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Thread: For our Japanese readers : Things you should not say to Westerners

  1. #101
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    So the can story is just a story about the cultural difference in usage of different languages. For some, it is an offensive story, for others, just a small talk.

    I asked my girlfriend about the 4 seasons. She said she learned a lot about the world from her well educated and internationally minded mother, so I can't at all say what is taught in school.
    I cannot say anything about her mother. I sometimes notice something like "younger generation is different in Japan", but her mother is a great example, older generation is also different here.

    If she had not been educated in Ireland or wherever outside Japan for all her school life, it is easier for her to tell you a bit about what she did in school, I suppose. I don't deny she met some stupid students believing in "4 season in Japan" in the past, but this is also the same in other countries except Belgium as in the provocative John Stossel's program, 'Stupid in America'. No Stossel here, but I often watch "Learn from the great Indian/Finnish or wherever education" here.

  2. #102
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrustratedDave View Post
    No I didn't as I own my house and land here in Japan. And just to clarify the OP had lived here for about 3 years when he made the thread, so yes telling people how to act is arrogant. In the real world people who live here and have equal ability in spoken Japanese as a native will very rarely be asked a lot of these questions. The problem is those with accents or broken Japanese will ultimately be thought of as someone who has lived here for a limited time or was not brought up here. So don't try and shift the blame on to the Japanese for a forienger being treated the way they are.

    What do you expect? Small talk is in every society and just b/c the small talk of most Japanese does not sit with you well it is nessecary to explain to them about what they should and shouldn't ask. And if you have not tried natto and you haven't you would answer "I haven't eaten it yet, what does it taste like?", or "what is it?".

    I am starting to wonder if it would be safe to ask you any questions at all. How would you answer to a question like this "Do you like scuba diving?" If you have not done that how would answer? You point is ridiculus on being asked question you don't know how to anwser, I mean why bother even talking then? Maybe you could like write on your forehead, "Only ask questions that I know the answer too". Or "only talk about stuff I want to talk about".

    Everytime you meet new people, you are inevetably going to induce the same line of questioning in most cases.
    It is not about what you would or would not ask. What people decide to talk about when small talk is taking place is part of this culture, what I mean is that food and whether is a very big part of this culture so it is only natural that Japanese will want to talk about it, especially to someone from another country.
    in USA, I regularly get asked, especially by stranger men, if my blonde hair is real as opposed to colored. Not only is this overpersonal, rude,and embarassing but no one asks if a brunette's hair is really brown or black although many brunettes have colored hair! This prejudice is upsetting to natural blonde haired teens and women-- as are the blonde jokes. Any questions or jokes that single out "foreigners" are equally rude and embarassing to them, so those questions should be rephrased or stopped. Period. End of story.

  3. #103
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    racism should be challenged, not tolerated. Why would it bother you who are afraid to speak up, he who does not fight evil helps evil.
    Quote Originally Posted by Glenski View Post
    Get used to it if you intend to live in Japan. It's offensive to many of us, but it's a fact of life.
    racism should be actively challenged in all nations.
    Quote Originally Posted by Glenski View Post
    Get used to it if you intend to live in Japan. It's offensive to many of us, but it's a fact of life.
    racism unchallenged leads to genocide.
    Last edited by ASHIKAGA; Aug 6, 2009 at 17:02.

  4. #104
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    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    in USA, I regularly get asked, especially by stranger men, if my blonde hair is real as opposed to colored. Not only is this overpersonal, rude,and embarassing but no one asks if a brunette's hair is really brown or black although many brunettes have colored hair! This prejudice is upsetting to natural blonde haired teens and women-- as are the blonde jokes. Any questions or jokes that single out "foreigners" are equally rude and embarassing to them, so those questions should be rephrased or stopped. Period. End of story.
    Who said anything about jokes about foreigners? And getting upset about being asked what ones hair color is, that must really be an embarrasing question... Must be b/c 90% of the population who die their hair go a lighter color. Maybe you should take that up with them? When you come back from fairy land maybe we can talk about reality and coping with it? I am sure there are groups around...
    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    racism should be challenged, not tolerated. Why would it bother you who are afraid to speak up, he who does not fight evil helps evil.
    Yep, asking someone if they have eaten something that is typically only eaten by Japanese is racism? Or what seasons you have back where you are from is racism? Again, when you come back from fairy land...
    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    racism should be actively challenged in all nations.
    racism unchallenged leads to genocide.
    Everyone run, get out of Japan... genocide is on the horizon!!!

  5. #105
    もちもちした食感 ASHIKAGA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    racism should be challenged, not tolerated. Why would it bother you who are afraid to speak up, he who does not fight evil helps evil.
    racism should be actively challenged in all nations.
    racism unchallenged leads to genocide.
    We are talking about ignorant/silly things Japanese natives say to foreigners (or people who look "foreign"). In the real world that most of us live in, making a big fuss everytime a Japanese person asks you "Can you use chopsticks?/ Can you eat natto?" would only hurt your relationships with your neighbors and co-workers, especially when it is done with the kind of "all-or-nothing/black-and-white" attitude.

    I think I have written about this before but when my college friend came to stay with us years ago, my mother went out and bought McDonald's burgers "just in case he wouldn't like the Japanese meals". Was it the evil racism that if unchecked, would lead to genocide that made her assume he would much prefer burgers just because he was an American? I think not. Did my friend get offended? No. He asked me to tell her that he really appreciated her being so considerate but he loved Japanese food and she would not have to prepare special meals for him.

    While I think it WOULD have gotten pretty annoying to my friend if he had gotten the same kind of treatment over and over and over from everyone, still I highly doubt that he, or anyone whom I consider to be a reasonable, well-ballanced adult would have dealt with the offender/s in a confrontational manner.

    I admit that there used to be a time when stuff like that bothered me to no end and I let everyone around me know about it. Now that I am older, I would like to think now I am able to deal with such situations with grace like my friend did then.
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  6. #106
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    Cool Only Racists Deny the Existence and effects of racism on victims

    Quote Originally Posted by FrustratedDave View Post
    Who said anything about jokes about foreigners? And getting upset about being asked what ones hair color is, that must really be an embarrasing question... Must be b/c 90% of the population who die their hair go a lighter color. Maybe you should take that up with them? When you come back from fairy land maybe we can talk about reality and coping with it? I am sure there are groups around...
    Yep, asking someone if they have eaten something that is typically only eaten by Japanese is racism? Or what seasons you have back where you are from is racism? Again, when you come back from fairy land...
    Everyone run, get out of Japan... genocide is on the horizon!!!
    Making others uncomfortable because they are different in some way is racism. If someone asked YOU if you had a nose job or breast implants, you wouldnt like it, or whatever the male equivalent for this, and you would feel shamed by the inquery alone.
    Foreigners deserve respect and consideration and not to be told they should tolerate racism in any form!
    Holocaust Germany is proof that long-term racism leads to eventual extermination of the peoples discriminated against, starting from hidden biases.
    By the way, you are in fantasy land, not I, on this subject. Only 20% of population go light who buy color and 95% of colors sold are black, brown, or red shades. you just notice blondes more. So there is no legitimate reason to ask blondes if they are really blonde or to ask if their hair below matches hair on top. This is sexist and racist.
    have you eaten or do you like sushi is fine, can you eat it is not unless you are saying all foreigners are allergic to it or have no teeth to eat it with.

  7. #107
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    Hidden Racism.supportive arguments

    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    Making others uncomfortable because they are different in some way is racism. If someone asked YOU if you had a nose job or breast implants, you wouldnt like it, or whatever the male equivalent for this, and you would feel shamed by the inquery alone.
    Foreigners deserve respect and consideration and not to be told they should tolerate racism in any form!
    Holocaust Germany is proof that long-term racism leads to eventual extermination of the peoples discriminated against, starting from hidden biases.
    By the way, you are in fantasy land, not I, dave, on this subject. Only 20% of USA population go light that buy color and 95% of colors sold are black, brown, or red shades. Men just notice blondes more. So there is no legitimate reason to ask blondes if they are really blonde or to ask if their hair below matches hair on top. That is sexist and racist and very rude.
    Now, have you eaten or do you like sushi is fine, but can you eat it is not (unless you are saying all foreigners are allergic to it or have no teeth to eat it with).
    No one says :can you go to the bathroom?

  8. #108
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    multi-cultural societies have no foreigners because everyone came from somewhere else

    Quote Originally Posted by Skipphead View Post
    It is true that most foreigners do leave eventually, but it's rude to assume they will.
    Glad you liked my post. Foreigners here may or may not be temporary guests, but they are living in a country with different cultural rules than their home land. I'm sure most people here for the long haul have no problem with that. On the other hand, Japanese people need to take a long look at how they deal with foreigners. Of course, that is not at all unique to Japan, but Japan is the topic here.
    If more peoples came and stayed in Japan eventually more acceptance of other cultures would develop.... but it has to permeate tv and movies first.

  9. #109
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    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    Making others uncomfortable because they are different in some way is racism. If someone asked YOU if you had a nose job or breast implants, you wouldnt like it, or whatever the male equivalent for this, and you would feel shamed by the inquery alone.
    LOL... You must live in a bubble. I don't think there would be a day go by where someone was not made feel unconfortable by a remark or conversation they were in. Let alone someone looking at you the wrong way. I cringe when I think of your mindset in regards to human interaction.
    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    Foreigners deserve respect and consideration and not to be told they should tolerate racism in any form!
    They deserve no more respect than a Japanese person. And this is where you are showing your ignorance, most Japanese people will go above and beyond to make a foriegner feel welcome. They will try there best to make conversation wheather it be about food or where you come from, just so you don't feel along or left out. But it looks like you know nothing about Japan or Japanese people from what I have seen so far.
    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    By the way, you are in fantasy land, not I, on this subject. Only 20% of population go light who buy color and 95% of colors sold are black, brown, or red shades. you just notice blondes more. So there is no legitimate reason to ask blondes if they are really blonde or to ask if their hair below matches hair on top. This is sexist and racist.
    have you eaten or do you like sushi is fine, can you eat it is not unless you are saying all foreigners are allergic to it or have no teeth to eat it with.
    Get a grip, if you can't tell when someone is being sarcastic, pack your toys up and go home now, so I am not going to get into an argument of hair dye. But I did think it would be fun to see what the demographics for hair dye was and your stats are wrong, supprise, supprise. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...g=content;col1

    And there is no legitimate reason to ask someone if they like Starbucks coffee is there? I would hate to live in a world where your rules prevailed, communication of any sort would have to be deemed inapropriate b/c saying one thing today my instigate a completely different reaction from the same person tomorrow depending on his or her mood.

    And the expression "can you eat something" carrys a completely different connotation when used in Japanese. So give it a rest, most people can't get past their English brains for second to realize that this is just another form of small talk, looks like you are one them too.
    Quote Originally Posted by starlitdreams2 View Post
    No one says :can you go to the bathroom?
    Now you are just being stupid.

  10. #110
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    Wow...beautiful text. I was long interested in the relationship between respect and politeness. I knew that in Japan there is a lot of politeness, but I didn't know if they really respected foreigners...so I went into google and typed "Japanese respect vs politeness" and somehow I stumbled onto this article. I am very very ignorant about Japanese culture, I have never been to Japan, all I know about Japan is their music and a little bit of the food (at least, I know the version they serve in my country). So yes I started to love Japan because people seemed SO nice and so kind and so considerate of others...but also I heard about how they perceived foreigners, and it broke my heart a little bit...because I am planning to live in Japan and be an architect there (I love Japanese modern architecture)...so I didn't want Japanese to hate me I am 19 years old and I have everything to discover...right now, after reading 5 pages of the threads spread out on 3 years in this forum (wow!), and after reading that text you put up, I think I am totally, fully 100% willing to to go Japan and submit myself to the culture there! I am full-heartedly willing to accept the way they see me as a stranger, to accept the way they treat me and treat each other, and I am totally willing to learn not just to accept, but learn to LOVE the cultural rules and cherish them. As a Lebanese living in Montreal, I will be a foreigner in Japan, and I am willing to accept my place in the Japanese society, not try to obtain a place in society that is not mine. I will contribute to the society in the manner that is suited for me...okay all of this is to say that I am very very excited to meet Japanese society for the first time in my life and of course there are good and bad sides to all nations, but if I want to have my place there, I have to accept and love those aspects. I speak Arabic, French and English and there's a saying in French that says ''Il faut de tout pour faire un monde'' meaning ''It takes some of everything to make the world we live in''...I think this applies to societies also, it takes all kinds of people to make the Japanese society, so let's just accept the rules, the cultural differences, love them, love the people and their ways, and live peacefully together...and as foreigners, WE should comply to THEIR lifestyle and ways of socializing. Not them. Finally , there's a saying that says something like ''We cannot blame others for their ignorance, as ignorance is different from evil.'' It means that if someone hurts you because of their ignorance, don't blame them. Don't hate them. They didn't make it on purpose, their intentions were not evil...indeed ignorance is not evil...we should recognize that.
    Sorry for the long post!! I've been reading ALL the posts for HOURS!

  11. #111
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    and if a Japanese person asks us if we can eat something, we should not be hurt...it wasn't their intention to hurt us. We should consider the INTENTION of the person...and I am sure if we consider that, we will come to realize that most of the time people have good intentions, even if what they say sounds rude to us. It sounds rude just because of the cultural difference, but that doesn't take away the fact that they have no bad intentions as to hurt us! So let's erase the word ''racism'' from this thread...what we talk about here is ignorance about one another, and cultural gaps...that can all be bridged through conversations. Conversation can solve all the problems discussed in this article I believe. Racism is really out of subject here. Wow I am so excited about going to Japan and applying all that "FrustratedDave", "Ashikaga", "Pipokun", "Caster51", "Skipphead" and so many others expressed in this article. I have really learned so much...thank you all.

  12. #112
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    My wife and I are both American born caucasian, but my wife is a translator focused upon japanese and french. From my own experiences, I found most urban, younger Japanese to just accept a visitor to their country very easily. Many rural or older Japanese were a bit more insular and formal. Still I find all the Japanese I encountered to warm up faster to a visitor than many Europeans I had visited in years prior.

    One thing I did notice though is many japanese did not know really what to talk about with me even though my japanese is conversational level. I did harken back eventually to my upbringing in Arkansas and Texas, so I just pulled my cowboy hat out of storage and threw it on much as if I was back home. This is something I do in no other country, since I try to fit into the locality. But it was a real door opener for conversations and easy of friendly relations with many japanese I dealt with daily. I got some odd looks but they were always good natured and friendly.

  13. #113
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    For the moment I am living in San Francisco, a multikulti (cosmopolitain) environment. In fact the last of the three Nihonmachi and the largest is here in SF! I am staying in a predominately Chinese neighbourhood (most of whom have come from Guanzhou in Canton). I went only yesterday, funny I had ran into this article, when usually of the very few words of Cantonese I know. I simply asked this one checkout person at a local supermarket who was just talking to another customer before me in fluent Cantonese, I proceed to say "NIhau" a common greeting. Then I proceeded to say "Nihoma" which mean how goes? She absolutely REFUSED to answer in Cantonese but only in English (American English at best)! I told her, that no, I am not American. I am not one of these ignorant "dumbed down" Americans who are basically ignorant of the rest of the world. Didn't phase her in the least!

    So the point of all this is if indeed this is true of us Japanese (I am a yonsei) this was from a Chinese! Though I must say that this was an exception that through most of my experience, when I try to talk of the very little I know in Cantonese, usually for the most part, they do respond in kind!

    I even had this sort of thing happen in my own country, Switzerland! I was speaking, of course, in Schwyzerdytsch, some would respond in English as if I were a bloody tourist (in my own country)! To me that was indeed insulting! I was BORN and raised in Switzerland, and I was looked down upon as being a tourist!? How f'ing rude!
    Last edited by Hoshinoko; Jan 6, 2012 at 05:39. Reason: typo

  14. #114
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    Nation rely own own resources then they get remarkable success so we will face all
    complexities and getting well direction for level of living standard raise.

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    Hi, while I can see where you are coming from, I still think you are over-reacted a little bit on these little things...
    In my opinion they were all just trying to be friendly.. at least that's the way I see it...
    People look at things at different ways, the message you are getting may not be identical to what the sender means...
    or may be this is one example of cultural differences?
    I hope...and I do believe that they had no intention to harm you.. so why get all so offended?

    We cannot expect people to know everything about you... especially when you are not close..right?
    How are people going to know you have been in xxx for x years, know how to speak xxx and whatsoever?
    When I first met someone, the information I have on him/ her is very limited and I will link those information ( e.g. appearance, accent ) to my ''database'' (lol) in preparation for further communication. And I believe you would do the same.

    I have been living in the uk for over 8 years by now, ( ok.. I know my English is still crap... )
    and I love to go out with my camera which makes everyone think I am a tourist. ( I do indeed LOOK LIKE a tourist I suppose... )
    Very often there are people offering to take a picture for me with me in the scene, should I feel offended by this?
    ( Actually I find that very heart warming~ keke )

    Many (but not all of course...) people here assume everyone who look ''far-east'' are Chinese and greet them with '' Ni-Hao'', in rare occasions- ''こんにちは''. ( Although very often follow by ''where are you from?'' if we have the chance to chat up a bit. ) Most of the time I smile and greets back with ''Hiya/ Hello/ Hi''. If one day you suddenly come up to me and say konnichiwa, hoping for a Japanese conversation, then i may just upset you with a ''hi'', not knowing your intention since I can't read minds.

    If you want to interact more with the natives in Japanese and they just reply in English, why not give a smile and kindly request to chat in Japanese? Rather than keep thinking they are being horrible to you? I'm sure most won't refuse anyway?
    ( If I were those people I would have reply in English too, because I think that's more convenient for you. ---unless you tell me you are good at Japanese and want to be treated as one. )

    There had been tons of stranger saying ''Ni-Hao'' to me in the passed 8 years, at least 3 times per week in average I would say!
    That's a worse scenario compare to yours may be?
    Oh and I was often repeatedly asked if I know kung-fu! Haha

    Here is the most epic one: can't remember all but here are some I can still recall.
    I was going home after shopping at tesco and this guy came.
    Guy: ''Ni-Hao'' ''I love Jacky Chan!'' ''Do you know kung fu?'' ''Can you fly?'' ''People in your movies can jump from tree to tree!'' blah blah blah.. then... ''Oh wait.. are you Chinese?''

    I have never find these people annoying, and certainly would not open a thread criticising everyone in the uk because of them...
    Try to look at things from a different view, life will be more colourful


    Afterall.............. Why feel offended when others have no intention to offend you?

  16. #116
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Thanks for your feedback, Kagami.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kagami View Post
    We cannot expect people to know everything about you... especially when you are not close..right?
    How are people going to know you have been in xxx for x years, know how to speak xxx and whatsoever?
    ...
    Many (but not all of course...) people here assume everyone who look ''far-east'' are Chinese and greet them with '' Ni-Hao'', in rare occasions- ''こんにちは''. ( Although very often follow by ''where are you from?'' if we have the chance to chat up a bit. )
    I was brought up with the values of 'not judging a book by its cover'. One of the most basic rule of social conduct I was taught is not judge people based on their looks. It is generally wrong to assume things about people you don't know, and if they are indeed wrong it is offensive to voice them to their face.

    That is why I find it just as offensive for Westerners to say 'nihao' or 'konnichiwa' to any East Asian they see in the street. From my experience, it is usually ignorant and racist people who behave like that. They almost never try to be friendly or start a conversation, but just to make fun at the 'funny-looking people' and often add derogatory comments that they (probably) won't be able to understand. I have travelled a lot and it's almost always boys and young men that behave like that, whatever the country. I have had Arabic kids gathering around me saying 'hello America', just like in Japan, then throwing stones at me when I walked away. I know that if there is any appearance of friendly feeling in those kids, it isn't real. When I was a child, I know that other kids would also make fun at any non-White (and sometimes even Mediterranean Europeans) because they looked different. "Greeting" them in their supposed country's language (or any language in the same region) is always derogatory in those situations.

    I can think of one exception when greeting a Westerner in Asia with 'hello' or a Japanese with 'konnichiwa' (or a Chinese with 'nihao', and so on) isn't derogatory or racist. It is when a person knows the language in question, hears people talking in that language in the street and tries to have a friendly chat with them, perhaps to practice his/her language skills. It only works when you have actually heard the person(s) you want to approach speak (on the phone or with friends) so that one can be completely sure that they are indeed French, Japanese, Russian, or whatever. Assuming that a person speaks Mandarin just because they are East Asian (or even a Chinese national) is just as plain offensive as assuming any Western-looking person speaks English or French or Russian.

    But even when you are sure that a person in the street speaks a language you can speak, I wouldn't encourage just throwing a 'hello', 'konnichiwa', 'nihao', 'bonjour', etc. just like that in the street. It looks suspicious, and nothing garantees that the other person actually wants to speak with you. I always try to ignore weird peope trying to talk to me in the street, even (or especially) people trying to sell/advertise something. Americans, Australians, Indians or Spaniards often feel confortable chatting up a perfect stranger in public, but that is not polite in most northern European countries, and it will just end up making the other person uneasy.

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