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View Full Version : Have you been taken for an American in Japan ?



Maciamo
Feb 11, 2010, 22:10
This thread concerns only non-Americans, of course. Since about half of our members are non-American Westerners I am interested to know how many of them were mistaken for Americans at least once when they were in Japan.

In my case it happened very regularly. There are even Japanese people at work who had known me for months or years and still asked "how do you do this in America ?" even though I told them (sometimes many times) that I wasn't American.

I didn't list the Canadians because it is so easy to mistake them for Americans (even between themselves abroad).

Pachipro
Feb 11, 2010, 23:26
My answer would be quite often and probably more than once.


I didn't list the Canadians because it is so easy to mistake them for Americans (even between themselves abroad).

Let me ask if I may, why would you exclude Canadians from this survey as it is my experience that they are just as perturbed as any European, Australian or New Zealander in being mistaken for an American? In fact I have known some Europeans in Japan who said that if they didn't hear the accent, just by looking at another Caucasian they wouldn't know what nationality they were. Are individual Europeans, etc., so distinguishable by looks alone?

Also, since the Japanese can rarely distinguish between accents, they will usually defer to what they know best from TV, movies and culture and that is American as it is the American culture that is ingrained into them. It doesn't make it correct or solve the problem, but that is just the way it is.

In my own case I was often asked if I was French by many Japanese, but that could be because of my French and Irish features if there is such a thing and I was not at all bothered by it. I just told them no, I am American.

Maciamo
Feb 12, 2010, 00:58
Let me ask if I may, why would you exclude Canadians from this survey as it is my experience that they are just as perturbed as any European, Australian or New Zealander in being mistaken for an American?

If it is hard even for Americans and Canadians themselves to distinguish between other Americans and Canadians, I don't expect the Japanese to be able to do it. I want to know if Japanese people associate more strongly northern Europeans with their image of the "typical American" or whether it is based on being an native English speaker or whether any European-looking person is automatically associated with the label "American" by a part of the population.

If Canadians really want to vote in the poll they can choose the first category ('other English-speaker').



In my own case I was often asked if I was French by many Japanese, but that could be because of my French and Irish features if there is such a thing and I was not at all bothered by it. I just told them no, I am American.

That's funny, although I am a native French speaker I have never been asked a single time if I was French.

FrustratedDave
Feb 12, 2010, 12:25
If it is hard even for Americans and Canadians themselves to distinguish between other Americans and Canadians, I don't expect the Japanese to be able to do it.

What makes you thin k the Japanese are going to be able to distinguish between a European and an American?

It is hard for me to tell between a German and a French person when they speak English.

Maciamo
Feb 12, 2010, 23:49
What makes you thin k the Japanese are going to be able to distinguish between a European and an American?
It is hard for me to tell between a German and a French person when they speak English.

It's very easy for me, but I am European. Some French people have "French" written all over their face. Same for many Italians and Spaniards. Language and culture is strongly expressed on facial expressions and in one's behaviour and style. Like for many other things (like the ability to put a name on a face, or recognise emotions in facial expressions) some people are more gifted than others. I am particularly good at telling nationalities or guessing what is a person's mother tongues in a multilingual country like Belgium or Switzerland. One part is innate, but practise is also necessary. The more one observes people the proficient one gets.

Most Americans are really quite easy to spot in a crowd.

It's hard to tell Scandinavians apart, or to tell a Czech from a Slovak, because their language and culture are very similar. But it's easy to tell a Swede from a Slovak or from a Swiss.

Maciamo
Feb 15, 2010, 23:43
I intend this thread to be for non-American Westerners to share their experience. Americans please refrain from posting here.

Elizabeth
Feb 16, 2010, 00:13
No, but I've been "mistaken" for a European out of frustration with too many attempted English replies to my Japanese after cutting them off to explain that I DONT UNDERSTAND YOU AT ALL. :angryfire: Unbelievably, or not, that turns out to be the most obvious lie that goes down completely unnoticed.

Or maybe it is a game to which they're giving as good as they get. Some people even seem not to understand me because they don't expect to hear Japanese coming from someone who doesn't look Japanese. When a foreigner comes along who is a halfway decent speaker, they don't like it and sometimes pretend not to understand or try to show off their knowledge of directions, "thank yous" and "you're welcomes"...


The one man on the street who dared inquire further (French ? Canadian?) was more out of curiosity and could happily be quickly turned away as I stopped for my drink. :P