies, etc. They are just plain old idiots. One caveat here is that a lot of Japanese people believe that they are a superior race. Those folks will simply get old and die just like the rest of us. I wonder how much they will learn in their lifetimes.

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