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Maciamo
Dec 16, 2005, 20:04
As you will have noticed from my country flag, I have left Japan and now live in Belgium. I am not planning to live in Japan again soon. But I will of course continue to manage this website and forum with Thomas. I will probably put more emphasis on the European section of the forum, and work more on Eupedia (http://www.eupedia.com/) than JREF. Anyhow, I am pretty satisfied with the Japan Travel Guide (http://www.wa-pedia.com/practical/sightseeing.shtml) and various article sections on JREF.

A word now regarding my recent mood and behaviour, and the reasons why I left Japan.

As regular members who have known me for a year of more have noticed, I have been particularily irritable in the last few months, and often lacked patience and tolerance to criticism. I know I have been harsh with some forum members, but that is how I behave when I am stressed and irritated. After all, I am only a human being, and happen to be quite sensitive to stress.

Life in Japan has been stressful overall. In my first year, I had to learn the language intensively, learn as much about the system and culture of the country where I chose to live, got married, had to look for a job, etc. But Japan was new to me and still exciting. The second year was more routine, while I continued to learn everything I could about the country and its people. As I have explained in this post (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showpost.php?p=284191&postcount=78) and the following one (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showpost.php?p=284198&postcount=79) today, where I come from it is expected of foreign residents (no matter how long they plan to stay) to learn the local language, culture and system, and "to go native". So that's wh I tried to do. I have explained in those posts that the Japanese system is such that it discourages foreigners from becoming "Japanised", as Japanese people will continually treat a long-term foreign resident as the first newly arrived tourist who doesn't know anything about Japan.

This attitude has exasperated me to no end. It has been the object of numerous topics on this forum that showed how it irritated me on a daily basis. I have often associated it with the strong belief of the Japanese people that their culture and language are so unique that foreigners cannot understand it, and their own inability to understand the differences between Westerners (not all are Americans, not all speak English, not all eat hamburgers...). My thoughts on this matter has been expressed, among others, in these topics :

=> Are Japanese more hypocritical with foreigners ? (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14429) (29 January 2005)
=> Should all Japanese directly address foreigners in Japanese ? (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14915) (19 February 2005)
=> Common Japanese misconceptions regarding foreigners and foreign countries (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml) (9 March 2005)
=> What the Japanese should not say to Westerners (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/what_japanese_should_not_say_to_foreigners.shtml) (4 April 2005)
=> Why don't the Japanese differentiate more between foreigners ? (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19420) (19 September 2005)
=> Assumptions that gaijin cannot speak Japanese (at all) (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19730) (4 October 2005)
=> Cute racism a la japonaise ? (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=20502) (22 November 2005)

(Note that I was in Europe in May and June 2005)

You can see from the date I started these articles that my stress and irritation amplified seriously from early 2005, just after coming back from 2 weeks in my family, where I met many people with my wife and noticed that indeed the attitude they adopted was completely different from the attitude Japanese people have toward me when first introduced. No stupid question, no mistaken stereotypes, no misconceptions or whatsoever about Japan from my family, friends, and I noticed again in the last two weeks, from anybody, from any socio-economic background. If you come from a country where people behave more like the Japanese (I think especially to the USA), it may not bother you. But for me, this Japanese attitude to treat me like a newcomer, even after several years and a lot of learning about the country, was hell.

This was combined with actual experiences of discrimination of my part, including being checked by the police many times for no reason (sometimes to check my bicycle registration, but also to ask my alien registration card). I didn't feel at ease to go out of my house anymore, especially on my bicycle, which was unfortunately necessary for me to move around, given the place where I lived.

=> Have you encountered discrimination or prejudices in Japan ? (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15901) (29 March 2005)

=> Role of the media in emphasizing racial discrimination (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19940) (18 October 2005)

There were also other factors, such as noise and annoying or bad-mannered people (yes, in Japan !) :

Do you find life in Japan noisier or quieter than other places where you have lived ? (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18142) (2 July 2005)

Street manners (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12205) (30 September 2004)

Bad Japanese manners (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9224) (8 June 2004)

I therefore apologise for my erratic and overreactive behaviour, and often harsh words, in the last months. Please understand that I was more irritable and frustrated than what is normal. I felt better immediately after leaving Japan and hope to avoid unnecessary disputes on the forum from now on.

Index
Dec 16, 2005, 20:52
I was under the impression that you had not been enjoying your life in Japan much recently, so I hope things are better from now on. I'm sure the EU side of the site will prosper from now on, as you find things to question in Belgium.

Tsuyoiko
Dec 16, 2005, 21:35
I hope things are better for you back in your home country, and I hope your wife likes Belgium better than you liked Japan! :cool:

Elizabeth
Dec 16, 2005, 21:41
I hope things are better for you back in your home country, and I hope your wife likes Belgium better than you liked Japan! :cool:
Best wishes to you and yours for a new start in a familar place. And that none of us has to experience genuine oppression or persecution if a few police stops and bad manners are that disconcerting....:relief: :cool:

Maciamo
Dec 16, 2005, 22:03
And that none of us has to experience genuine oppression or persecution if a few police stops and bad manners are that disconcerting....:relief: :cool:

It is the frequent occurence and accumulation of small inconveniences (esp. being treated as a tourist rather than permanent resident by people who know me) that creates a greater feeling of uneasiness. Of course, there are other reasons I haven't mentioned which makes life in Japan less comfortable : unconscious worrying about earthquakes, poor quality of housing in general (see article (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/japanese_houses.shtml)), ugly cities, old-fashioned social conventions (e.g. role of women in societies, power to the elder, "closed mentality"...)... I have withstood all this without much problems in the first 2 or 3 years. The 4th was the drop that made the barrel overflow.

What I will miss include convenience stores, cheap restaurants and bento-ya (restaurants are comparatively 2 or 3x more expensive in Belgium), and... :worried: sunnier weather maybe ?

Duo
Dec 16, 2005, 22:12
I for one welcome you back. Sounds like Japan was not the place for you after all. At least in Brussels you can live at your own discression without having people treat you in different ways or what not seeing as we probaply live in the most international city in the world. I'm sure your wife will get no hassling here as you did there, and she may even feel at east due to the rather sizable Asian community here... if I'm not mistaken there is a Japan culture center right by Vleurgat(bus/tram station on the way to Avenue Louise from Av. Le Grand)

Tsuyoiko
Dec 16, 2005, 22:14
Maciamo, I don't think you even have to explain why you were unhappy. You have been honest about it, and that's enough, IMO.

kirei_na_me
Dec 16, 2005, 22:38
Maciamo, I'm one who doesn't just accept that all Japanese people are
the meek and polite people that everybody likes to make them out to be. I
haven't lived in Japan, but I have been married to it for a long time now.
It gets very tiring, it gets very frustrating, it gets pretty much unbearable at times, and I admit that I sometimes take it out on everyone else.

Of course, I'm not saying that him being Japanese is the only problem, but it is the primary root of the tension that abounds in my house. Not saying all Japanese people are the same, but one would have to admit there are some things that just seem to go along with being Japanese.

Anyway, I think I can understand where you're coming from. I just hope being back in Belgium will restore you.

I think a lot of people have felt hurt, offended, and treated unfairly in the recent months, and I don't know if this explanation will be enough for them at this time. But I also think that it's great for Maciamo to post about this on the forum in this way. He didn't have to address the entire forum population like this, but he did, and I think that deserves some consideration and respect.

Pachipro
Dec 17, 2005, 02:14
I appreciate your honesty Maciamo. Japan is not an easy place to live as I have always tried to warn newcomers. I'm just a little sad that another foreigner has let Japan get to them and forced them to leave as the things that bothered you never bothered me as we debated in numerous posts.

As I said before in other posts:


Therefore, I have experienced everything, and maybe some, that you are experiencing now. I know exactly what you are going through because I have "been there, done that, experienced that, thought that, and felt that." Living in Japan is, and for the most part will always be, a "love-hate" relationship for foreigners. Myself included.


If I remember correctly, I think you mentioned that you are living in Japan for 3.5 years now. Everything you are saying and feeling has been said and felt by foreigners for the past 30 years and probably back to the end of the war and probably even further than that. Nothing has changed. Nothing. Not one single thing, and I don't think it ever will. I used to think, "Maybe if this guy (you) lives there long enough he'll see that nothing will change and just learn to go with the flow without getting so irritated and upset over it. Maybe he'll just learn to like Japan for what it is rather than what it should or could be." I have come to the conclusion that, regardless of how long you live there, your views will not change. In a way I feel for you because I have seen it really drive people from Japan with a venom rarely seen. I know a few foreigners who still live in Japan more that 10 years, but still despise it while enjoying other aspects of the culture. Are they wrong? No. Some just need to vent once in a while lest it drive them nuts. However, if I felt as one of my friends do, I would be out of there in a heartbeat as all he does is ***** and moan anymore. He says he'd like to leave, but feels he is just too old to find decent employment in the states. (He's over 50.) I really feel for him.

In the same thread:

the Japanese general public do not seem to be aware of the "irritation" their "naiive" hospitality is causing the gaijins. They are not aware that their lack of individual attention is vastly dehumanising for people from the Americas, and even more so for people from European nations who value their invidivualtiy with utmost value.


They either don't care or don't want to listen to what the foreigner is saying. Maybe they block it out as they, subconciously don't want to believe it. Maybe, deep inside the Japanese mind is the universal feeling that they still feel they are superior. I don't know and frankly, I don't care anymore. Japan is Japan and will always be Japan then, now, and long after I am gone.

Example: I've seen extremely popular, fluent "tarento" being interviewed on serious "roundtable" discussion programs on TV in the 80's concerning the plight of foreigners living and working in Japan. And you know what? They all mentioned the same exact things you, me, and practically every foreigner, fluent or not, in Japan is saying. They expressed their irritation at the complexities of being a foreigner in Japan from being stared and pointed at, to being asked for their gaijin card for no reason other than they were foreigners, to the 20 question routine from all Japanese even when their face and name were known all over Japan! And any Japanese who watched TV knew they were fluent, have lived in Japan for more than 5 years, could eat sushi & use chopsticks, etc.!! All the interviewer and panel said was "Ah soo desuka. Naruhodo." Still nothing changed. And again, personally, I don't think it ever will. If theses nationally popular foreigners couldn't change it who could?

You, Maciamo, however, have spoke with more passion and research on the subject than anyone I have ever encountered. I commend you for that. And if anyone can change it, maybe it's you! Seriously. Have you ever given it any serious thought?
I'm a little saddened that you have left as I thought you would make some changes. But as I said above, things may not ever change.

Too bad we both had different experiences. Call me naive or looking at Japan with rose colored glasses if you wish, but the things that bothered you the most really don't bother me as much as they did you. The things I found enjoyable about living there far outweighed the annoyances as we have mentioned. But every person is different as this proves.

I wish you luck in Belgium and look forwarding to learning more about your country from your great research, opinions, and posts.

lastmagi
Dec 17, 2005, 04:11
Don't worry Maciamo. It was something that bothered you, so it's understandable.

Hope you like Belgium! How do you like it there now so far?

Uncle Frank
Dec 17, 2005, 05:48
you were "pretty" good in Japan, so we'll expect you to "darn near perfect" operating from Belgium!

Uncle Frank

PS - Welcome home!

:blush:

misa.j
Dec 17, 2005, 07:48
Yay, Maciamo! You are home at last! I'm really happy for you. Take a very good care of your wife and yourself now!
It is very nice of you to share your feelings. Thanks!

Your posts about Japanese society or systems never upset me even though I'm still a Japanese as you had mentioned many, many things that also were irritating me when I was in Japan.


What I will miss include convenience stores, cheap restaurants and bento-ya (restaurants are comparatively 2 or 3x more expensive in Belgium), and... sunnier weather maybe ?
Well, I'm sure you have a lot more ways to cook food now with an oven, which they don't have in Japan.
It's hard to get good Belgian beer at reasonable price in Japan. ;-)

Ewok85
Dec 18, 2005, 03:21
I've always enjoyed the raw honesty, makes a nice change from some Japanese discussion sites that accept nothing but sugar coated images.

Sensuikan San
Dec 18, 2005, 04:03
Good post, Maciamo. Switching countries is always hard - even when you come from a (very) similiar culture and speak the same language! It takes guts to finally admit that the strain is a little too much. You did the right thing.

.... but .....

.... now you've made me feel not so sure about wanting to visit Japan ... !:worried: :wary:

ジョン

Brooker
Dec 18, 2005, 07:20
Japan is notorious for being unaccepting of foreigners and for believing that they couldn't possibly understand their ways. It seems like you've made the right choice and that Japanese life had warn on you. I stayed in Japan for 15 months, which was just about right for me I think. It was long enough that I had tired of Japan, but not long enough that I had grown to hate it.

Elizabeth
Dec 18, 2005, 07:57
.... but .....

.... now you've made me feel not so sure about wanting to visit Japan ... !:worried: :wary:

ジョン
Most long-term foreign residents (that haven't married into it or gotten their permanent residency like Maciamo) that I know have realistic, balanced
perspectives on their experience and end up enjoying much more about it than you'd ever suspect from reading forum stories which naturally attract a larger percentage of the dissatisfied.

Not as many expats come online to rehash at great length the beauty and joy of being in Japan as to grouse and complain. As usual, it's the loudest negativity that attracts the most attention, unfortunately. Hopefully that will change here somewhat -- as a tourist you won't be there long enough for the
unsavory side to show itself and have absolutely nothing to worry about. :-)

Elizabeth van Kampen
Dec 18, 2005, 17:13
Maciamo, it was very good of you to write down why you left Japan.
Some people talk for hours over the phone to tell you how and why they feel unhappy or happy or whatever. I find writing the best way to express myself, but you really do this very well.
I have only been 2 weeks in Japan, was very impressed by those beautiful gardens and very surprised when I saw quite some homeless people in Tokyo, I hadn't expect this in Japan.
The Japanese? I knew them from before the war since I grew up in the former Netherlands East Indies, there were many Japanese living overthere. Very few Japanese children went to the Dutch schools while the Chinese children did go to our schools. The Japanese were always very polite and also very detached even the children. One of my friends at school was a Chinese girl, we quite often played in her garden, I have been invited several time at this Chine family's table for lunch, my friend's parents saw me as their daughter's friend, it didn't bother them at all that I wasn't a Chinese but a Dutch girl.
Europe! Since the moment the Dutch people were kicked out of Indonesia I have considered myself an inhabitant of the whole world, I didn't feel Dutch. I was a Dutch woman from the Far East.
But since a little more than 10 years ago I began to feel myself as a European. Today I am a proud European, This part of the world has grown into a real democracy, the Europeans have learned their lessons after World War Two.
It has become very nice to live in Europe, to feel more united is just wonderful.

Maciamo
Dec 18, 2005, 17:33
Most long-term foreign residents (that haven't married into it or gotten their permanent residency like Maciamo) that I know have realistic, balanced
perspectives on their experience and end up enjoying much more about it than you'd ever suspect from reading forum stories which naturally attract a larger percentage of the dissatisfied.

Note that I compared my experience in Japan with my other experiences of living in foreign countries. Japan was the 7th country where I have lived for at least a few months. As Brooker said, staying 1 or 2 years would not have led to the same result. I only started to get fed up in my 4th year. But unlike "tourists", I couldn't just leave Japan so easily once I started to get fed up, first because of my wife, secondly because of all the furniture, etc. I had bought, thirdly because of all the time I had invested learning Japanese and about Japanese culture, politics, etc., and finally I had already applied for permanent residency.

I also didn't come to Japan because I was in love for the country in the first place. It is true that I had been interested in Japan for a long time, but not fanatically like some manga, video games or J-pop lovers, and I was also very much interested in many other countries, with which the comparison was unavoidable.



Not as many expats come online to rehash at great length the beauty and joy of being in Japan as to grouse and complain. As usual, it's the loudest negativity that attracts the most attention, unfortunately.

And contrarily to many expats, I tried my best to appreciate the country in all its aspects, which is partly why I took so many pictures of Japan for the gallery or I made the Practical, Culture, Society, Language and Entertainment of this website. I did try to see all the better sides of Japan. But that wasn't enough to counterbalance the negative aspects for a foreign long-term resident wanting to be accepted as part of the society there.

pipokun
Dec 18, 2005, 18:02
why I took so many pictures of Japan for the gallery or I made the Practical, Culture, Society, Language and Entertainment of this website. I did try to see all the better sides of Japan.

True, I actually respect your great contribution, data, knowledge, and photos, here. It is far greater than my non-Japanese friends.
But one thing I noticed here was I could not imagine your real life in Tokyo.

Did you try to find the solution in your community? I don't know which ku you lived in.

Mars Man
Dec 19, 2005, 09:44
All said above, I will just say that I was glad to see that well put statement, and heartfelt apology. I greatly appreciate the candor behind it. I'm sorry that things here didn't work out so well, but more than that I do wish you the best there back in Belgium. One of my good friends here, who plays some mean keyboard, is from Belgium too. We often get together with one guy from the UK, and a few other Japanese players, and put down some good ole low down dirty blues, and jazz--along with some good ole rock too. Perhaps that helps a lot.

Anyway, I hope to hear from you on the Europe Forum from time to time--it will encourage me to go there more often--and that things will still run smooth on the Japan Forum.

I WISH YOU AND YOUR WIFE THE BEST !!!!!!!!!!!!!:cool: :-) :wave:

DoctorP
Dec 19, 2005, 09:56
I also wish you the best Maciamo. But from what I have read of many of your previous posts, I don't think that you can ever be truly happy. The only way that I could see you happy is if you were to become involved in the political scene where you choose to live. You have a very strong will, but you lack the thick skin to live in another country (permanently). You have such a wealth of knowledge and a desire to learn, but you truly become irritated much too easily. I think that with you being back in Belgium is the best thing for you.

Maciamo
Dec 19, 2005, 18:15
I also wish you the best Maciamo. But from what I have read of many of your previous posts, I don't think that you can ever be truly happy. The only way that I could see you happy is if you were to become involved in the political scene where you choose to live. You have a very strong will, but you lack the thick skin to live in another country (permanently). You have such a wealth of knowledge and a desire to learn, but you truly become irritated much too easily. I think that with you being back in Belgium is the best thing for you.

I appreciate your concern, but as I mentioned above, I have lived in 5 other countries than Japan and Belgium and the only one where I didn't feel much like staying too long (because of similar ignorance to Japan, although not half as bad) was Australia.

I already noticed that many things are much better in Belgium, or at least in the "good parts" of Belgium. As much as I was amazed by the homogenity of Japan (way of thinking, architecture...), I had nearly forgotten that Western countries had huge differences depending on the region, city, and even districts of a same city. In other words, there are super-rich, very safe and beautiful districts on the one hand (imagine Beverly Hills in LA), and poor and not so safe districts (take some suburbs of LA) - something that does not really happen in Japan. The same is true of the people. Some are very well mannered and very well educated, while others are vandals or thugs.

What "suprised" me when I came back here is how friendly people were. There wasn't this impersonality, fake manners and ready-made phrases for customers that are the norm in Japan. For example, when moving to Belgium from abroad, after registering at the town hall, the local police officer has to come to your house to check that you really live there. So he came, and we he kindly explained about the structure of the police in the region, what number to call in case of emergency or non-emergency, told me about himself, his family, experiences, etc. He didn't ask me more questions than necessary for his questionnaire (just double-checked my name and telephone number and asked if I had a car to register). In Japan, not only don't they do that with foreigners or returnee Japanese, but had isuch a system existed the police officer would probably have stood on the doorstep asking his questions in 2min, in the most impersonal manner possible, and treating me as a potential suspect rather than a citizen to whom he offers his protection.

I have also noticed that prices in Belgium are much lower than in Japan, except for electronics (slightly cheaper in Japan) and restaurants, that are at least twice more expensive (but supermarkets are 2 to 5x cheaper for the same product). But salaries are about the same as in Japan. Likewise, houses are 100x better in Belgium than in Japan. Even what is described here as "social lodging" is much better than the best one could find in Tokyo (I am talking just about the building's beauty and quality, not the furniture or decoration, which depends on the occupant's taste).

Then people are more relaxed, but also more knowledgable, more matured and more productive (work less to get the same result). People don't push in the train, don't walk into you in the street because they don't look where they are going... There are less vending machines in the street, but more inside buildings (esp. companies), and they also dispense snacks, sandwiches, cooked meals, etc., something I haven't seen in Japan.

One point where Japan easily beats Belgium is the dedicated to customers. Here the customer is not king. If you ask a plumber to repair or install something, you may wait for 2 months before he comes. This may be due to a lack of plumbers (or other people in the construction industry, for that matter), though. Then, one big complain about Belgium's main ISP is that they make us pay more than in Japan, for a slightly slower connection, AND they limit the monthly bandwidth ! (so after 2 weeks I had already reached my quota and had to pay a supplement to unlock it !).:p

Food-wise I can't complain. Belgian food is as good as Japanese food, and there are restaurants from almost any country. There is just a lack of Japanese and Korean food (apart from sushi, tempura, teppanyaki and yakiniku), but there are a few Japanese supermarkets. We can also find many kinds of meat not easily available (if at all) in Japan, such as turkey, duck, rabbit, venison...

Tsuyoiko
Dec 19, 2005, 18:52
Food-wise I can't complain. Belgian food is as good as Japanese food, and there are restaurants from almost any country. There is just a lack of Japanese and Korean food (apart from sushi, tempura, teppanyaki and yakiniku), but there are a few Japanese supermarkets. We can also find many kinds of meat not easily available (if at all) in Japan, such as turkey, duck, rabbit, venison...I can't speak for Japan, but the thing I like best about Belgium is the food. Being vegetarian can be difficult, but it is easy in Belgium as there is so much variety - for example, you can always get something vegetarian in an Indian or Italian restaurant.

Maciamo
Dec 19, 2005, 20:11
I fogot to say that, most importantly, when I am in Europe (whatever the country), people don't look at me strangely in the street, don't feign not to understand what I say so that they don't have to serve me, don't question my ability to do various daily things (use chopsticks, eat this or that...), are not surprised when I speak their language (even if they see it isn't my mother tongue), children don't point their finger at me saying "gaijin, gaijin !" or "Hello America !", I don't get refused entry or accommodation anywhere, neighbours don't check whether I sorted my garbage properly because I am a foreigner, people don't answer to my wife when I ask them a question (or vice versa), etc., etc. In Japan, there wasn't single a day in which many of these things didn't happen (except if I locked myself at home, and even then I could get salespeople ringing at my door and exclaim "ah, gaijin da !" and leave without explanation). Overall, it is much more relaxing NOT to be in Japan.

pipokun
Dec 19, 2005, 21:06
tell me how you and your wife dealt with your shakai hoken here?
did she quit her pension scheme here?
and how much you can expect to refund it?

i bet this info would be much more practical.

Elizabeth
Dec 19, 2005, 22:47
I fogot to say that, most importantly, when I am in Europe (whatever the country), people don't look at me strangely in the street, don't feign not to understand what I say so that they don't have to serve me, don't question my ability to do various daily things (use chopsticks, eat this or that...), are not surprised when I speak their language (even if they see it isn't my mother tongue), children don't point their finger at me saying "gaijin, gaijin !" or "Hello America !", I don't get refused entry or accommodation anywhere, neighbours don't check whether I sorted my garbage properly because I am a foreigner, people don't answer to my wife when I ask them a question (or vice versa), etc., etc. In Japan, there wasn't single a day in which many of these things didn't happen (except if I locked myself at home, and even then I could get salespeople ringing at my door and exclaim "ah, gaijin da !" and leave without explanation). Overall, it is much more relaxing NOT to be in Japan.
本当 ? あなたの考えが読めるでしょう。:p Anyway, you may have forgotten this time, but these stories of being a stranger in a strange land have been played and replayed time and time to no end for anyone still reading this thread.... :relief:

Gaijinian
Dec 20, 2005, 07:16
Ah, Maciamo, glad to see you happy. You definitely had a negative going...
Belgium sounds nice:cool:

Anyway, do you still speak Japanese with your wife?

jt_
Dec 20, 2005, 13:47
I fogot to say that, most importantly, when I am in Europe (whatever the country), people don't look at me strangely in the street, don't feign not to understand what I say so that they don't have to serve me, don't question my ability to do various daily things (use chopsticks, eat this or that...), are not surprised when I speak their language (even if they see it isn't my mother tongue), children don't point their finger at me saying "gaijin, gaijin !" or "Hello America !", I don't get refused entry or accommodation anywhere, neighbours don't check whether I sorted my garbage properly because I am a foreigner, people don't answer to my wife when I ask them a question (or vice versa), etc., etc. In Japan, there wasn't single a day in which many of these things didn't happen (except if I locked myself at home, and even then I could get salespeople ringing at my door and exclaim "ah, gaijin da !" and leave without explanation). Overall, it is much more relaxing NOT to be in Japan.Maciamo,

I can completely relate to the frustration you felt with all of these things you describe. It can be very aggravating for a person who is making a sincere effort to learn the language and culture -- to "go native", so to speak -- to be constantly confronted with people who simply cannot get beyond your physical appearance (or the fact that you may not be a 100%-flawless native speaker of the language) and deal with you as a human being.

I just find it very unfortunate that you seem to have come out of Japan with only negative experiences. Personally, for me, I have had experienced some of the things you describe... if only occasionally. I can't say I've experienced all of them. I also work every day in an office setting with many people who I communicate with entirely in Japanese, and who never draw negative attention to my "foreignness" or make insulting stereotypes about me. They are eager to listen to my opinions/thoughts, and I'm interested in hearing theirs. Some people are more enlightened than others, but I have no doubts that they're all good and decent people. Anyway, that's just at the office. Then, outside of work I have other Japanese friends, and my relationships with them have even less to do with the fact that I'm a "foreigner"... we just enjoy each other's company, share our interests and thoughts on the world and life, and whatnot.

I am still saddened on some level that I will never be fully accepted as "native" in Japan. (As opposed to say, a Japanese person immigrating to my home country or yours, who would no doubt be accepted as such after living there for a long enough time and picking up the language and local customs.) Still, this has come to frustrate me less and less through the years -- probably because my increased language proficiency and knowledge of the culture has allowed me to build more meaningful relationships with enough good people that it doesn't matter as much when I run into the occasional ignorant type. (Maybe it also comes from a gradual understanding and acceptance of the fact that ignorance doesn't necessarily stand for ill will.)

I just think that it's unfortunate that you never reached this point, despite the time you invested into living in Japan and learning the language (at a fairly high, if not perfect, level). I can only conclude that maybe you met the wrong people, and spent too much time around them rather than seeking out more open-minded types who would accept you as who you are without being preoccupied with your "foreignness."

I imagine that you'll be much happier in your new home, but it seems like you're still holding many negative feelings about Japan which won't be easily subdued. I hope that you can let some of these go with time, and still continue your involvement with Japan, getting a more positive experience out of it than you have up until now.

cursore
Dec 21, 2005, 04:16
Hi Maciamo

I haven’t been in this forum for long but I noticed your acute criticism toward Japan…

I guess it is hard being a foreign in Japan than in any other country.
Here in Europe and USA it is easier to have a mixture of ethnicities and people are not surprised is a Black can speak good Italian in Italy or a Chinese good French in France. May be due our colonialism attitudes in the past centuries? I don’t know

Don’t get yourself down if you could not stand life there there is always the rest of the world… and if you get a ryanair flight to Scotland let me know we go out for a pint!

Ciao

Maciamo
Dec 21, 2005, 05:49
I just find it very unfortunate that you seem to have come out of Japan with only negative experiences.

It is not the case. There have been many good experiences, but more at the beginning. With time, the negative side accumulates with little new good experiences, and the balance shifts to the negative side. The balance has probably shifted early 2005 for me. There have been a few exceptional people I have met in Japan, whom I won't forget, that do not enter in the category of people who bother me.


I am still saddened on some level that I will never be fully accepted as "native" in Japan. (As opposed to say, a Japanese person immigrating to my home country or yours, who would no doubt be accepted as such after living there for a long enough time and picking up the language and local customs.)

I don't even ask to be considered as a native, just as a long-term resident with a good knowledge of the culture and customs. Unfortunately, most people won't even grant me that. I am just like any freshly arrived tourist to them. I was so shocked when after teaching a group of people for 2 years, they were still surprised that I could read such simple kanji as 使用中 ("in use"), although I had told them many times that I mostly speak Japanese at home with my wife.


I imagine that you'll be much happier in your new home, but it seems like you're still holding many negative feelings about Japan which won't be easily subdued.

How can you forget things that have bothered you for several years of your (relatively short) existence ?

jt_
Dec 21, 2005, 09:25
It is not the case. There have been many good experiences, but more at the beginning. With time, the negative side accumulates with little new good experiences, and the balance shifts to the negative side. The balance has probably shifted early 2005 for me. There have been a few exceptional people I have met in Japan, whom I won't forget, that do not enter in the category of people who bother me.I find this interesting (and unfortunate), because in my case, the balance has shifted more in favor of good experiences the longer I've been involved with Japan, and as my understanding of the culture and command of the language have improved. This is why I'm surprised that your good experiences have been so few (and actually decreased with time), as I know that you have a fairly good command of the language, and I would think that would have allowed you to make more positive relationships, i.e. people who you can have meaningful conversations with, as opposed to "Wow, you can use chopsticks!" etc.


I don't even ask to be considered as a native, just as a long-term resident with a good knowledge of the culture and customs. Unfortunately, most people won't even grant me that. I am just like any freshly arrived tourist to them. I was so shocked when after teaching a group of people for 2 years, they were still surprised that I could read such simple kanji as 使用中 ("in use"), although I had told them many times that I mostly speak Japanese at home with my wife.Well, it may be a stereotype, but I find it hard to blame them sometimes, as there are certainly a fair number of foreigners in Japan (especially those who work as language instructors) who have been in the country for an extended period of time and still are not particularly competent in Japanese. You may have told them that you speak Japanese with your wife, but perhaps it just didn't really sink in with them, as they weren't seeing you speak Japanese on a regular basis. (I imagine that you probably didn't use Japanese in your classes.)

Did you ever consider trying to find another line of work -- one in which you would actually be working in a Japanese language environment? I guarantee that if you were working as a translator/interpreter or the like (I imagine you could be very successful in this field, considering you are not simply bilingual but multi-lingual) the people handing you translation assignments would not be shocked at your ability to read kanji -- since that would be part and parcel of the work that you receive a salary for.


How can you forget things that have bothered you for several years of your (relatively short) existence?I'm not a good person to ask, as I have a hard time letting go of negative experiences myself. I just try to improve my situation (when I feel that the causes of my frustration are external) and reevaluate my attitude (when I feel that the causes are internal) -- usually it's a combination of both.

You've improved your situation by moving back to Belgium. I can't question this decision, as I can never know your feelings and your situation as well as you do -- you sound happier, and if you are, then I think that's wonderful for you.  

I just have this feeling that some of the negative experiences you had to suffer through were not just a product of "Japan", but rather your particular environment within Japan, and that you could have had a much more positive experience if you had explored some other opportunities. Perhaps you never would have been truly happy there -- as there are probably some fundamental aspects of Japanese society that you may have irreconcilable differences with -- but you may have been able to have a more rewarding and less frustrating experience there.

Maciamo
Dec 21, 2005, 20:25
This is why I'm surprised that your good experiences have been so few (and actually decreased with time), as I know that you have a fairly good command of the language, and I would think that would have allowed you to make more positive relationships, i.e. people who you can have meaningful conversations with, as opposed to "Wow, you can use chopsticks!" etc.

Exactly ! I wished to have more meaningful conversations, but I have noticed that it is hard to find people who are willing to go beyond the stereotypical questions. Actually, even with students who spoke well English and with whom I did have meaningful discussions about politics, business, history, cultural differences, travel or whatever, most of them still asked me those annoying stereotypical questions from every few months (but as I met lots of different people everyday, I got asked those questions in average once or twice a day).



Well, it may be a stereotype, but I find it hard to blame them sometimes, as there are certainly a fair number of foreigners in Japan (especially those who work as language instructors) who have been in the country for an extended period of time and still are not particularly competent in Japanese. You may have told them that you speak Japanese with your wife, but perhaps it just didn't really sink in with them, as they weren't seeing you speak Japanese on a regular basis. (I imagine that you probably didn't use Japanese in your classes.)

Indeed, I did not use Japanese during the class, but whenever someone thought aloud in Japanese about a word they didn't know, I proposed the English translation. So, they knew I could understand even some words they didn't know in English (and they were quite advanced students).


Did you ever consider trying to find another line of work -- one in which you would actually be working in a Japanese language environment?

I wouldn't like to work for a Japanese company for several reasons (hypocritical politeness, routine, litlle delegation of power or responsibilities to "junior employees", long hours compared to the pay, compulsory after-work drinking, etc.). I am too independent-minded to be an employee in any country, I think. I prefer freelance or self-employed.


I guarantee that if you were working as a translator/interpreter or the like (I imagine you could be very successful in this field, considering you are not simply bilingual but multi-lingual) the people handing you translation assignments would not be shocked at your ability to read kanji -- since that would be part and parcel of the work that you receive a salary for.

I did work as a freelance translator. But who knows that apart from the few people who order the translations ? :clueless:

The irony is that even people with whom I only speak Japanese (e.g. my wife's friends), who know I only speak Japanese with my wife, still get surprised that I can read simple kanji, and all ask stereotypical question. There seem to be no limit to the number of weird questions in the line of "do you have this in your country like in Japan ?" or "can you do that like the Japanese ?". It is justly the longer you stay and the longer you know people that you realise that they will never stop, no matter how well they know you. First they ask questions that everybody ask about typically Japanese things (chopsticks, sushi, futon, natto...). But then, when they have asked these things a few months or years ago, they still feel the need to ask about more ordinary things like a garlic-crusher or a vegetable-grater. Of course, the conversation is NOT limited to that. We speak about many things, but why on earth are they so obsessed about knowing whether we also have vegetable-graters in Europe, and why wouldn't there be ? What annoys me in all this is the way they ask, which usually feels like "you can't possibly have this in your country, can you ?". Maybe that's a problem with the language itself (most probably with the culture and way of thinking though).


Perhaps you never would have been truly happy there -- as there are probably some fundamental aspects of Japanese society that you may have irreconcilable differences with

Yes, that's probably it. That's because of the obsessive attitude of the Japanese to separate between uchi (Japan) and soto ("foreign countries"), so that no foreigner will ever be treated like a normal person, and that he/she will always be the object of the most naive questioning, that I can't accept. That's not a problem at all for short-term visitors (esp. first timers), but it prevents anyone with a substantial knowledge of Japanese culture and society to be satisfied as a long-term resident. The less you know about Japan, and the more you still have to learn from people, and the more you can enjoy Japan. I believe I have come to a point where I am highly fed-up of being ask 100x the same stereotypical questions over and over again. For me it feels like a formed of "societal nagging" (if you have ever experienced nagging from a woman, you might understand what I mean... :p ).

DoctorP
Dec 21, 2005, 20:58
so Maciamo...can you eat natto?

Carlson
Dec 22, 2005, 08:44
well your were always nice to me. and i hope everything works out.

jt_
Dec 22, 2005, 10:31
Yes, that's probably it. That's because of the obsessive attitude of the Japanese to separate between uchi (Japan) and soto ("foreign countries"), so that no foreigner will ever be treated like a normal person, and that he/she will always be the object of the most naive questioning, that I can't accept. That's not a problem at all for short-term visitors (esp. first timers), but it prevents anyone with a substantial knowledge of Japanese culture and society to be satisfied as a long-term resident. The less you know about Japan, and the more you still have to learn from people, and the more you can enjoy Japan. I believe I have come to a point where I am highly fed-up of being ask 100x the same stereotypical questions over and over again. For me it feels like a formed of "societal nagging" (if you have ever experienced nagging from a woman, you might understand what I mean... :p ).
(As I said in another thread, I'm going to be taking a break from this forum for a while. I just didn't want to leave this discussion halfway through.)

Maciamo, I have no intention of denying the experiences you've had, or the frustrations you've felt from having people not be able to look beyond your "foreignness" and conduct meaningful conversations/relationships with you as a human being. I think that anyone who has spent any significant period of time in Japan has experienced this sort of narrow-mindedness from time to time (and to varying degrees) and that is natural for a sensitive and intelligent person to feel hurt and/or frustrated by this on some level.

But I'm not sure it helps to speak the sort of absolutes that seem to be contained in the part of your post that I've quoted above (the emphasis is mine). The one line I've underlined, in particular, seems to suggest (please correct me if I'm misrepresenting your words) that any person who is satisfied with their life in Japan could only reach that conclusion due to a lack of true knowledge about Japan. They enjoy Japan more because they understand it less. After all, if they really understood how Japanese society worked, they would see its narrow-minded shallowness for what it is, and inevitably choose as you have chosen. This seems to me to be an unfair assessment of both Japanese society itself and people living in Japan, but perhaps I've misunderstood your position. (I don't think I've misrepresented your words.)

I would agree with one line of your post in the sense that it is probably impossible for a foreigner to expect to be treated normally by 100% of the people they meet 100% of the time. Still, many people come to Japan, meet a not-insignificant number of people who do treat them "normally" (you expressed in a previous post -- correct me if I'm wrong -- that the people who treated you with the decency and respect you were looking for were the exception rather than the rule) build meaningful relationships with them, and manage to live a satisfying life in Japan where the meaningful encounters outnumber (far outnumber?) the negative ones you describe. This has been my experience, and I feel confident in saying that it's probably also been the experience of some of the true long-termers on this forum (I can't count myself among them yet). I can't make any definitive statements, but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts as to why this never happened for you.

Maciamo
Dec 22, 2005, 20:12
But I'm not sure it helps to speak the sort of absolutes that seem to be contained in the part of your post that I've quoted above (the emphasis is mine). The one line I've underlined, in particular, seems to suggest (please correct me if I'm misrepresenting your words) that any person who is satisfied with their life in Japan could only reach that conclusion due to a lack of true knowledge about Japan. They enjoy Japan more because they understand it less. After all, if they really understood how Japanese society worked, they would see its narrow-minded shallowness for what it is, and inevitably choose as you have chosen.

Hmm... I have to admit that sometimes I get a bit too emotional and exaggerate a bit.:blush: Let's say that for me, the more I learned about Japan, and especially about the language, and the less I liked Japan. Other people may very well enjoy their time in Japan, maybe because they have a thicker skin, do not try "to go native", do not expect Japanese people to be less naive and more critical in their way of thing, or other reasons...

You mentioned some "irreconcilable differences" that I may have with Japanese society. I believe that this includes the lack of critical thinking (e.g. the naive or "stupid" questions, or believing everything they were taught at school or by the media, even when it doesn't make sense, like the theory of the farmer vs hunter (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml#Farmers)), hypocrisy (e.g. faking feelings of surprise, esp. women) and lack of general knowledge. The combination of all this made me write the article Common Japanese misconceptions regarding foreigners and foreign countries (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml). It is true not all Japanese are like that. But I feel that such people are so common that it is annoying enough in daily life.

I am pretty sure that some other foreigners in Japan may tolerate some "Japanese misconceptions" better than me. Personally, I don't see how I could still talk without rancour to someone who implies that the Japanese are more civilised than Westerners because their ancestors were farmers while Westerners were hunters. First of all it is racist, but worse than that it is not even true (as I explained here (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/misconceptions_prejudices.shtml#Farmers)). But how did we arrived to talking about that in the first place, will you ask ? Just from a discussion about blood groups, and everybody knows how the Japanese like asking people about their blood group. They can tell me that they hate my haircut, dressing style or dislike Belgian chocolate - I don't care ! But tell me once this myth about hunters vs farmers, and I won't feel like talking to them again !


I have made an effort to think about all the Japanese people I have met in Japan, and try to assess more equitably the problem. I estimate that in my job as one-to-one (or small group) English teacher, I have met between 250 and 300 people in 4 years. This includes about 100 people that I have only met once or just a few times. The reason is that students can decide after the first lesson whether they take me as their teacher or choose another teacher from that company. Naturally, there are natural personal affinities over which we have no control. I have checked my list of email addresses from ex-students, and I have over 100 of them, although I probably don't have the email of half of the students I have had (trial lessons apart).

Looking at the names, I found 16 whom I cannot criticise for asking "annoying stereotypical questions" and with whom I had a fairly good to very good relationship. :-) 8 of them were serious about studying, and always used a textbook, so that there was little time for free discussion, which could have revealed misconceptions or stereotypes in their mind. But I think they were better than average. Among the other 8, there are 3 which I haven't met for over 2 years, which leaves 5 people with whom I could have interesting discussions and who did not have strange misconceptions about the rest of the world. I could also add 6 people with whom had did have interesting discussions and good relations on the whole, but who did ask very stereotypical questions.

So overall, most of the 250-300 people I have met while teaching were uninteresting and shallow, asked questions or had preconceived beliefs that irritated me, or didn't have a matching personality (or all of them). This is for people who are interested enough in "foreign countries" to take private English (or French or Italian) lessons. Among other people, such as people I have introduced to through my wife, in laws, for work, in shops, or whatever, the percentage of people that "meet my exigencies" (yes, I know I am exigent), is under 1%. In fact, I can hardly think of a single person outside the above-mentioned students, who did not assail me with some of the "misconceptions and prejudices" listed in my article, or who understood what not to say to Westerners (http://www.wa-pedia.com/culture/what_japanese_should_not_say_to_foreigners.shtml). There have been a few, carefully selected people with whom I had a good relationship, but they ended up all coming back to these misconceptions - even those that had studied in a Western country for one year.

So what is the profile of these "better than average people" (the few students I referred above) ? I tried to find what they had in common, but it was difficult. About half are men and half are women. They do very different jobs, come from different parts of Japan, have different interests and hobbies... Some have lived abroad, others have been to Western countries, but some haven't. Their personality is also very different, from very extravertite to more reserved. They were just maybe more "well-thought", consciencious and careful about what they say than average. It's difficult to find common traits. What is sure is that among the hundreds of people I have met, I have found a satisfying relationship only with a dozen people, and stayed in contact with only half of them in the last year.

That's a long explanation, but don't forget that this is only a "fraction" of the reasons that made me leave Japan. Add to this actual discrimination, stress caused by always being looked at strangely or pointed at because I am a foreigner, poor quality housing, typhoons, earthquakes (a major deterrent to buy a house in Japan), bad TV, fascist politicians, racist mayor of Tokyo, bad street manners, too comformist and "brainwashed" society, too impersonal and hypocritical people, etc.


I would agree with one line of your post in the sense that it is probably impossible for a foreigner to expect to be treated normally by 100% of the people they meet 100% of the time.

My impression was more that it is probably impossible for a foreigner to expect to be treated normally even by 5% of the people they meet 100% of the time. That's really too little for me to feel comfortable living in such a country. After 3 weeks back in Europe, it only confirms my feeling that none of the problems I complain about exist for me in Europe. I don't think my wife will have to face similar experiences either (possibly other problems ?).

Mamoru-kun
Dec 22, 2005, 23:00
Hi Maciamo! That's a kind of story I couldn't have imagined. Thank you letting us know that kind of experience. It can be quite useful for people wishing to give a life there a try I think.

In another side, if you need any help/hint about the Japanese community here in Brussels, I would be glad to help as far as I can. I personally work at "avenue Louise", just next to the Tagawa shop (I spoke about it in another threat), and as my wife is teacher in the Japanese school, she could also be of any help regarding the more or less 6.000 Japanese people around ;-) Don't hesitate to message me if you want…

And by the way, Duo-san:

…if I'm not mistaken there is a Japan culture center right by Vleurgat(bus/tram station on the way to Avenue Louise from Av. Le Grand)
what you are speaking about is the “Marubeni” building if I’m not mistaken (the building where the Tagawa restaurant is located), the big building at the crossroad corner, right? The Japanese Culture Center you are speaking about is in the same building than the Japanese embassy, at a jump from the Royal Palace. From Vleurgat, the busses 38 and 60 bring you there ;-)

4321go
Dec 23, 2005, 18:45
In another side, if you need any help/hint about the Japanese community here in Brussels, I would be glad to help as far as I can. ;-)

Oh,you two are both living in Belgium, I find many members here are come from Belgium~

And what I'v read in this thread makes me less desire to go go Japan ,I was curious about Japan though.

Mamoru-kun
Dec 23, 2005, 21:31
Of course! How could you consider going and live in Japan when you have Belgium near?! ;-)

GoldCoinLover
Jan 4, 2006, 13:16
Wow..

Maciamo, I'm curious what you don't like about the language? I'm still learning alot about the sentence structure and different ways to say things.

Did you go 'cold turkey' in japan where you didnt know any japanesE?

Well I've always been interested in the japaense language since i was 7, and learned to count to ten in japanese from my karate class at the same age. I became interested from japanese pokemon cards, and now I no longer feel as hopeless in learning it. I probably know around 100 kanji, and I recognize alot more now. But I'm not gonna give up on it.

I went to frys eletronics the other day, and saw some japanes eimport game. It sparked my interest once again. I love cities, big cities, the more lights the better. Something about it. I don't live in a big city (About 30 minutes away from phoenix) but I love neon lights. Heh. I've read many of your threads, and I feel like it's giving me a good view of japanese culture (albeit, one sided) of the culture.

It is discouraging me though -- alot. It makes me not want to live there (Because I want to live there as a long term resident as well)
Good luck to you.

I'm saddened that you left after all that time. You learned to speak japanese fleuntly, now it's going to go to waste :(

Duo
Jan 4, 2006, 13:18
Of course! How could you consider going and live in Japan when you have Belgium near?! ;-)

For those non-belgium informed i shall say that belgium is one of the best places to live that I know of... ;)

furthermore i beleive we are in nsync with each other about the culture center mamoru-kun sorry to not have responded before but i have been slacking a bit lately when it comes to forum participation

Gaijin 06
Jan 4, 2006, 14:33
And what I'v read in this thread makes me less desire to go go Japan ,I was curious about Japan though.

Don't take what you read in this thread about Japan as a representative sample of most foreigners experiences. Japan can be a hard place to integrate into, but if you make enough effort and are open minded enough then it is possible to live a happy life here.

I have met (and work with) a lot of "foreigners", including Chinese who've been here a long time and they like Japan and Japanese people.

Duo
Jan 4, 2006, 16:28
Don't take what you read in this thread about Japan as a representative sample of most foreigners experiences. Japan can be a hard place to integrate into, but if you make enough effort and are open minded enough then it is possible to live a happy life here.

I have met (and work with) a lot of "foreigners", including Chinese who've been here a long time and they like Japan and Japanese people.

I'm sorry but y not ? Maciamo has surely tried enough to fit in Japan yet to no avail. Also I have read the same reactions that he has had by many other foreigners.... one of them Will Fergusson in the book Hokkaido Highway Blues..

Mike Cash
Jan 4, 2006, 17:02
His biggest problem was, I think, the nature of the people he encountered in his work doing language teaching. The default mode in those settings is for the foreignness of the teacher to be a large part of the focus. A thing which bugged him to no end, and which I can well understand since it bugged me to no end either.

Moving out of that field and into something where his foreignness (appearance, language ability, whatever) played no role at all would have done much to alleviate that particular stress.

You are certainly correct that a good many other foreigners have similar experiences and reactions. Those few of us who make our peace with it stay; the overwhelming majority leave. That Maciamo couldn't tolerate it anymore and left is in no way a negative reflection on him. Nor should it be taken as a damning indictment of Japan.

My personal opinion (and it is only that: opinion) has always been that part of the problem also stems from the tendency for foreigners to take a trip home once or twice a year. It's hard to settle your heart and mind in Japan when you're always busy bouncing your a55 in and out.

Also, there is a very strong tendency for people to spend a lot of time examining their continued stays in Japan around the 3 year mark. Traditionally, that's about the time even the diehards give up and pack their bags. Concerns about family and career start to play very strongly on people's minds. This also seems to happen to guys a lot somewhere around the age of 30, regardless of their age when they showed up in Japan. It also happens when there are children involved who are about to reach school age.

I left once before, but ended up coming back.

blade_bltz
Jan 5, 2006, 05:27
Maciamo - just out of curiosity, have you ever lived in the US? If so, could you briefly share some of your opinions/experiences. Sorry if this is common knowledge to the rest of the forum...

Ma Cherie
Jan 5, 2006, 06:25
Maciamo - just out of curiosity, have you ever lived in the US? If so, could you briefly share some of your opinions/experiences. Sorry if this is common knowledge to the rest of the forum...


*whispers* Mac has been to the US, but...........I don't think he would want to visit the US again. *whispers* :blush:

Maciamo
Jan 5, 2006, 19:07
*whispers* Mac has been to the US, but...........I don't think he would want to visit the US again. *whispers* :blush:

As a tourist, I wouldn't mind going back to the US. In fact, I really want to visit New York, Boston, Washington and California, and maybe also a few national parks. But I certainly wouldn't like to live in the US for several reasons (if I have too, it would probably be in NY or New England).

Apollo
Jan 6, 2006, 00:25
I have just seen this thread....I must be more active in here....:-)
I am surprised, but happy that you are happy with the choice.

Was it very easy going back to Belgium? I mean, finding a house and finding a job for you/and your wife can be quite time-consuming.

Pachipro
Jan 6, 2006, 02:34
It is discouraging me though -- alot. It makes me not want to live there (Because I want to live there as a long term resident as well)


And what I'v read in this thread makes me less desire to go go Japan ,I was curious about Japan though.
Do not make one, or a few peoples' experiences, decide for you whether you should go to Japan or not. As I've said in another thread, to deny yourself the experience of visiting Japan, if that is your desire, based on a few "bad experiences" is to deny yourself an education. Unless you've experienced it for yourself how will you ever know? Just because someone else had a bad experience doesn't mean that you will also. You may just find that you like the country.

I have debated with Maciamo numerous times in the past and, if you've read any of my posts, you'll see that I had a completely opposite experience and I lived there many more years than he did.


Originally Posted by Gaijin 06
Don't take what you read in this thread about Japan as a representative sample of most foreigners experiences. Japan can be a hard place to integrate into, but if you make enough effort and are open minded enough then it is possible to live a happy life here.

I have met (and work with) a lot of "foreigners", including Chinese who've been here a long time and they like Japan and Japanese people.


I'm sorry but y not ? Maciamo has surely tried enough to fit in Japan yet to no avail. Also I have read the same reactions that he has had by many other foreigners.... one of them Will Fergusson in the book Hokkaido Highway Blues..
But the question remains, "Did he really try to fit into Japan or did he try and make Japan fit into his view of what Japan should be based on his views and opinions and western thinking?" After a year here on JRef, I believe in the latter as Maciamo's desire seemed to be that Japan should change its entire culture based on what he, and others, think it should be so that they would feel more comfortable living there. Unfortunately, this is an all too common ailment of foreigners living in Japan. They try to change it or lash out against it and, when things don't change, they leave in utter frustration giving others, who have never been to Japan, a false impression of the country and its culture.

Do not misinterpret what I am saying here. Maciamo is not wrong in his assessment of Japan, but it should not be taken as the rule as I, and others, have a completely different assessment and experiences. What bothered him never bothered me as I understood just where the Japanese were coming from. His is just one mans opinion and is shared by many frustrated gaijin.

As I said above, just because he and a couple of others had a bad experience, does not mean everyone will. Gaijin 06 is correct in his assessment.


You are certainly correct that a good many other foreigners have similar experiences and reactions. Those few of us who make our peace with it stay; the overwhelming majority leave. That Maciamo couldn't tolerate it anymore and left is in no way a negative reflection on him. Nor should it be taken as a damning indictment of Japan.
Like you Mike I left once only to return less than a year later. Foreigners who stay have made their peace with the differences in the culture and I do not forsee it changing anytime in the near, or distant, future.


I find this interesting (and unfortunate), because in my case, the balance has shifted more in favor of good experiences the longer I've been involved with Japan, and as my understanding of the culture and command of the language have improved. This is why I'm surprised that your good experiences have been so few (and actually decreased with time), as I know that you have a fairly good command of the language, and I would think that would have allowed you to make more positive relationships, i.e. people who you can have meaningful conversations with, as opposed to "Wow, you can use chopsticks!" etc.
You explained it so well and said much of what I wanted to say and feel that there is not much I can add to your fine assessment and analysis of the situation of living there as I feel pretty much the same way.

As a famous author once said, "East is East and West is West, and never the Twain shall meet."

Perhaps this story, "East is East - Get Used To It", (http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1488215,00.html)in the British newspaper, The Guardian, explains a little better what I and others are trying to say here. Japan will never change, nor should she and bow to foreign pressure or by foreigners living there. If we (gaijin, foreigners) want to live there, we either accept the country and its customs and culture for what it is or, like Maciamo and many other foreigners, they let it get the best of them and high tail it out of there to live in a place they are more comfortable with. "Can you use chopsticks? Do you have fireworks in your country? Can you eat sushi? Do you sleep on a futon?"

"Yes I can and yes we do", I answer for the umpteenth time. But it doesn't bother me and is a way to make new friends, maintain old ones, and keep a conversation going while learning the little intricacies of a foreign culture as, no matter how long I may be living there, there is always something new to learn. And, even if the same person asks me the same question for the fifth time, I'll politely answer and maybe, with a little frustration, think to myself how ignorant he might really be. But he really is a nice person and has made a sincere effort to be my friend.

There were, and are, many things I do not agree with in Japan and living there. But I, like Mike Cash and jt and Gaijin 06, among others, have "made our peace with it." We understand the cultural differences and accept them and learn to live with them for, if we do not like it, we can always leave.

"But Pachipro, you are not living there! How can you make such statements?", some might ask. Well, for those of you who are new and who may not have read my other posts on this subject, I have lived there for many years, visit once or twice a year and, in a few years, plan to retire there permanently. (Yes I know I have said this more than a few times in past posts.)

As with all countries and cities around the world, Japan has it's good points and its bad points. To me, the good far outweighs the bad and it is a wonderful place to live, in my opinion, and experience. In fact I enjoy living there more than I do here in the US. And it is cheaper here, the roads are less crowded, and no one asks me silly questions unless it is something like, "Is it hot all year in Japan?" or "Do Japanese wear kimono everyday in Japan?" or something silly like that. Try it. You may just like it and discover something new.

Maciamo
Jan 6, 2006, 03:11
There were, and are, many things I do not agree with in Japan and living there. But I, like Mike Cash and jt and Gaijin 06, among others, have "made our peace with it." We understand the cultural differences and accept them and learn to live with them for, if we do not like it, we can always leave.

I know this is true for you and Mike, but I am not sure for the two others. Gaijin 06 has only arrived in Japan a few months ago. Perosnally I did not feel irritated by all the things mentioned above until my 3rd year in Japan. You can't "make peace with it" if you haven't come into conflict with it first. And small things like the ones I mentioned are not things that would normally annoy me, if they happened just a few times a year. It is the frequency and accumulation over the years, combined with an increasing realisation that a majority of the people in that country behave like that, that lead to frustration and irritation...

I guess I could have had a (slightly) more positive experience, had I lived in another area (with less conservative, elderly people), had another job (with less chances to be asked personal questions than as a one-to-one conversation teacher !). It would not have changed the way Japanese people are, but it could have made it more bearable by not hearing the same stereotypical comments and being asked the same questions almost everyday. But it was too late to change. I have reached a stage where just hearing a Japanese talk about the seasons, chopsticks or fireworks make me on the defensive, and being asked about them drives me crazy. :mad: When you have had an overdose of something, be it food, alcohol, music or some kind of people, you just can't have it anymore, even if you used to like it.

Maciamo
Jan 6, 2006, 03:17
Don't take what you read in this thread about Japan as a representative sample of most foreigners experiences. Japan can be a hard place to integrate into, but if you make enough effort and are open minded enough then it is possible to live a happy life here.

What do you know after your 3 months or so in Japan ? :okashii: The problem was not that I was not enough integrated or not open-minded enough. It was rather the contrary. I tried to integrate so much that I became more natives than the natives (for some things at least) and did not tolerate that people behaved with me like if I was just a tourist that didn't know how to use chopsticks or what "ikebana" was. So you could say that if you are open-minded and like open-minded people, Japan can be a quite irritating place, as people are very narrow-minded, ethnocentric and ignorant of the rest of the world.

blade_bltz
Jan 6, 2006, 04:04
Well I asked about America because I've lived in Boston for my entire life (yes, all 18 years), and I think its an exceptional place to live. Right now, I'm at school in the Bay Area of California, and that is another phenomenal place to be. I'm not exactly a hardcore patriot...what with my Massachusetts liberal upbringing...but I see a lot of America bashing on this board. Despite the state of the country under the current administration, I will still attest to the fact that New England is a wonderful place to live. Maciamo, who knows, you might end up there one day.

Duo
Jan 6, 2006, 04:32
Well i won't hide that i think life in Europe, the EU countries at least, is better than life in the US... in general. I suggest you give a read to the "European Dream" by jeremy rifkin... an american workin in out of the US and Europe.
Maybe what you sense is more this sentiment rather than american bashing... i doubt most members here bash at other countries rather what i've noticed is an objective criticism, you can see that in threads done for japan, the usa, and also in the Eupedia section you will see the same kind of criticism maciamo applied to japan employed towards belgium, his native country.

Maciamo
Jan 6, 2006, 06:23
Well I asked about America because I've lived in Boston for my entire life (yes, all 18 years), and I think its an exceptional place to live. Right now, I'm at school in the Bay Area of California, and that is another phenomenal place to be. I'm not exactly a hardcore patriot...what with my Massachusetts liberal upbringing...but I see a lot of America bashing on this board. Despite the state of the country under the current administration, I will still attest to the fact that New England is a wonderful place to live. Maciamo, who knows, you might end up there one day.

The major issues with the States are :

- the food (maybe a bit better in NYC ?)
- the laws (much too conservative, even in "liberal" states)
- the government (esp. since the Bush administration, but I also dislike paranoiac secret services like the CIA, or the "cow-boy" FBI who think they can do whatever they want since the Patriot Act)
- the insecurity (mostly linked to the lack of social security and big gaps between the rich and the poor)
- fanatic Christians (born-again, KKK, etc.)
- rednecks (well, less on the coasts maybe ?)
- everybody is allowed to have a gun (that wouldn't make me feel secure at all - too many lunatics in the world)
- low level of culture and knowledge of too mant people, and ignorance about the rest of the world and even about the USA (similar problem to Japan).
- fanatic Christians (did I mention that ?)
- too materialistic society ("sex & money = life")


I am aware that many people do not fit these generalities, but that's how American society appears to most Europeans who have been there (and didn't stay there :p). I suppose that people tend to be more open-minded, better educated and less religious in the North-East and West coasts. I can only judge from the people I met or what I see on TV, as I haven't lived there. I'll tell you after I've stayed there for a while. :p

ArmandV
Jan 6, 2006, 06:35
I suppose that people tend to be more open-minded, better educated and less religious in the North-East and West coasts.

Boy, that's "really" a great way to make a fair assessment. "Open-minded?!" You won't find that in those regions (Northeastern Liberal Elites and the Left Coast).

"Liberals will defend to the death your right to agree with them!"

Ma Cherie
Jan 6, 2006, 06:51
The major issues with the States are :

- the food (maybe a bit better in NYC ?)
- the laws (much too conservative, even in "liberal" states)
- the government (esp. since the Bush administration, but I also dislike paranoiac secret services like the CIA, or the "cow-boy" FBI who think they can do whatever they want since the Patriot Act)
- the insecurity (mostly linked to the lack of social security and big gaps between the rich and the poor)
- fanatic Christians (born-again, KKK, etc.)
- rednecks (well, less on the coasts maybe ?)
- everybody is allowed to have a gun (that wouldn't make me feel secure at all - too many lunatics in the world)
- low level of culture and knowledge of too mant people, and ignorance about the rest of the world and even about the USA (similar problem to Japan).
- fanatic Christians (did I mention that ?)
- too materialistic society ("sex & money = life")


I am aware that many people do not fit these generalities, but that's how American society appears to most Europeans who have been there (and didn't stay there :p). I suppose that people tend to be more open-minded, better educated and less religious in the North-East and West coasts. I can only judge from the people I met or what I see on TV, as I haven't lived there. I'll tell you after I've stayed there for a while. :p


Maciamo, I must ask you and I will ask you this in nicest way possible. But do you have any prejudices against Americans, and do you think that your perception about Americans may be inaccurate? And if you do, then that's alright. I just want to know how you really feel. :bluush:

Maciamo
Jan 6, 2006, 07:04
Boy, that's "really" a great way to make a fair assessment. "Open-minded?!" You won't find that in those regions (Northeastern Liberal Elites and the Left Coast).

"Liberals will defend to the death your right to agree with them!"

Well, I am not a specialist of regional differences within the US.:blush:

Maciamo
Jan 6, 2006, 07:15
Maciamo, I must ask you and I will ask you this in nicest way possible. But do you have any prejudices against Americans, and do you think that your perception about Americans may be inaccurate? And if you do, then that's alright. I just want to know how you really feel. :bluush:

If by prejudice you mean "preconceived idea not based on knowledge or experience", then the answer is clearly no, because have met hundreds of Americans, and been to the States.

But in such as vast and diverse country, it is true that there are many amazing people, and also many people I wouldn't even want to meet. This is maybe truer in the USA than in any other country, just because the US is more cosmopolitan and diverse in every respect than any other nation on earth.

I know I wouldn't get on with "fanatic Christians" (i.e. anybody who regularily goes to church, cites the Bible, is against abortion or stem cell research, or have Christian stickers on their car). Icouldn't even live in a place where 10% of the people I meet everyday are like that. And according to the statistics, there are much more than 10% of the Americans that are like that (just check this (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7124)), even if millions are not.

But my worries would rather go for the system itself. It is common knowledge (and statistically proven) that big American cities are more dangerous than European and Japanese ones. I also wouldn't like to live in a country where I am so much at odd with the political system and ideals. The US used to be a good place, politically-speaking until about 1943. After that, it only got worse decade after decade. So my problem with living in the States is not so much related to its people than to its government and system , and dare I say "culture" (food, values, attitude toward the world...).

DoctorP
Jan 6, 2006, 07:34
I can only judge from the people I met or what I see on TV, as I haven't lived there. I'll tell you after I've stayed there for a while. :p


Yes...TV is an excellent source! Thank you for being so well educated!

MeAndroo
Jan 6, 2006, 08:24
Maciamo, I must ask you and I will ask you this in nicest way possible. But do you have any prejudices against Americans, and do you think that your perception about Americans may be inaccurate? And if you do, then that's alright. I just want to know how you really feel. :bluush:

I've lived in the US my whole life and I pretty much agree with Maciamo's reservations, even if my definitions are different than his. Someone who goes to church regularly (define regularly), for example, is not a "fanatic," but true fanatics ARE a bit scary. Especially if you're an abortion doctor. But then again, religious fantacism certainly isn't exclusive to the US, nor do I think it's a defining trait.

What I don't understand is the problem Maciamo might have with people who consider themselves Christians. It's not like they're banging you over the head with their Bible every chance they get.

4321go
Jan 6, 2006, 14:15
Don't take what you read in this thread about Japan as a representative sample of most foreigners experiences. Japan can be a hard place to integrate into, but if you make enough effort and are open minded enough then it is possible to live a happy life here.

I have met (and work with) a lot of "foreigners", including Chinese who've been here a long time and they like Japan and Japanese people.

Thanks very much ~"Gaijin 06" :-)


Do not make one, or a few peoples' experiences, decide for you whether you should go to Japan or not. As I've said in another thread, to deny yourself the experience of visiting Japan, if that is your desire, based on a few "bad experiences" is to deny yourself an education. Unless you've experienced it for yourself how will you ever know? Just because someone else had a bad experience doesn't mean that you will also. You may just find that you like the country.
Also thank you ~!"Pachipro" ^_^ :-)

4321go
Jan 6, 2006, 15:09
What do you know after your 3 months or so in Japan ? :okashii: The problem was not that I was not enough integrated or not open-minded enough. It was rather the contrary. I tried to integrate so much that I became more natives than the natives (for some things at least) and did not tolerate that people behaved with me like if I was just a tourist that didn't know how to use chopsticks or what "ikebana" was. So you could say that if you are open-minded and like open-minded people, Japan can be a quite irritating place, as people are very narrow-minded, ethnocentric and ignorant of the rest of the world.

Oh ,may be this is because of the impression of Japanese towards the occidental~.

I think things maybe different for the Chinese who live in Japan~,because many Japanese tradition culture are copy form China ...they have no reason to treat Chinese just a tourist that didn't know how to use chopsticks or what "ikebana" was, etc..

and I hope you can understand and forgive these behavior of Japanese, after all,Japan is the most eastern island of the world ~!It is its special part~...

On the other side,many Chinese people believe that some foreigners which interested in China maybe more understand Chinese culture than theirself~ include me .

Maciamo
Jan 6, 2006, 17:31
and I hope you can understand and forgive these behavior of Japanese, after all,Japan is the most eastern island of the world ~!It is its special part~...

And the UK are the most Western islands of the Eurasian continent. Does that make British people that narrow-minded and ignorant ?

By the way, I have met some Russians from Vladivostok (just opposite Hokkaido), and they had a much better knowledge of Western Europe, although they live as "East" as the Japanese, in a supposedly "less developed" country. I have had many friends from South America as well, but never was I asked a question or heard a completely false stereotype about some European country, like the ones I heard everyday in Japan. I don't think they were better educated, or had travelled more around Europe... But their attitude was clearly different. They wouldn't think that anything from their country didn't exist in Europe, and yet there is probably more difference between South America and Europe than between Japan and Europe (e.g. the climate, plants, animals, landscape, way of living...).

strongvoicesforward
Jan 6, 2006, 22:52
The major issues with the States are :


- the government (esp. since the Bush administration, but I also dislike paranoiac secret services like the CIA, or the "cow-boy" FBI who think they can do whatever they want since the Patriot Act)

Yes!

And, even worse -- the abject apathy of the American people about the government`s invasion of privacy with these recent communication taps without going to FISA. The fact that this was permitted and signed through a secret executive order is alarming and people just don`t see that.

It is a slippery road down to facsism and to create a spying state on its citizens is taking us closer and closer to an Orwellian future. There is no safety net in place to prevent the Patriot Act from being abused by just targeting people who dissent from the government. Dissent is not terrorism but it can be wrapped up to make it look like so.

Now everything is getting the "terrorist" suffix afixed to it and as soon as it is then, hey, it makes it eligible for domestic spying. Now such people as environmental activists are labeled eco-terrorists. What is that? The problem is, as soon as someone dissents and organizes and practices some form of protest that could involve vandalism or destruction of property they become terrorists. That is ridiculous. Surely they may vandals, but terrorists? C'mon.

At the turn of the century there were many bombings but at that time the word "anarchist" was applied. The thing is, the word became more and momre widely used that soon it lost its meaning. To many were beginning to look like they would qualify as anarchists.

The same thing will happen with the word "terrorist" as it is being more and more applied to whatever group that dissents and could be made to fall under the Patriot Act.

I am all for targeting terrorists, so long as a clear and not sweeping definition of the word is adhered to. The decision to target economic targets or just to cause loss of life is not a measure to define it by. I would suggest that the word terrorist must be strict to mean: those who advance an ideological view in order to advance political goals by targeting non-combatants or combatants with no regard or with the goal to killing, maiming and harming non-combatants in the near vicinity of the attack.

Therefore, a suicide bomber who walks up to an remote Israeli police road checkpoint or runs into a barracks would not be considered a terrorist because of the direct targeting of combatants in the political struggle. Now, if it is carried out in a coffee shop or on a bus, it would be.

Targets on property or infrastructure should be rightfully identified as vandalism or sabotage.

Mike Cash
Jan 6, 2006, 22:56
[size="3"]

And, even worse -- the abject apathy of the American people about the government`s invasion of privacy with these recent communication taps without going to FISA.

By "recent", I suppose you mean "by every president since Jimmy Carter".....

sabro
Jan 6, 2006, 23:15
Perhaps we should have looked at the "Data mining" controversy a little more closely when it first surfaced a decade ago. The technology has changed so much these days, but so has our percieved level of threat.

SFV- I agree that our apathy is the problem and I am a bit mystified as to why concern about our civil liberties should fall along partisan lines. The expansion of the definition of the word terrorist is also worrisome - although my definition is a bit broader and would include acts designed to intimidate and create fear to advance their ideology for whatever purpose. Usually this involves acts likely to cause death or injury, but also I would include actions intended to engender fear which do not always cause death or injury (such as painting schwastikas on synagoges or burning crosses.) I would say that the targets would have to be peripheral and civilian, but I'm not certain I would exclude members of the military...(Although I guess that could include non tactical Aerial bombardment.) I need to think about this one...

And Maciamo- I count myself as one of those "fanatic Christians" although I am not part of the Right or Moral Majority. I promise not to scream at you, assault you with random scriptures, support legislation to regulate you personal behavior, or to overtly try to convert you. But is subtle covert prosletizing okay?

strongvoicesforward
Jan 7, 2006, 00:37
...but also I would include actions intended to engender fear which do not always cause death or injury (such as painting schwastikas on synagoges or burning crosses.)


I would call those "hate crimes" and we already have legislation to deal with that. I don`t think we should be making a law code that overlaps each other because there are spaces in between that are quite innocent. Once we start making these overlapping laws, that in between area, which may be legitimate dissent is then caught up in either one of these.

If the criteria to just intimidate and cause fear is included in the definition of terrorism, then that is too subjective from the target of any protest point of view. Someone could scare a lady walking to her car at P&G from the office just because they are loud with a a megaphone. If she is scared and afraid to walk past a line of protestors then those protestors could be charged with terrorism.

The U.S. just by sitting an aircraft carrier off Taiwan to intimidate and put a little scare into China could then be considered doing a terrorist act. They may incidentally scare passengers on a passing ferry. Fear is too subjective.

Maciamo
Jan 7, 2006, 02:20
I promise not to scream at you, assault you with random scriptures, support legislation to regulate you personal behavior, or to overtly try to convert you.

Good, I can rest assured now. :p


But is subtle covert prosletizing okay?

Yes, but that won't work on me.

Pachipro
Jan 7, 2006, 02:38
Perosnally I did not feel irritated by all the things mentioned above until my 3rd year in Japan. You can't "make peace with it" if you haven't come into conflict with it first. And small things like the ones I mentioned are not things that would normally annoy me, if they happened just a few times a year. It is the frequency and accumulation over the years, combined with an increasing realisation that a majority of the people in that country behave like that, that lead to frustration and irritation...
The 3rd year you mentioned is critical in that many "frustrated gaijin" leave during that year as they are completely "fed up" so to speak. And there are some that become frustrated quicker. However, those that stay beyond that time to the 4th, 5th, or longer years usually make peace with it and accept it for what it is.

Believe you me, I went through the same frustration so I know exactly what you have experienced. As I've mentioned previously, the majority of foreigners have a love-hate relationship with Japan with very, very few being completely at ease and comfort with living and working in Japan. While on the other extreme, there are very, very few who completely love living there and have no complaints whatsoever. For the vast majority of us, we struggle with it until we either accept it for what it is or we leave.

Once I accepted Japan and the culture for what it is and stopped trying to change it to suit my needs, it became more comfortable and enjoyable living there. And, as with where I am living now, I still had my irritations and gripes (as I probably would have anywhere I lived in the world), but, as I do here in Tennessee (which is a fine place to live btw), I accept them and go on with life. I make the best of it.


I guess I could have had a (slightly) more positive experience, had I lived in another area (with less conservative, elderly people), had another job (with less chances to be asked personal questions than as a one-to-one conversation teacher !). It would not have changed the way Japanese people are, but it could have made it more bearable by not hearing the same stereotypical comments and being asked the same questions almost everyday. But it was too late to change. I have reached a stage where just hearing a Japanese talk about the seasons, chopsticks or fireworks make me on the defensive, and being asked about them drives me crazy. When you have had an overdose of something, be it food, alcohol, music or some kind of people, you just can't have it anymore, even if you used to like it.
I don't really think it would have changed your perceptions of Japan and the Japanese people and culture. Each person has his/her own experience and feelings regardless of where they live in the country.

However, I still commend you for learning the language so fast and at least attempting to understand the culture. Many foreigners do not even do a tenth of what you have done while living there, but complain none the less.

At least you have something to back you up. If someone says to to you, "Oh yeah? Did you learn to speak and read and write the language?" You can reply, "Yes, I did." If they say, "Oh yeah? Did you learn about their history and culture"? You can reply, "Yes, I did." Very few can answer in the affirmative.

Let me ask you one question: How would you feel if a Japanese person came to Belgium, became fluent in the language, history, and culture, and tried to change Belgium to suit his needs as a Japanese feels other countries should be based on his thinking? What if he incessently complained about how Belgiens (sp) do not sit on the floor, or bathe regularly in an ofuro, or eat rice regularly or anything for that matter that is so foreign to Belgiens and not their culture? Would you not think he/she was out of place in trying to change Belgium's customs, politics, education, etc?

I would. I think the same is true in Japan and of the Japanese. That is what makes this world so unique and wonderful. If everything was the same no matter where I went in the world, what fun would that be? For lack of a better example, if there were McDonalds and such, and the same US food all over the world, what fun would that be? I would never be allowed to sample a different countries food as there would be no difference throughout the world when it came to food.

But I still smile to myself at how frustrated you must have been and how annoyed it made you over 3+ years as I have seen it many times and experienced it myself. IMO, for what it is worth, Japan may have been a good experience for you, and another notch on your belt, so to speak, in your travels around the world. But it is not the place you were destined to live for any length of time in. Too bad. As many foreigners have tried, including a few famous tarento, to get Japan to change, but all have failed. I was sort of hoping you would be the one to do it.

Maciamo
Jan 7, 2006, 03:26
Let me ask you one question: How would you feel if a Japanese person came to Belgium, became fluent in the language, history, and culture, and tried to change Belgium to suit his needs as a Japanese feels other countries should be based on his thinking? What if he incessently complained about how Belgiens (sp) do not sit on the floor, or bathe regularly in an ofuro, or eat rice regularly or anything for that matter that is so foreign to Belgiens and not their culture? Would you not think he/she was out of place in trying to change Belgium's customs, politics, education, etc?

I wouldn't mind hearin advice on improving the political or education system, as I don't know one place on earth where it is sufficiently good for me (although some are clearly better than others).

But I have never complained about Japanese customs, such as sitting on the floor, using chopsticks, Japanese-style baths, slurping noodles, bowing to greet people, etc. These are things I got used to, or if I didn't practice them (e.g. sitting in seiza everyday, because I have long legs), the fact that they existed and people practised them around me never bothered me anyway.

What bothered me are things that bother people in any culture, and whatever their own culture, I believe. They depend more on how thick/thin-skinned or sensitive one is, than where they are from. This is to say : discrimination (culture does NOT excuse it), prejudices based on ignorance (ditto), and the lack of acceptance by the Japanese, of people like me who try to integrate, learn about the culture, language, and have become permanent resident in their country. This does not make me feel welcome, as I never felt rewarded for having tried so hard to integrate, except by my wife and a few more open-minded friends/students.

That was not enough for me. I know I am exigent, but that is how I am. I try to adapt. They won't recognise it, and there is no chance of it changing nationwide. Why should I stay any longer, feel frustration by the lack of recogniton, being treated like a short-term visitor by people who know I am a permanent resident, or having people answering me with gestures or strange (visibly suspicious or displeased) faces when I address them in their language ?

I think I would not have encountered these problems if I just talked English to everybody, insulted them if they didn't speak English, never behaved like a Japanese, not stop when the cops wanted to check my bike, didn't bother to sort my waste, spoke louder than everybody, pushed people to get off the train, and didn't get married but just enjoyed my time in Shibuya, etc. There are many "gaijin" like that (this is my image of the "gaijin" by the way, the one the Japanese gave me, which is why I disliked being called that way), and they never complain half as much as I do. Why should they ? They have nothing to worry about... They behave like in occupied land. Unfortunately, I believe that it is people like this who are in part responsible for giving me a hard time by making the Japanese think that Westerners are normally like that (no wonder so many of them are afraid to travel to Western countries and they vote for Ishihara !)



I would. I think the same is true in Japan and of the Japanese. That is what makes this world so unique and wonderful. If everything was the same no matter where I went in the world, what fun would that be? For lack of a better example, if there were McDonalds and such, and the same US food all over the world, what fun would that be?

Why are you telling me that ? I am quite disappointed that you should think that I prefer McDonald, or would like "my country's food" rather than Japanese food in Japan. I am also disappointed that you should think that I try to change Japanese culture and customs like the ones you cited above (o-furo, sit on the floor...). Where did you get the idea that I dislike that ? If there wasn't that "exotism" or these positive aspects of Japan (Japanese food, politeness, etc.) , I would have left after a month !

So please do not confuse me for some narrow-minded loser that expect Japan to be the same as at home, expect Japanese people to speak English everywhere and eat their country's food because they can't enjoy something they aren't used to !


As many foreigners have tried, including a few famous tarento, to get Japan to change, but all have failed. I was sort of hoping you would be the one to do it.

I doubt that they were complaining about the same things as I did. The things I complain about are that the education system make Japanese people completely deprived of critical sense and blindly believe everything they hear on TV, which in turn makes them have prejudices against anything not Japanese, and don't bother to think for a fraction of second before asking the same stereotypical questions when they should know the answer by themselves. Some more open-minded and more critical Japanese (and I have met very few of them), agree with me on that. I am not trying to make Japan more like "my country", but just better for everyone, especially for the Japanese. In fact, most of the people I discussed with about this issue had no opinion at all. They politely agreed, but I wonder if they even understood what I was talking about. There is at least one educated person I met who raised the issue before I even mentioned it, which encouraged me into believing that people who did have an opinion agreed with me. The whole issue is justly to make people think more by themselves, and create their own opinions. It's only natural then, that I shouldn't hear many opinions coming from the Japanese.

All my problems in Japan come from that lack of critical thinking :
- misconceptions and prejudices (i.e. false preconceive ideas not based on reason or experience, but on hearsays and stereotypes).
- discrimination (because of a lack of distinction between the various kinds of foreigners, ultimately caused by ignorance and especially the lack of critical thinking)
- unwillingness to accept foreigners as part of Japanese society (because of deep-rooted prejudices)
- stupid/naive questions (which wouldn't happen without the misconceptions)

DoctorP
Jan 7, 2006, 08:30
What bothered me are things that bother people in any culture, and whatever their own culture, I believe. They depend more on how thick/thin-skinned or sensitive one is, than where they are from. This is to say : discrimination (culture does NOT excuse it), prejudices based on ignorance (ditto), and the lack of acceptance by the Japanese, of people like me who try to integrate, learn about the culture, language, and have become permanent resident in their country. This does not make me feel welcome, as I never felt rewarded for having tried so hard to integrate, except by my wife and a few more open-minded friends/students.

That was not enough for me. I know I am exigent, but that is how I am. I try to adapt. They won't recognise it, and there is no chance of it changing nationwide. Why should I stay any longer, feel frustration by the lack of recogniton, being treated like a short-term visitor by people who know I am a permanent resident, or having people answering me with gestures or strange (visibly suspicious or displeased) faces when I address them in their language ?




Maybe you should just move back here and walk around with a sign around your neck that says "Hey stupid...I speak/understand Japanese!" . Maybe that will correct part of the problem that you seem to encounter.

Gaijin 06
Jan 7, 2006, 08:31
What do you know after your 3 months or so in Japan ? :okashii: The problem was not that I was not enough integrated or not open-minded enough. It was rather the contrary. I tried to integrate so much that I became more natives than the natives (for some things at least) and did not tolerate that people behaved with me like if I was just a tourist that didn't know how to use chopsticks or what "ikebana" was. So you could say that if you are open-minded and like open-minded people, Japan can be a quite irritating place, as people are very narrow-minded, ethnocentric and ignorant of the rest of the world.

I may have only been here five months, but I've been here five months with my eyes, ears and mind open.

I've also talked to a lot of people here and asked them for their experiences - some bad, some indifferent and some good. While everyone has experiences different emotions and driving forces, it seems to me the people with open minds integrate easier than those with closed minds.

People who don't expect Japan & Japanese people to be something they are not enjoy Japan and Japanese people more. Pretty self-evident really.

Mike Cash
Jan 7, 2006, 09:08
I may have only been here five months, but I've been here five months with my eyes, ears and mind open.

I've also talked to a lot of people here and asked them for their experiences - some bad, some indifferent and some good. While everyone has experiences different emotions and driving forces, it seems to me the people with open minds integrate easier than those with closed minds.

People who don't expect Japan & Japanese people to be something they are not enjoy Japan and Japanese people more. Pretty self-evident really.

None of which will immunize you against the phenomenon of coming to reevaluate things somewhere around your third year, somewhere around the age of 30 (if you're not already past it), or when children approach school age. It isn't even necessary to hate or be disgusted with Japan to make a decision to leave when those milestones come. There are those completely enjoying their time in Japan who still make the decision to leave around those times.

Gaijin 06
Jan 7, 2006, 11:34
None of which will immunize you against the phenomenon of coming to reevaluate things somewhere around your third year, somewhere around the age of 30 (if you're not already past it), or when children approach school age. It isn't even necessary to hate or be disgusted with Japan to make a decision to leave when those milestones come. There are those completely enjoying their time in Japan who still make the decision to leave around those times.

I never claimed it would Mike. I don't know if I will last to one year in Japan, or three, or five.

My point was that being here five months does not exclude someone from having an opinion.

Mike Cash
Jan 7, 2006, 12:53
I never claimed it would Mike. I don't know if I will last to one year in Japan, or three, or five.

My point was that being here five months does not exclude someone from having an opinion.

I couldn't agree more strongly. There's very little about gaijin-to-gaijin relations that irritates me more than people acting as though length of time here somehow automatically adds authority and wisdom to their opinions. My policy has always been to avoid saying how long I've been here. I figure if my points can't stand without relying on a validity-crutch [tm] like that to prop them up, then maybe they don't deserve to stand at all.

Maciamo
Jan 7, 2006, 18:00
I may have only been here five months, but I've been here five months with my eyes, ears and mind open.

I've also talked to a lot of people here and asked them for their experiences - some bad, some indifferent and some good. While everyone has experiences different emotions and driving forces, it seems to me the people with open minds integrate easier than those with closed minds.

People who don't expect Japan & Japanese people to be something they are not enjoy Japan and Japanese people more. Pretty self-evident really.

Thank you, that is exactly what I used to say in my two first years in Japan.:blush:

Pachipro
Jan 11, 2006, 01:11
I would. I think the same is true in Japan and of the Japanese. That is what makes this world so unique and wonderful. If everything was the same no matter where I went in the world, what fun would that be? For lack of a better example, if there were McDonalds and such, and the same US food all over the world, what fun would that be?
Why are you telling me that ? I am quite disappointed that you should think that I prefer McDonald, or would like "my country's food" rather than Japanese food in Japan. I am also disappointed that you should think that I try to change Japanese culture and customs like the ones you cited above (o-furo, sit on the floor...). Where did you get the idea that I dislike that ? If there wasn't that "exotism" or these positive aspects of Japan (Japanese food, politeness, etc.) , I would have left after a month !
If you'll read my remark more closely, I WAS NOT referring to you. I was talking about myself and other foreigners and using a very simplistic example.


What bothered me are things that bother people in any culture, and whatever their own culture, I believe. They depend more on how thick/thin-skinned or sensitive one is, than where they are from. This is to say : discrimination (culture does NOT excuse it), prejudices based on ignorance (ditto), and the lack of acceptance by the Japanese, of people like me who try to integrate, learn about the culture, language, and have become permanent resident in their country. This does not make me feel welcome, as I never felt rewarded for having tried so hard to integrate, except by my wife and a few more open-minded friends/students.

That was not enough for me. I know I am exigent, but that is how I am. I try to adapt. They won't recognise it, and there is no chance of it changing nationwide. Why should I stay any longer, feel frustration by the lack of recogniton, being treated like a short-term visitor by people who know I am a permanent resident, or having people answering me with gestures or strange (visibly suspicious or displeased) faces when I address them in their language ?
Personally, I do not expect to be "rewarded" or recognized for my knowledge of the language and culture or I would not have stayed. I was satisfied, my wife and her parents were satisfied, and my Japanese friends were satisfied. To me that was reward enough and I felt very welcome anywhere I went. I didn't need anyone to pat me on the back and tell me what a fine job I did in my learning of their country. I lived there and acted like I belonged there and I was very happy in doing so. Very happy. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I have no regrets or complaints.

The point is I still feel that no foreigner, no matter how fluent in the language, or knowledgeable about their culture and history can ever hope to change Japan to suit their needs or desires. The Japanese system, whether it be their educational system, their seniority system, their nationalistic feelings, their feelings of inferiority, their amazement at foreigners who can do the simplist of things Japanese, etc. suits the Japanese and the Japanese only. It works for them. It is not there to suit foreigners. They became the second largest economy in the world without changing their ways to suit foreigners. That in itself gives them pride and to keep the status quo.

We may wholehartedly disagee with them (and I do in many things), but if they want to change it they will through elections or let their voice be heard in other ways. Right now, and probably for the forseeable future, the Japanese people don't want to change it and maybe never will.

As long as they (like many Americans) have 2,000 yen in their pocket, access to easy credit, a job, a roof over their heads, and are able to buy the latest high tech items, play golf or whatever, and purchase expensive handbags and cosmetics, they are happy, will remain blind to their subtle prejudices towards foreigners and the rest of the world, and things will not change. However, take a few, or all of those things away and you will begin to see things change pretty fast.

Duo
Jan 11, 2006, 06:21
The Japanese system, whether it be their educational system, their seniority system, their nationalistic feelings, their feelings of inferiority, their amazement at foreigners who can do the simplist of things Japanese, etc. suits the Japanese and the Japanese only. It works for them. It is not there to suit foreigners. They became the second largest economy in the world without changing their ways to suit foreigners. That in itself gives them pride and to keep the status quo.


Hmm... my knowledge of Japan and its history and development are only superficial but it seems to me that Japan has gotten to where it has today only thx to foreigners. They were a closed feudal society until comodore Perry forced them open and then they began to model their new state based on the European Powers. After WW2 Japan was even more influenced by the West. How could they have reached their status without the help of foreigners when they are an island state with no natural resources? They depend on the rest of the world for oil and raw materials and especially on foreign markets for their products. It would seem to me that if you HAVE to deal with other nations for survival one should at least try to understand whom they are dealing with, for better profits for one thing. How can the Japanese still think that anyone who speaks english is American ? It's simply ridicolous. I find this to be a very chauvinistic attitutide that shows total disrespect and I can clearly see why Maciamo was frutrated in his daily life there.

Pachipro
Jan 12, 2006, 00:43
Hmm... my knowledge of Japan and its history and development are only superficial but it seems to me that Japan has gotten to where it has today only thx to foreigners. They were a closed feudal society until comodore Perry forced them open and then they began to model their new state based on the European Powers. After WW2 Japan was even more influenced by the West. How could they have reached their status without the help of foreigners when they are an island state with no natural resources? They depend on the rest of the world for oil and raw materials and especially on foreign markets for their products.
I have no argument with you there and you are quite correct. However, once aid and assistance is given to a foreign country, it is up to that individual country and its people to make it work in a manner that suits them and their needs. Japan, in it's own way, seems to have made it work quite well for them even with major western influence.


It would seem to me that if you HAVE to deal with other nations for survival one should at least try to understand whom they are dealing with, for better profits for one thing. How can the Japanese still think that anyone who speaks english is American ? It's simply ridicolous. I find this to be a very chauvinistic attitutide that shows total disrespect and I can clearly see why Maciamo was frutrated in his daily life there.
Again, I agree with you. But the point of my argument is that they will NEVER change unless something drastically happens to make them change. Change in Japanese society, as in business, usually comes from the bottom up and is by consensus. If the majority of the people don't want or desire change, then nothing will happen.

Just one look at Japanese society will tell you. When a new fad or clothing style, or music style or any genre is started by a couple of influential people, the whole country grabs hold of it and it becomes an obsession to the point of hilarity to foreigners.

Only when something major happens that smacks the Japanese in the face and forces them to take a good look at themselves and realize just how ridiculous, childish and immature they are in their treatment of foreigners, then they may change. Until then I don't see them changing anytime soon. Just like when Commodore Perry threatened to shoot cannon at Japan did they change. They had no choice in the matter as they could not defend themselves and had no other recourse, but be dragged into the then modern world.

Unless you've actually lived and worked there for any length of time can you really understand what Maciamo and I are saying? Along with a couple of others who share my feelings, I have a view that is completely opposite of his, as although I also was frustrated in the beginning, I learned to live with it, accept it, and enjoy the other aspects of Japanese life and living and working in Japan and left happily by choice. He, on the otherhand, as he explained so well, left unhappily and frustrated by choice. It's an almost perfect case history of two foreigners having opposite experiences living in Japan.

Duo, how can you "clearly see why Maciamo was frutrated in his daily life there", or how I feel, or how the Japanese feel, unless you yourself have lived there for at least 3 years? Who knows, you yourself, while understanding the frustration felt by Maciamo, myself and others, may just love living there and accept it. Many have.

On the otherhand, you may become just as frustrated as he, as well as many others, and leave with a bad taste in your mouth. You'll never know unless you've actually experienced it will you? So please don't judge a whole country, good or bad, based on the experiences of a few unless you've done it yourself. And I do hope you get to experience for yourself one of these days.:beer:

Maciamo
Jan 12, 2006, 01:17
The Japanese system, whether it be their educational system, their seniority system, their nationalistic feelings, their feelings of inferiority, their amazement at foreigners who can do the simplist of things Japanese, etc. suits the Japanese and the Japanese only. It works for them. It is not there to suit foreigners. They became the second largest economy in the world without changing their ways to suit foreigners. That in itself gives them pride and to keep the status quo.

Japan became the world's 2nd economy for 2 simple reasons :

1) it enjoyed a priviledged economic partnership with the world's first economic power, while keeping a protectionist system toward other countries.

2) Japan's population is the 2nd largest of any develeloped countries (with a big gap with the 3rd, i.e. Germany). In terms of GDP per capita, Japan now ranks 17th, with an economy going down for the last 16 years. I wouldn't be so proud of that system.

I believe that Japan goes to its doom if it refuse to change.


As long as they (like many Americans) have 2,000 yen in their pocket, access to easy credit, a job, a roof over their heads, and are able to buy the latest high tech items, play golf or whatever, and purchase expensive handbags and cosmetics, they are happy, will remain blind to their subtle prejudices towards foreigners and the rest of the world, and things will not change.

But then, I wish they don't come and beg Westerners for economic aid after a major earthquake ravages Tokyo...:okashii: They kept their protectionism and prejudices against Westerners for decades, and it would just be too hypocritical to start playing the innocent once things go wrong for them.

Maciamo
Jan 12, 2006, 01:22
Hmm... my knowledge of Japan and its history and development are only superficial but it seems to me that Japan has gotten to where it has today only thx to foreigners. They were a closed feudal society until comodore Perry forced them open and then they began to model their new state based on the European Powers. After WW2 Japan was even more influenced by the West. How could they have reached their status without the help of foreigners when they are an island state with no natural resources? They depend on the rest of the world for oil and raw materials and especially on foreign markets for their products. It would seem to me that if you HAVE to deal with other nations for survival one should at least try to understand whom they are dealing with, for better profits for one thing.

That is exactly how I see it. Japan, more than any other country in the world, has learnt and copied the system, fashion, food, lifetsyle, technologies and values of Western countries. It is one of the non-Western countries with the highest number of Westerners living there. And yet, Japanese people are among the people with the lowest understanding of Westerners and differences between the various Western cultures and countries. How can that be ?

JerseyBoy
Jan 12, 2006, 08:37
That is exactly how I see it. Japan, more than any other country in the world, has learnt and copied the system, fashion, food, lifestyle, technologies and values of Western countries. It is one of the non-Western countries with the highest number of Westerners living there. And yet, Japanese people are among the people with the lowest understanding of Westerners and differences between the various Western cultures and countries. How can that be ?
Frankly speaking, I don't agree with your comment that Japanese have the lowest understanding of Westerners. Even though you are of course entitled to your own opinion which may be shaped by your experience in Japan, i don't think that is a true statement on Japanese. Westerners include various European countries, North America, and others; and even among those so called Western countries there are misunderstanding and differences among them. That statement does not make sense to me. Maybe your negative experience in Japan can be of your own making. Each person looks at the world from his/her own perspectives/views which will surely affect the final outcome of his/her experience.

Duo
Jan 12, 2006, 12:00
Duo, how can you "clearly see why Maciamo was frutrated in his daily life there", or how I feel, or how the Japanese feel, unless you yourself have lived there for at least 3 years? Who knows, you yourself, while understanding the frustration felt by Maciamo, myself and others, may just love living there and accept it. Many have.
On the otherhand, you may become just as frustrated as he, as well as many others, and leave with a bad taste in your mouth. You'll never know unless you've actually experienced it will you? So please don't judge a whole country, good or bad, based on the experiences of a few unless you've done it yourself. And I do hope you get to experience for yourself one of these days.:beer:
Well it is true that I haven't lived in Japan and I did not I say that I felt exactly what Maciamo did, I simply stated that I could understand why he would be frustrated with that kind of situation and I could relate to it because I have similar views to him when it comes to society, acceptance and integration. Reading his posts and his explanations on why he felt a certain way and the reasons behind I could see myself in the same position as him... therefore because I am similar to him in that aspect is why I could say that I could feel that I could relate to his situation and his actions because I would probaply do the same. Also... i've been away from my native land for about 8 years now so as from an expat to another I could see the simliarity of the things we would expect from the host society. I hope that makes some kind of sense

Maciamo
Jan 12, 2006, 17:56
Frankly speaking, I don't agree with your comment that Japanese have the lowest understanding of Westerners. Even though you are of course entitled to your own opinion which may be shaped by your experience in Japan, i don't think that is a true statement on Japanese. Westerners include various European countries, North America, and others; and even among those so called Western countries there are misunderstanding and differences among them. That statement does not make sense to me. Maybe your negative experience in Japan can be of your own making. Each person looks at the world from his/her own perspectives/views which will surely affect the final outcome of his/her experience.
It is true that there is some ignorance and misunderstandings between Westerners too, but not to the same level as seen in Japan. :blush: The kind of stereotypes or generalisations Europeans have between themselves are usually limited to : Germans eat sausages and wear flashy tshirts on holiday; Brits drink tea and are Euroskeptics, Dutch people are stingy and travel with a caravan, Italian people speak fast, loud and are often excited, etc. These may be stereotypes, but at least there is some truth in it.

But never have I seen a Westerner asking another Westerner (from a different) country if they also had vegetable graters in their country, and then make an astonished face with a rude "eeeeh" of disbelief when they were told that "yes". So the problem of the Japanese is not just one of ignorance, but attitude to ignorance. They just can't hide their contempt and sense of superiority, although it is disguised under the apperance of naivete (but believe me, when it comes to business or sex, the Japanese are NOT naive).

When I was in India or South East Asia, the people were less well educated than in Japan, most had never been abroad (whereas 90% of the Japanese I frequently associated with had been abroad, often to Western countries). I have heard stereotypical statements, but never as naive as in Japan, and not always as a comparison to their own country in a way that clearly meant that their culture or society was superior, like I usually felt in Japan.

mad pierrot
Jan 12, 2006, 18:38
I just got back online. Read the thread.

All I can do is wish you good luck, and say I'm sorry I won't have a chance to visit you in Tokyo anymore! Regardless, hope to maybe catch up with you at some other place in the world. Perhaps you'd care to visit me in Mongolia in the future?

Maciamo
Jan 12, 2006, 18:58
Regardless, hope to maybe catch up with you at some other place in the world. Perhaps you'd care to visit me in Mongolia in the future?

Mongolia ? I will have to think about it, but sounds interesting. :-) If you want to spend your vacations in Europe and passes by Belgium, just let me know. :wave:

4321go
Jan 12, 2006, 19:45
But never have I seen a Westerner asking another Westerner (from a different) country if they also had vegetable graters in their country, and then make an astonished face with a rude "eeeeh" of disbelief when they were told that "yes". So the problem of the Japanese is not just one of ignorance, but attitude to ignorance. They just can't hide their contempt and sense of superiority, although it is disguised under the apperance of naivete (but believe me, when it comes to business or sex, the Japanese are NOT naive).

Um , you are right~~ This is what I want to say .
This nation is too lonely when they stay in the isolated island . They must be boastful,in order to comfort themself~
Japan expand their confidence by attack the BIG country~ USA Russia and China~ and they achieve the "economic wonder" after WW2 .All of these things make Japaneses feel euphoria I think ~

Let me give an example :
A person is bellicose,and like to fight with their neighbor,no one like to play with him ,so he is lonely,he can only trust himself, so he must be boastful,otherwise ,he will collapse.
This person is Japan~

JerseyBoy
Jan 15, 2006, 11:54
Let me give an example :
A person is bellicose,and like to fight with their neighbor,no one like to play with him ,so he is lonely,he can only trust himself, so he must be boastful,otherwise ,he will collapse.
This person is Japan〜
Hah? Your post does not make any sense whatsoever. Sorry, I don't get how you arrive at that comment. I think you are reading into too much fiction or fairly tales. Chao.

JerseyBoy
Jan 15, 2006, 12:38
It is true that there is some ignorance and misunderstandings between Westerners too, but not to the same level as seen in Japan. :blush: The kind of stereotypes or generalizations Europeans have between themselves are usually limited to : Germans eat sausages and wear flashy shirts on holiday; Brits drink tea and are Euroskeptics, Dutch people are stingy and travel with a caravan, Italian people speak fast, loud and are often excited, etc. These may be stereotypes, but at least there is some truth in it.
But never have I seen a Westerner asking another Westerner (from a different) country if they also had vegetable graters in their country, and then make an astonished face with a rude "eeeeh" of disbelief when they were told that "yes". So the problem of the Japanese is not just one of ignorance, but attitude to ignorance. They just can't hide their contempt and sense of superiority, although it is disguised under the appearance of naivete (but believe me, when it comes to business or sex, the Japanese are NOT naive).
When I was in India or South East Asia, the people were less well educated than in Japan, most had never been abroad (whereas 90% of the Japanese I frequently associated with had been abroad, often to Western countries). I have heard stereotypical statements, but never as naive as in Japan, and not always as a comparison to their own country in a way that clearly meant that their culture or society was superior, like I usually felt in Japan.

It seems you were immensely annoyed about those questions Japanese people you met asked you. Unless the same person you met is asking you the same question again, I don't see the reason for the extreme annoyance and hostility you have toward those questions and experiences you had to endure through those questions. Maybe the people you met in Japan asked you those questions because they needed an conversation opener and/or they are not familiar with Belgium (Belgium is not the superpower in the world economy/politics and it is possible not many people in different non-EU countries are familiar with her) or Europe at large.

In my opinion, I think you have an affinity or allegiance toward EU (as Belgium is a part of EU member) countries---which is normal----and I feel you would like to drum up their alleged intelligence/high worldly knowledge EU people have, compared to other people (like Japanese in this particular case) through your own experience (which is one person's experience). There is nothing wrong with forming your opinion/judgement based on your particular experience. But, as the saying goes, individual mileages may vary, as each person's character, temperament, background, and outlook will certainly shape the experience that person will go through.

I am a Japanese national and I don't ask those questions you raised in your threads, maybe because I am too dry a person to start those ice-breaker conversations with a foreign national. Maybe because I dealt with so many people in different cultural backgrounds (I am in the international trade).....

Not all the people fit in a new or foreign country/culture. Some people are set in his/her way and any behavior contrary to his/her standards is not to be tolerated. There is no 100% satisfaction on anything. I am sorry to hear that your endeavor in Japan did not work out as you wished. But, that is how things are in life.

Maciamo
Jan 15, 2006, 18:41
It seems you were immensely annoyed about those questions Japanese people you met asked you. Unless the same person you met is asking you the same question again, I don't see the reason for the extreme annoyance and hostility you have toward those questions and experiences you had to endure through those questions. Maybe the people you met in Japan asked you those questions because they needed an conversation opener and/or they are not familiar with Belgium (Belgium is not the superpower in the world economy/politics and it is possible not many people in different non-EU countries are familiar with her) or Europe at large.
I hate to repeat myself, but as there are so many people on this forum, and not everyone read my old post on the subject...
1) These questions rarely came as conversation starters or to break the ice. On the contrary, they typically happened in the middle of a engaged conversation, and they did sometimes stop it short because I was shocked at their attitude.
2)The same person often did ask a series of annoying question, not just an isolated one.
3) Very few people asked me about Belgium in particular, because at the point they asked the question, either they didn't know where I was from, or they already knew that I had lived in several European countries, and so asked about Europe in general or "gaikoku" (abroad) or "mukou" ("over there", "where you come from"). My wife sometimes tells her friend that we are going to France and not Belgium to "facilitate the explanations" (I can't understand that way of thinking, but if she judges that her friends are not able to understand where/what is Belgium... :rolleyes: ), and she also says that we met in London.

How does you explain that some of her friends worry that we should take a vegetable-grater, a garlic-crusher, a tin-opener, or pressure-cooker, "because it probably doesn't exist abroad" (this is the part that annoys me, i.e. their presumption that it doesn't exist outside Japan, whatever the country).

Many Japanese will assume that something does not exist abroad because they didn't see it while travelling to one or a few countries. So if they haven't seen something while staying in New York, it forcedly doesn't exist, neither in New York, nor in all the States or Europe or anywhere else outside Japan (shocking way of thinking, isn't it ?). For instance, I was asked by someone if automatic vending machines "existed abroad". First I had to ask her : "What country is 'abroad' ?". Then, when she just wanted to know in Europe or where I had lived, so I answered that obviously we do have vending machines, and many even dispense food (snacks, sandwiches, ice cream...), someone I rarely see in Tokyo. She was surprised because she hadn't seen any while travelling, and so assume it was only a Japanese thing (she said it like that).

I had people "assuming" that season greeting cards, fireworks, spring blossoms and autumn leaves, folding fans, and even comic books were "only [found] in Japan", or at least did not exist in Western countries. I have certainly heard such assumptions over 100 times, withouting counting the same persons making many such assumptions (please remember point (1) above).

If at least they had assumed that things that were truly Japanese (e.g. kotatsu, tatami...) weren't common in Europe, I wouldn't have been annoyed like that (except if they made a point in always trying to find something uniquely Japanese so that they can boast about it, like what father-in-law likes to do when we meet). For example, I have been when was the first time I saw or sat on a tatami, which is a totally acceptable question, because it is just about my personal experience, which they couldn't know about. Likewise, had they asked me when was my first fireworks, that's quite ok (as long as they don't reply "Oh, you have fireworks in your country too, I thought it was only in Japan !").

Asking about the existence of something abroad is not very interesting as nowadays anything can be imported or exported, even (or especially) traditional arts. So such questions are a bit pointless. I also wonder what is the point of asking whether we have folding fans in my country, as it is not really the kind of thing you use everyday (or not nowadays anyway). But what annoys me is not the question but the assumption that it doesn't exist, as it is a way of boasting about one's country or culture. And what really infuriates me is when such assumptions are made about things that are as common in the West as in Japan (seasons, fireworks...) or that Japan imported from the West (greeting cards, vending machines...).

JerseyBoy
Jan 16, 2006, 20:26
How does you explain that some of her friends worry that we should take a vegetable-grater, a garlic-crusher, a tin-opener, or pressure-cooker, "because it probably doesn't exist abroad" (this is the part that annoys me, i.e. their presumption that it doesn't exist outside Japan, whatever the country).
Many Japanese will assume that something does not exist abroad because they didn't see it while traveling to one or a few countries. So if they haven't seen something while staying in New York, it forcedly doesn't exist, neither in New York, nor in all the States or Europe or anywhere else outside Japan (shocking way of thinking, isn't it ?). I had people "assuming" that season greeting cards, fireworks, spring blossoms and autumn leaves, folding fans, and even comic books were "only [found] in Japan", or at least did not exist in Western countries. I have certainly heard such assumptions over 100 times, withouting counting the same persons making many such assumptions (please remember point (1) above).
If at least they had assumed that things that were truly Japanese (e.g. kotatsu, tatami...) weren't common in Europe, I wouldn't have been annoyed like that (except if they made a point in always trying to find something uniquely Japanese so that they can boast about it, like what father-in-law likes to do when we meet). For example, I have been when was the first time I saw or sat on a tatami, which is a totally acceptable question, because it is just about my personal experience, which they couldn't know about. Likewise, had they asked me when was my first fireworks, that's quite ok (as long as they don't reply "Oh, you have fireworks in your country too, I thought it was only in Japan !").
Asking about the existence of something abroad is not very interesting as nowadays anything can be imported or exported, even (or especially) traditional arts. So such questions are a bit pointless. I also wonder what is the point of asking whether we have folding fans in my country, as it is not really the kind of thing you use everyday (or not nowadays anyway). But what annoys me is not the question but the assumption that it doesn't exist, as it is a way of boasting about one's country or culture. And what really infuriates me is when such assumptions are made about things that are as common in the West as in Japan (seasons, fireworks...) or that Japan imported from the West (greeting cards, vending machines...).

Before I say anything, I'd like to say I am not disputing you had experienced those you listed in this thread and others. I recall you said you were a foreign language teacher in Tokyo areas and were living in the neighborhood where old folks reside.

I am not sure your definition of "many" as I feel your posts generally assume your particular 2-year experiences in Japan are the accurate representation of Japan at large. Also, in general, elders in Japan (or other countries for that matter) are set in their own way through years of life experiences. In my 4 years at the first job, I had dealt with over 2000 people in the States (excluding the college friends); even though I have my own biases/prejudices through which I look and experience, I have not been able to conclude that people in this another populous country are smart, educated, or what not. I feel my own particular experiences are not the proper representation of the country. It is not suitable to tell other people that my experiences are accurate and valid characterization of the entire culture/country.

If you are basing your judgement on the very populous country through a few years of experiences, I cannot help myself questioning the validity of your whole arguments. As I mentioned earlier, I am not questioning your particular experiences you had to endure in Japan as you have gone through them. If you are a foreign language teacher, the people you encountered would be those who are not familiar with other languages and are in need of your/your company's service. Maybe it's possible the quality of people you met in Japan is due to your profession or the areas you lived in.

I do believe each person has his/her own prejudices toward other people/cultures. Your high regards to Belgium & Europe might be well justified or not. I am posting my comment here because I find it difficult to reach the generalized conclusion you arrived at and I wanted to put some balance in this thread (I was a Journalism student in the states). Even though this thread is started by you and is heavily based on your own experience (there is nothing wrong with that as this is your thread), I wanted to put in my own comments as this thread would be viewed by many people.

Maciamo
Jan 16, 2006, 20:29
I have split the criticism by CC1, Elizabeth... (http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=21321)

Mike Cash
Jan 16, 2006, 23:39
Following my return from a self-imposed absence following our unfortunate period of unpleasantness during your time of greatest stress and irritability, I think I have behaved most civilly towards you and really have to take exception to having my comments at any point in this thread referred to as criticisms.

Maciamo
Jan 16, 2006, 23:57
Yes, I apologise for that, Mike.

Mike Cash
Jan 17, 2006, 00:17
No apology necessary. I can well understand how you would be prone to question the intent or content of any posts I make in reply to those of yours.

DoctorP
Jan 17, 2006, 05:30
It would seem as though the move really hasn't helped you all that much...but if I offended you, for that I am sorry. I do believe...ah nevermind!

Maciamo
Jan 17, 2006, 05:54
It would seem as though the move really hasn't helped you all that much...but if I offended you, for that I am sorry. I do believe...ah nevermind!
I suppose that the "move" is from Japan to Europe. How could it help me have a thicker-skin if I never had one ? I am less stressed and irritable, but I won't tolerate provocation even in my most relaxed mood.

DoctorP
Jan 17, 2006, 08:16
I won't tolerate provocation even in my most relaxed mood.

It wasn't as much a provocation as it was an observation...although I suppose one could lead to the other.

thomas
Jan 17, 2006, 08:20
I believe that Maciamo has made his point clear. In the light of the most recent escalation in this thread, I am going to close the topic. I have also removed the offshoot discussion. If some members feel any particular urge to follow up this issue, please do so by using private means of communication.

I am quite saddened by the fact that I had to resort to the "Close" button several times lately. Anyhow, I appreciate your understanding.

Let's take a deep breath and focus on what this forum is about: the civil discussion of Japan.