Wa-pedia Home > Japan Forum & Europe Forum
Page 2 of 7 FirstFirst 1234 ... LastLast
Results 26 to 50 of 164

Thread: Assumptions that gaijin cannot speak Japanese (at all)

  1. #26
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    I completely agree and emphatize with everything you said, Mad Pierrot.

    Quote Originally Posted by mad pierrot
    The problem is they go overboard and you get people thinking all Americans eat beef and never eat fish, let alone sushi. No joke. I don't know how many times I get a surprised reaction when I tell people I love fish and ate it everyday in America. The list goes on:
    Yesterday again, as I told one of the students that I had been to Shanghai, he asked me what kind of food people ate there (typical question from a Japanese) and when I told him that there were, among others, Japanese restaurants, including sushi, his reaction was "But the Chinese don't like raw fish. I saw on TV that the Chinese never eat raw fish". (sic !) And he seemed really confused and in disbelief that there could indeed be sushi restaurants in a 13-million people metropolis like Shanghai, just across the sea from Japan.

    I come across this kind of heavily stereotypical reactions, I lie not, several times a week. Sometimes to make them understand, I have to tell them things like "but don't Japanese people also eat Chinese, French, Italian or American food ?", "Isn't it true that some Japanese people do not like sushi or natto ?", "Out of 1.3 billion Chinese, why is it surprising that some people may like sushi ?". I think that people who haven't lived in Japan and do not meet a variety of Japanese people all the time (as language teachers do), probably cannot imagine how widespread this phenomenon is. It's not something you hear once in a while; it's a national phenomenon caused by the education system, as Mad Pierrot as explained so well.


    This sort of thing has nevered happened to me. However, I did have a similar experiences with co-workers. A fellow teacher liked to repeatedly ask me what "Japanese" things I could do. Yes, I know a little about tea ceremony. Yes, I've tried Judo and Aikido. Yes, I know about the legend of Yoshitsune, etc, etc. He would come up with a different question everyday. Every time I answered "yes," he would walk away disappointedly. When I finally answered "no" to one of his questions, he smiled broadly and annouced it to the entire room. I'm not making this up.
    Everytime I meet my mother-in-law's boyfriend, it's like that.

    The last time we went to the restaurant together (with the family), he again tried to find things that I couldn't do like the Japanese, didn't know about Japan or that didn't exist in Europe. It was a kaiseki restaurant, and at the end of the meal came a strange kind of tiny potato (about the size of a blueberry). He asked me whether I knew this or if we had this in Europe. I answered that I had never seen that before to his utter rejoicement. But then my wife and her mother also said that they also didn't know such a potato existed !

    But, from my two years in the JET programme, my time with ECC and with private students, and my time at Kansai University, and with friends and family who have come to visit me, I have found gaijin overwhelmingly able to use chopsticks, eat raw fish, etc. Even my grouchy old obasan from the Mid-West could eat nattou. Which is why I scoff whenever a Japanese person tells me it's "rare" that a foreigner can eat sushi....
    I usually illustrate this to my Japanese acquaintances (almost all of them on the topic of "sushi and natto", as I can't remembered not being asked about it by someone) by giving them the statistics from JREF (this poll and that one, with respectively 43% and 55% of the respondants choosing sushi as their favourite Japanese dish). Maybe I should carry a print of the polls all the time with me.


    EDIT : as I was watching the weather forecast on NHK 10 min ago, they exceptionally showed the weather for the world. It only lasted 3 seconds though. I was shocked to hear that the guy just said "yo-roppa wa hare", as it was possible to have the same weather all over Europe (what's more, the map showed clouds almost everywhere). This, I think, summarise well the Japanese way of seeing the rest of the world as a series of homogenous continent. The way they think that all Europeans are alike, they don't even make an effort to distinguish the main regions for the weather. If they had little time to review the world's weather on BBC or CNN, they would say something like "15 degree and cloudy in London, 21 degree and sunny in New York..." giving city names, but never a whole continent as it's just senseless.

    Indeed, I realised that the weather was always only about Japan, contrarily to other Asian countries, where they normally show the weather for all East Asia too (e.g. on China's CCTV). They could at least show the weather for Korea and China, as thousands of Japanese business people and tourists fly there everyday. They just don't. Nice proof of ethno-centrism.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Oct 6, 2005 at 23:35.

    Visit Japan for free with Wa-pedia
    See what's new on the forum ?
    Eupedia : Europe Guide & Genetics
    Maciamo & Eupedia on Twitter

    "What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?", Winston Churchill.

  2. #27
    Non-Member
    Join Date
    Sep 17, 2005
    Posts
    153
    Thank you Mad Pierrot for your thoughts! I'll try to respond in the next day or so. (If you can't tell, I love this topic!)
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Everytime they say that (or any other pseudo-compliment), I am at a loss to what to respond.
    Well, I don't know what makes you comfortable, but I usually make a joke about how I've forgotten how to use a knife and fork. (Which is a lie, by the way. I've NEVER known how to properly use them. ) It usually gets a good reaction.

    As far as the conversations that can come, let me try to remember some of my own...
    How I first learned how to use them. Leading to talking about study-abroad.
    How Japanese youth can't seem to use chopsticks "properly", leading to general talk of the youth.
    How I was too stubborn to listen to my parents as a child, so now I still hold knives and forks like a 3 year old child.
    What Japanese restaurants are like in the USA.
    Why do we call them "chopsticks" in English anyway?
    (The post I made some time ago about) how sushi is not "really supposed" to be eaten by chopsticks.
    The difference among Japanese, Korean, and Chinese chopsticks.
    I'm sure there's more.

    Reference is made to my chopstick ability less and less as time moves on. Every so often, I'll be eating with someone, and after a while they'll suddenly seem to notice. It's kind of like, "Oh yeah, that's right, you're a foreigner..." At any rate, I've noticed that once it's been used, it rarely if ever gets recycled on a later date as a conversation starter. Truly, I think it's not important enough to get offended over.

    For the "can you eat sushi" question, on the rare instances I get that, I always like to say how popular sushi actually is among certain sections of the US population.

    For the "does your country have 4 seasons" question...I'm sure I've been asked before, but I honestly can't think of any instances at the moment.

    But seriously, why not ask these questions, even if they are meaningless? In English, we often ask, "how are you?" even when we don't REALLY want to know. We ask other equally meaningless questions on numerous occasions. It's just a part of human interaction. Japanese do it among themselves all the time, too. I'm sure you'll agree with me on that. Why is it any worse when they do the same thing to us?

    This is hard for me to argue, because I really honestly don't think it's important enough to get upset about. Even though I sometimes used to get upset, somehow, it all just "bounces off of me" nowadays.

    Do you mean that the Japanese feel above the law and social conventions because they believe in universal ethics ?
    No, I mean that I think it's silly point to try to make. To put it more bluntly, are you trying to imply that your sense of morality is superior to general Japanese morality just because in your opinion your own morality ranks "higher" on some arbitrary scale that (seems to me) is based entirely on a Western mind-set? It was my way of trying to defuse the indignation I felt at your remarks. I'm sorry I wasn't more direct. I'll stop here.

    They care so much about not going astray from the well-harmonised social conventions that they often have a hard time expressing what they really think...
    I can see how you think this, but it's not my experience. I don't it any different in essence from life where I come from originally. There's something call the "Minnesota nice" that's strikingly similar to the "honne/tatemae" dichotomy, at least in my mind. Where I come from, it's generally understood that there are times when you just don't say what you really think because it's just not worth the consequences. I see a lot of the same reasoning in Japan.

    In the Japanese society, there are fixed expressions for almost every social situation, and almost everyone uses exactly in the same situation...
    I'm sorry, I don't see the problem. As far as the "routine of conventions" being susceptible to change is concerned, I agree with you in essence, but I don't think we should hope to see it in our lifetimes. Also, I feel that although we can and do influence this change ever so slightly in our daily interactions, I think that it is wrong for any of us to try to impose our own personal beliefs on another culture as a whole. For any of us to think that our ideas are inherently better than the Japanese is extremely egocentric. On a smaller scale, you and I are both foreigners, but we have difference in opinions, too. For example, the right to vote. I believe in universal human rights, too, but I apply them differently than you. Who's to say who's right? You? Why are you more qualified than me? Me? Why am I more qualified than you?

    Like Mad Pierrot said, typical Japanese teachers will tell pupils exactly the same thing about foreigners, even if they should know better from their personal experience.
    So your beef is with the teachers, and not the Japanese as a whole then, right? I find it hard to logically get upset with someone who's merely confirming whether what they've been taught is true or not. This is in reference to the first point I addressed in this post.

    The 3 examples you listed are interesting.

    -4 seasons. I don't think that it's so much that children are taught that Japan is unique (i.e. the only place in the world where this happens) in this respect, but rather that not every place on Earth has 4 four distinct seasons, so it's one thing (of several) that makes Japan special.

    -Westerners=English
    I think it's more of a "everyone everywhere learns English at least to a limited extent" kind of thing. As far as Westerners are concerned, I would say that as the overwhelming majority of us here in Japan seem to be able to speak English, I think it's very reasonable to come to this conclusion and gloss over the facts a little.

    -blood type
    This struck me as funny because just last week my co-workers were trying to convince me that the majority of Americans had in fact type A blood as I do. That was the first time I'd heard of that, so I can't comment further.

    It is very possible to get angry because someone you discuss with won't argue logically (it is typically the case of blinded religious believers).
    I'll grant you this, but is it more logical to get angry or to stop trying to argue with someone who won't listen to you anyway?

    So I really don't think that my pronuciation was the issue when the many Japanese who "froze" when I talked to them.
    Well, respectfully, I'm not convinced. However,it may well be that your pronunciation had nothing to do with anything. How about your intonation? Your manner of speach? Do you use words and phrases that are not common? How about your body language? Something about the way you dress? There are any number of possible contributing factors.

    I also want to say that it happens from time to time that people do not look surprised that I speak Japanese. Sometimes they do not look surprise but still try to talk back in English to me, until they see that communication is easier in Japanese.
    Yes, but understand that the people I mentioned in my previous post didn't even bother trying to use English. Not a single word.

    I think there's something else going on there, and I'm truly curious as to what it is. Maybe I'm a freak of nature in my experiences, but I have had my share of exeriences similar to yours. I think you might find that the less you try to mould Japan into your ideal, the less the Japanese will treat you as a foreigner. This is my theory.

    I just looked at the Post Preview...wow, long!

  3. #28
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location
    Tokyo
    Posts
    67
    Yesterday again, as I told one of the students that I had been to Shanghai, he asked me what kind of food people ate there (typical question from a Japanese) and when I told him that there were, among others, Japanese restaurants, including sushi, his reaction was "But the Chinese don't like raw fish. I saw on TV that the Chinese never eat raw fish".
    You seriuosly need to broaden your scope of acquaintances. The stories you do indeed paint a picture, but your obviously missing out on a lot.

    You're giving people that haven't been to Japan a view askew that Japanese people are in some way incapable of thought. They are just as smart and stupid as any other race... yours and mine included.

  4. #29
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2005
    Age
    46
    Posts
    64
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    And do you find this a good topic to start a conversation ? Everytime they say that (or any other pseudo-compliment), I am at a loss to what to respond. Shall I say "oh, you know, I worked hard on it everyday", or "oh, it just came naturally" or just "thank you" ?
    Maciamo, it strikes me (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) that as this debate has continued your arguments have become more and more desperate due to your absolute refusal ever to concede a point to anyone, or revise your view based on other peoples comments.

    What on earth are you doing now? Condemning the Japanese because in a situation which many people find a little awkward (i.e. meeting people for the first time), they say a slightly clumsy opening line in the conversation in order to ingratiate themselves. For God's sake man, I'm sure people would have a lot more respect for your view if you just said "Ok, maybe I'm overreacting a bit here" instead of having to pursue these increasingly ridiculous rebuttals just to try and save face in an argument in which clearly your opinion is in the minority.

    I could apply your argument to absolutely anything. If someone said to me "nice weather today", should I in the same way feel upset and insulted because I've been living on this earth for 32 years, and I'm intelligent enough to know for myself if the weather is good or not. And they should be well aware of that.

  5. #30
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    アメリカ
    Posts
    298
    Japanese people in general make much less chit chat and unnecessary filler conversation than Americans, that much at least I'm eternally grateful for.
    I've never been asked by a Japanese store clerk "How are you doing today?" proceeding to describe their life situation in great detail or a Japanese airline attendent why I'm studying instead of paying enough attention to the movie selections.

    Conventional responses may structure an interaction, but they aren't necessary limitations and anyone that has something interesting or important to say can move beyond them. Naturally, there is also a certain level of boredom with these answers which competes with the desire to make the other person comfortable and meet them on a compatible level of graciousness and modesty. I seriously can't see the big deal about too many thank you's or welcomes.

  6. #31
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by GaijinPunch
    You seriuosly need to broaden your scope of acquaintances.
    I am sorry if I am not introduced to more people who react different. Let me tell you more about what kind of people I usually meet in Tokyo.

    I have met and discussed with maybe 250 people for my job (I teach one to one, or small groups lessons), and maybe 80 friends of my wife (she has a lot of them, already 50 that came to our wedding party). In both groups, they are mostly in their mid-20's to late 30's.

    Among my wife's female friends, less are university-educated (maybe just 2-year college or just highschool), many are housewives or work part-time. Among her male friends, there are all kind of people, from petrol station attendant to company director.

    90% of my students (about 50% male, 50% female) are university-educated and have "good jobs" in finance (banking, securities, insurance), IT, medicine, telecommunication, or are some managers or directors of some kind. Among the women, about 1/3 are housewives or work part-time. I have had two hostesses too.

    In both groups, I can see a correlation between the social status and education level and the number of stupid remarks or beliefs. Non-university educated people or people with "normal jobs" tend to be the worst, except if they have lived abroad (not always though). I have also taught 3 flight attendants (so well-travelled), 3 lawyers, 1 university professor and 1 CEO of a quite big company, but I can't complain about them at all. Some of the people in finance are also clever or well-educated enough not to ask dumb questions, but only about 1/3. All in all, I can say that amongst these 300+ people, 80 to 90% of them have many strong (false) stereotypes about "other countries" and especially Westerners.

    I haven't discussed about the blood group issue ("hunter vs farmer theory" - which I think is a racist theory of nihonjinron) with most of them (maybe only 50 people), but I haven't met a single person (not even those with a very good knowledge of the West and excellent education) that did not believe in this blatantly false myth (see here for details). Of course they were taught about it at school (why ? if not for racist and nationalistic purposes ?) but had they but a little sense of critical thinking they should see that it is just not possible (first of all Japan was not an agricultural country until after the fall of the Roman Empire).

    Last month, a doctor (PhD) in medicine working in genetical research, also told me about this absurd theory. I asked her if she learnt that during her medical studies, but she said that it was in primary school. So, eventhough she has the specialist knowledge to understand how ridiculous and racist this theory is, she never questioned it as it was inculcated in her mind at a very young age. After our discussion, she understood that she was mistaken (probably ashamed too), but it took 15 min of historical explanations, and she would come back with even more misguided arguments such as "But Europeans always ate meat, while the Japanese were vegetarian" To which I had to explain that until recently meat was a luxury even in the West, and that some medieval peasant never ate meat as they couldn't afford it. But in Japan, only 4-legged animals were prohibited bu Buddhism, and fish and chicken was eaten, at least by well-off people (like in Europe). This doctor had plenty of other prejudiced ideas or misconceptions about the West (or about China, as we also discussed that).

    So, I really have to talk to a selected part of the elite (visibly a PhD in medicine is not enough) to find some decent people that do not look surprise because "my country has four seasons", "there are as many A as O blood-types in both Europe and Japan", "some Chinese and Westerners also like sushi" or I can read the kanji on my electronic dictionary during the lesson.
    It's not related to their travel experience either, as I have only met 2 or 3 people who had never been abroad among my students (more amongst my wife's friends though - which is probably normal as a good deal of those who study English are interested in travelling/studying/living abroad).

    Don't even get me started about elderly people ! My grand-mother-in-law is a good example... I won't say more...

    So what shall I do ? Close my eyes on the reality ? Turn a deaf ear to all the weird things I hear ? Sometimes I can, but some issue (like this hunter vs farmer thing) really get on my nerves and make me fume.

    Ever since I was a child, I have doubted the veracity of some of the things I were taught (at school or by my parents) and asked for "proofs" if I was not convinced. That's how I already had arguments with my religion teacher when I was 6 years old (quite precocious, but frankly how can you be made to believe that "the heart is the symbol of goodness, and at the same time that god decided that those on his rights were the good/chosen ones, so why if god made us, did he choose to place our heart to the left". This is just one of the reasonings of my childhood, but I am digressing).

    So how can't even well-educated and intelligent Japanese not know such basic things ! Why should a well-travelled businessman ask me if we have 4 seasons in Europe, when he has been there several times ?! Don't Japanese know that the European concept of Christmas (which the Japanese love to copy) is associated with snow because Christmas is in December ? Don't they make the connection between what they see/hear in the news in Japan (e.g. "heat wave hit Europe, many die in France", "Forest fire in Spain", "recored 38.5'C in London", etc.) with the fact that summers can be hot in summer. They all know that if it's hot in summer and cold in winter, temperatures have to change in between. They know that countries like the Netherlands are famous for tulips in Spring. All the Japanese I have met knew that (maybe because of the famous Huis ten Bosch "Dutch village" theme park near Nagasaki). They have all seen dozens of movies which are set in various European countries. They all have the information necessary, but can't think by themsevles. I just can't understand that.

    I cannot even turn a deaf ear, as quite a few really doubted what I said (eehhh, honto ka ?") when I explained that all European countries had 4 seasons. To show their disbelief, they ask if we have snow in winter (:angeryfire, cherry blossoms in spring or hot summer. Wtf ! Like Mad Pierrot said, they look really disappointed when I tell them that "yes, we do have even cherry blossoms in Europe, although not as many trees well aligned along the canals like in Tokyo". I think they instinctively know the answers to their questions, but prefer to believe what they are told, as it makes them feel that their country is 'special' or even 'better'. How many times haven't I heared people saying "Nihon ni umarete yokatta" or "I was so lucky to be born in Japan". When I ask why, they typically reply "We have cherry blossoms in Japan" or "We are lucky to be born in a rich and safe country with a good education system". to which I can only scoff.

    As we are at it, another typical stereotypes (which was true during the late 1980s'), is that Japan is a rich and expensive country. Nowadays it sounds almost as true as "Americans don't eat fish but burgers". Japan ranks only 17th for the GDP per capita (well behind the USA), and things in Japan are usually much cheaper than in Northern Europe (except imported European goods, obviously). That's another kind of misconception that make Japanese feel good about their country. They just can't see that things change with time. Most of their steeotypes about the West seem to have been forged just after WWII (probably during the US occupation). Yet, this one is only 20 years old. So they really choose whatever sounds advantageous to them, and when there is nothing, they invent it (eg. hunter/farmer theory). Why do they do that ? Is it to satisfy a sense of inferiority or insecurity ?

  7. #32
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by Silverpoint
    Maciamo, it strikes me (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) that as this debate has continued your arguments have become more and more desperate due to your absolute refusal ever to concede a point to anyone, or revise your view based on other peoples comments.
    Maybe I am a bit obssessive-compulsive on this. But I have to live with it everyday, so sometimes I need to "release the steam". Note that when I don't reply to a comment, It means that I tacitly agree. Because the proverb "Silence implies consent" means a lot to me, I have to say something if I do not fully agree. So far I have been goving backgrounders, not really disageeing. I thank Mikawa Ossan for his examples of how to deal with the chopstick situation. I admit that humour is not a typical way of mine to escape awkward situations. I'd rather explain my way of thinking so that they at least know how I feel about it. I am a teacher, so believe in education. I just can't let people live with heavy misconceptions. It's as much my job/duty to correct them on this than on the language itself. I know from experience (e.g. with my wife) that it pays to explain these things.

    What on earth are you doing now? Condemning the Japanese because in a situation which many people find a little awkward (i.e. meeting people for the first time), they say a slightly clumsy opening line in the conversation in order to ingratiate themselves.
    As you can see in my post above, most of these "awkward situations" did not happen when I first met someone. Sometimes it was months after I had met the person for at least one hour every week. I usually don't go to the restaurant with people I hardly know (except my wife's friends). How would you explain that my "father-in-law", which I know very well, still ask all kind of questions to try to find things for which Japan or Japanese people are unique ?

    For God's sake man, I'm sure people would have a lot more respect for your view if you just said "Ok, maybe I'm overreacting a bit here" instead of having to pursue these increasingly ridiculous rebuttals just to try and save face in an argument in which clearly your opinion is in the minority.
    I am not overreacting and I am not trying to save face. I am trying to make other people understand what I want them to understand. I told you, I believe in education. My methods may be non-conformist, but that's because I am non-conformist.

    I could apply your argument to absolutely anything. If someone said to me "nice weather today", should I in the same way feel upset and insulted because I've been living on this earth for 32 years, and I'm intelligent enough to know for myself if the weather is good or not. And they should be well aware of that.
    Not really. When someone say "nice weather today", they just want to share their present feelings, or ask for a confirmation from the other party. Note that weather is independent from any party involved. It is different from complimenting somebody on things that do not need compliment, and thus making them feel awkard.

    What I hated particularily in my first few months in Japan was when someone would say "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" while I was struggling to make a sentence. This time it's not about complimenting something that should be natural, but the opposite "complimenting someone who is not good at something". I sometimes wonder if their aim was to make fun of me, as they didn't have to make a remark stressing my poor skills. Interestingly, I haven't hear that "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" since I became reasonably fluent, which somehow proves that it was not a real compliment. Now, they just say "oh, you can speak Japanese" or "oh, you can read kanji". But it's still out of place when they say that after I have just said one sentence or read some very easy kanji (you know, those that we all know after a month in Japan).

    The other way round is better, IMO. They could have shown their surprised at my reading a few simple kanji after I just arrived in Japan, while now that my Japanese is decent, they could say "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" (but only after a real conversation, and given I didn't mistake too much - NOT after a "konnichiwa" !). The opposite, knowing about my background, is trying to make fun of me or underestimate me (almost the same thing).

    It's interesting to have this discussion with you, because if you too cannot understand the difference between saying "nice weather today" and doing so false compliment, it means that there are more people than I thought who can't distinguish between clearly different feelings.

    The discussion about misconceptions is yet a different thing, although related. It is not about sharing a feeling ("nice weather today"), and not about complimenting ("oh, you can use chopsticks/read kanji, sugoooii !"). It is about a person's knowledge or conception of the world. In that case, I do not feel insulted or take it personally, I just can't believe what I hear. I feel sorry for them, and wonder how on earth an education system could deprive people of their critical sense to this extend. I said it was related to the "false complimenting" because it only happens because of such miscnceptions (here, "foreigners cannot speak Japanese, even after living several years in Japan, because Japanese is so unique and Japanese brains so different, because Japanese society was agricultural well before agriculture was invented, and Westerners were just axe-wielding barbarian hunters !" ).

    It's important to try to understand what a person's conception of the world is to understand why they say things they say. I have been digging on this for at least 2 years now. There is such a thing as a common Japanese "world view". It is instilled to children since their tenderest age, and include all the misconceptions listed here.
    My aim is to dispel the myths, for everybody's good, and help improving relations between Japan and "the outside".

  8. #33
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 25, 2004
    Location
    Tokyo
    Posts
    67
    There is such a thing as a common Japanese "world view". It is instilled to children since their tenderest age, and include all the misconceptions listed here.
    My aim is to dispel the myths, for everybody's good, and help improving relations between Japan and "the outside
    In my experience, which is longer than yours, but shorter than others, one tends to enjoy Japan alot more after realization that he is not going to change it.

  9. #34
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by GaijinPunch
    In my experience, which is longer than yours, but shorter than others, one tends to enjoy Japan alot more after realization that he is not going to change it.
    Not if your blood boils when you hear one misconception after the other on a daily basis. It would be easier if I could keep a circle of workmates that didn't change all the time. I enjoy more talking to people which I have known for 2 or 3 years, as I don't have to re-explain the same things again. I had a student who after 2 years still asked me things like "how do you do this in America" when she knew very well as was not American, and I had told her many times that I didn't like being taken for an American. So, it's true, some people won't change. but others will. It's worth "educating" people from the start as you don't know how long/often you are going to meet. With people I know I wll only meet once, I just don't bother.

  10. #35
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    アメリカ
    Posts
    298
    Not really. When someone say "nice weather today", they just want to share their present feelings, or ask for a confirmation from the other party. Note that weather is independent from any party involved. It is different from complimenting somebody on things that do not need compliment, and thus making them feel awkard.

    What I hated particularily in my first few months in Japan was when someone would say "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" while I was struggling to make a sentence. This time it's not about complimenting something that should be natural, but the opposite "complimenting someone who is not good at something". I sometimes wonder if their aim was to make fun of me, as they didn't have to make a remark stressing my poor skills. Interestingly, I haven't hear that "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" since I became reasonably fluent, which somehow proves that it was not a real compliment. Now, they just say "oh, you can speak Japanese" or "oh, you can read kanji". But it's still out of place when they say that after I have just said one sentence or read some very easy kanji (you know, those that we all know after a month in Japan).

    The other way round is better, IMO. They could have shown their surprised at my reading a few simple kanji after I just arrived in Japan, while now that my Japanese is decent, they could say "oh, nihongo jouzu desu ne" (but only after a real conversation, and given I didn't mistake too much - NOT after a "konnichiwa" !). The opposite, knowing about my background, is trying to make fun of me or underestimate me (almost the same thing).

    It's interesting to have this discussion with you, because if you too cannot understand the difference between saying "nice weather today" and doing so false compliment, it means that there are more people than I thought who can't distinguish between clearly different feelings.

    The discussion about misconceptions is yet a different thing, although related. It is not about sharing a feeling ("nice weather today"), and not about complimenting ("oh, you can use chopsticks/read kanji, sugoooii !"). It is about a person's knowledge or conception of the world. In that case, I do not feel insulted or take it personally, I just can't believe what I hear. I feel sorry for them, and wonder how on earth an education system could deprive people of their critical sense to this extend. I said it was related to the "false complimenting" because it only happens because of such miscnceptions (here, "foreigners cannot speak Japanese, even after living several years in Japan, because Japanese is so unique and Japanese brains so different, because Japanese society was agricultural well before agriculture was invented, and Westerners were just axe-wielding barbarian hunters !" ).

    It's important to try to understand what a person's conception of the world is to understand why they say things they say. I have been digging on this for at least 2 years now. There is such a thing as a common Japanese "world view". It is instilled to children since their tenderest age, and include all the misconceptions listed here.
    My aim is to dispel the myths, for everybody's good, and help improving relations between Japan and "the outside".
    Although isn't "false complementing" or flattery a very well ingrained social tactic in Japan, at least something I've heard other Japanese sometimes complain about as well, even if I haven't been there enough to witness it personally. Clearly anyone who takes "Your Japanese is so good" seriously with "Mada mada" for instance will be looked at as a fool. A very offhand "thank you" is the most appropriate response. The stragegic reasoning behind using it is unclear, but has very little to do, in my mind, with expectations of Westerners or lacking critical thinking skills.

    The other series of 'misconceptions' are more difficult to handle, they may find the particlar reaction or message they get unique and interesting if nothing else. I've never as much spent time with narrow-minded or unenlightened, or even non-university educated friends. When I tell them that Americans behave certain ways, that there is recycling here (from someone just back from a week-long vacation in California and moderately good English) was the latest, it is taken as a bit surprising but at least not doubted or forgotten. It must not have been an iconic myth inculcated by the school system.

  11. #36
    なおと
    Join Date
    Jul 2, 2005
    Location
    Florida
    Age
    45
    Posts
    9
    Japan is an island country. People are living in a small world. I could easily understand that "common" way of their perspectives on things.

    Even like about 10 years ago, people in the main land Japan used to think all Okinawans do Karate. In a worse case, they even thought all Okinawans could speak English.

    We may be so educated and score high in Math, but our ignorance toward people and other cultures are serious problem. Really, if you got blond hair, many Japanese will asuume you can speak English and are from the U.S.

    You may be treated like a star by the people once you let them know that you can actually speak Japanese! I tell you, it's insane.

  12. #37
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 15, 2002
    Location
    Japan
    Posts
    291
    Do you see anything odd or inconsistent about the fact that one the one hand you base your economic livelihood in Japan on your gaijinity and on the other hand ***** and moan like hell that your gaijinity is a central theme in the way many Japanese relate to you?

  13. #38
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by mikecash
    Do you see anything odd or inconsistent about the fact that one the one hand you base your economic livelihood in Japan on your gaijinity and on the other hand ***** and moan like hell that your gaijinity is a central theme in the way many Japanese relate to you?
    Not really. I don't see what my job has to do with chopsticks, seasons or blood groups. These were already in their mind well before they met me. My appearance, behaviour, or way of relating with them has nothing to do with it.

  14. #39
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 15, 2002
    Location
    Japan
    Posts
    291
    That sort of thing plays no small part in the gaijin fascination factor which provides at least some portion of many Japanese people's motivation to avail themselves of your professional services.

  15. #40
    Horizon Rider Kinsao's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 8, 2005
    Location
    England
    Age
    40
    Posts
    92
    OMG this thread got so long - I have trouble catching up now!

    I知 not trying to disagree with you, Maciamo. Of course, I can understand that it is irritating to have this happen to you. People constantly commenting on these things such as using chopsticks and speaking Japanese, yes, I can imagine it is distinctly wearing when you have gone through it many times. I can also understand that you wonder why people ask these question and why even well-educated and otherwise intelligent people often make strange assumptions based on stereotypes. I am sure I would wonder the same thing, if I was in your place. It is a fair question and it is also a good thing that you and people like you try to challenge such stereotypes and change people's views!

    But every country does have its own stereotypes about foreigners, admittedly some less than others. For example, in my experience in the UK I have met quite a lot of 'normal'-seeming and nice people who hold the strangest ideas! I used to go out with a Japanese guy and one of my greatest friends would constantly make what I would think of as 'racist' jokes. It didn't bother me personally, because I knew he was not trying to be offensive; such remarks were based quite simply on ignorance, even though he is quite an intelligent man in many other respects. (Actually I mean ignorance about acceptable behaviour, not necessarily ignorance about the Japanese culture!) So, you get these stupid things in all countries and cultures. And, of course, what Kara Nari said.

    From your experiences, though, it would seem that it is more widespread in Japan because of the education system teaching such untruths to children.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    In fact, I was quite bad at learning languages at school, and I have only really started to like foreign languages and started learning by myself from about 17 years old. This contradicts the theory that young children learn more easily languages, as for in my case I found it easier after puberty.
    That is very interesting. There is hope for me yet!

    Strangely enough, I am also used to people not 'understanding' me. Funny, that...

    And is it better to tolerate everything in life, even the clearly negative aspects ? I think modern Western societies are putting too much importance on tolerance. Should we, for instance, tolerate religious or political extremism ?
    That is an extremely good point and I agree with you! I am not a very tolerant person, in fact.

    I also thought that the kanji would be the hardest part at first, but it ended up being one of the easiest, as I really liked (and still like) learning them. In fact, without the kanji, it would have taken me longer to acquire my current (passive) vocabulary in Japanese, as kanji compounds help guessing the meaning of unknown words, and even creating new ones quite easily.
    Yaay! I am looking forward to learning the kanji. I intend to leave it for a little while longer, otherwise I run the risk of overloading my brain with info (I am already losing my memory because of stress ) but in the near future I am certainly going to learn, and this is very encouraging. I'm lucky too in that I assimilate vocab very quickly.

    Hey, if I was to go to Japan, I am totally sure there would be times when I would end up asking a really dumb question by mistake.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikawa Ossan
    As far as the "routine of conventions" being susceptible to change is concerned, I agree with you in essence, but I don't think we should hope to see it in our lifetimes. Also, I feel that although we can and do influence this change ever so slightly in our daily interactions, I think that it is wrong for any of us to try to impose our own personal beliefs on another culture as a whole.
    Yeah!

    Actually - I stray a bit! - there are lots of English people who also share the misconception that Japanese is an incredibly difficult language to learn. If I mention at all that I am learning Japanese, the reaction is usually like 'Wow! So difficult!' OK admittedly I have only a really low level, but so far it's not so difficult. Well, any language becomes more difficult the higher level you go, of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth
    Japanese people in general make much less chit chat and unnecessary filler conversation than Americans
    I noticed that my ex was one of the very few people I knew who enjoyed to talk around a topic. Of course, English people do, but it is more unusual to find someone who just dives straight into a 'subject' with little or no small talk (in my - admittedly limited - experience they are usually mad types in the pub!). I have no idea whether that is anything to do with being Japanese or whether it is just a personality thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    the heart is the symbol of goodness, and at the same time that god decided that those on his rights were the good/chosen ones, so why if god made us, did he choose to place our heart to the left
    That doesn't sound like religious education instruction to me - that sounds more like ridiculous pseudo-religious superstition!

    How many times haven't I heared people saying "Nihon ni umarete yokatta" or "I was so lucky to be born in Japan". When I ask why, they typically reply "We have cherry blossoms in Japan" or "We are lucky to be born in a rich and safe country with a good education system". to which I can only scoff.
    Maybe it is a little bit of the 'ignorance is bliss', which of course I don't approve of. But on the other hand, rich and safe country, well, I can think of many, many, countries in the world, very poor and highly dangerous countries, where I am extremely glad I do not live. Actually, yes, they ARE lucky to live in Japan - comparatively speaking with the rest of the world.

    But that bit about the education system... ewww... the rose coloured glasses...

    Although I could say the same thing about England, even though I don't think the education system is good in fact, not compared with an ideal education system that I would like, but when I consider and compare with other countries throughout the world, I think we have enough that I could consider myself lucky.

    I am trying to make other people understand what I want them to understand. I told you, I believe in education.
    I can understand your frustration. But people will only learn, if their mind is open to learn. For someone whose mind is open, everything is an 'education'! But if their mind is closed, it is like a limpet on a rock in many cases, the more you try to prise it open, the harder it will stick. (I don't know in that case what is the best tactic like the limpet, a sudden sharp kick maybe? )

    Not if your blood boils when you hear one misconception after the other on a daily basis.
    I've got some nice little pills you might be interested in

  16. #41
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2005
    Age
    46
    Posts
    64
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Not if your blood boils when you hear one misconception after the other on a daily basis.
    I'm somewhat consfused as to why you seem to continually encounter these problems and yet none of the rest of us who live here seem to have anything like the life you describe.

    Actually, I'm a little at a loss here, because having read back through this thread, I genuinely find some of the things you have started to espouse quite disturbing (particulary your comments about your IQ, and your relationship to 'less intelligent' people). While it might sound a cheap shot, these types of comments are only one-step removed from the some of the less savory doctrines of nazism.

  17. #42
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by Silverpoint
    I'm somewhat consfused as to why you seem to continually encounter these problems and yet none of the rest of us who live here seem to have anything like the life you describe.
    Because I analyse more what people say and try to understand their deep way of thinking, maybe ? Because I am more (intellectually) sensitive to these kind of things ?

    While it might sound a cheap shot, these types of comments are only one-step removed from the some of the less savory doctrines of nazism.
    That's right ! The Japanese government is inculcating 'nihonjinron' ideas through the education system, and that is damn close to what the Nazi would do to brainwash their citizens about the superiority of their race and culture (e.g. the "hunter vs farmer theory" is clearly racistic, as it is based on the difference between the Japanese and Westerners, and although it is a lie, it is skewed in favour of the Japanese). So I guess my task is to rectify this educational misguidance.

    NB : No need to reply that it wasn't what you meant, I understood very well, but you visibly do not understand my intentions. So I have turned your argument back to show you what my point is.

  18. #43
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    アメリカ
    Posts
    298
    Actually, I'm a little at a loss here, because having read back through this thread, I genuinely find some of the things you have started to espouse quite disturbing (particulary your comments about your IQ, and your relationship to 'less intelligent' people). While it might sound a cheap shot, these types of comments are only one-step removed from the some of the less savory doctrines of nazism.
    And this is actually a highly moderated expression of it compared with a select few of the back threads. I'll keep it in mind never to permanently settle in a place so aversive and at odds with my personality that I need the pretext of doing so to "educate" the people and "improve" the culture.

  19. #44
    Horizon Rider Kinsao's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 8, 2005
    Location
    England
    Age
    40
    Posts
    92
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    the "hunter vs farmer theory" is clearly racistic, as it is based on the difference between the Japanese and Westerners, and although it is a lie, it is skewed in favour of the Japanese
    Uhhh... I don't mean to split hairs, but why is it skewed in favour of the Japanese? I mean, I don't understand why "farmers" would necessarily be considered superior to "hunters"?

    Myself, I'd take a hunter over a farmer any day!

  20. #45
    Non-Member
    Join Date
    Sep 17, 2005
    Posts
    153
    Wow, this thread got a lot of posts today! I wanted to respond to Mad Pierrot's earlier post here, but I'm too tired right now (Long day at the office).

    Instead, as I was trying to catch up on the events of this thread, the thought ocurred to me that Maciamo might have a better time at it if he changed professions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you work at Eikaiwa (English Conversation). You might enjoy doing something else much better. I will further assume that your current visa is pretty flexible in terms of the work you can do, so if your Japanese is up to it, you should be able to find a job at another company without too much problem.

    Hopefully your new co-workers won't change too much, so you can live in peace after a while.

    Incidentally, I'm completely serious about this. I hope I made sense...

  21. #46
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by Kinsao
    Uhhh... I don't mean to split hairs, but why is it skewed in favour of the Japanese? I mean, I don't understand why "farmers" would necessarily be considered superior to "hunters"?

    Myself, I'd take a hunter over a farmer any day!
    Well, it seems very clear to the Japanese that the farmers is the symbol of civilisation (as it is its main prerequisite), while the hunter represents the primitive caveman.

  22. #47
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth
    And this is actually a highly moderated expression of it compared with a select few of the back threads. I'll keep it in mind never to permanently settle in a place so aversive and at odds with my personality that I need the pretext of doing so to "educate" the people and "improve" the culture.
    So you believe that all cultures on earth (including your own) are perfect or cannot be improved (for some reasons I cannot understand). Cultures evolve with time, and one of the causes that make them evolve is the contact with other cultures.

    Anyway, it is off the mark, as I was not talking of improving Japanese culture (they know well enough how to copy the West, or China in the past). I believe that I am repeated enough times that this was all a matter of education that needed to be changed. Is it changing the culture of a country that to tell the people about other countries so that they understand them better and do not cause offense when meeting foreigners because of misplaced or prejudiced comments ? I just want to open their (and maybe your) eyes.

    And I believe I also have work to do in my own country (for example, about Leopold II's atrocities in Congo, which many Belgians have hardly heard about, if at all). I am also a strong opponent of the monarchy in my country, and want to reform many things (including the education system, as explained here). My role is Japan is much more modest - just improve relations between Japanese and Westerners, as it directly concerns me.

  23. #48
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location
    西京
    Posts
    2,434
    Quote Originally Posted by Mikawa Ossan
    Instead, as I was trying to catch up on the events of this thread, the thought ocurred to me that Maciamo might have a better time at it if he changed professions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like you work at Eikaiwa (English Conversation). You might enjoy doing something else much better. I will further assume that your current visa is pretty flexible in terms of the work you can do, so if your Japanese is up to it, you should be able to find a job at another company without too much problem.
    Thanks for the advice. I am well aware of this, and I already looking for something else.

  24. #49
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jul 17, 2005
    Age
    46
    Posts
    64
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Because I analyse more what people say and try to understand their deep way of thinking, maybe ? Because I am more (intellectually) sensitive to these kind of things ?
    Which means what exactly? You're intellectually superior to the rest of us?

    NB : No need to reply that it wasn't what you meant, I understood very well, but you visibly do not understand my intentions.
    Which is exactly what I hoped you'd say and really just reinforces my previous point.

  25. #50
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 22, 2003
    Location
    アメリカ
    Posts
    298
    Anyway, it is off the mark, as I was not talking of improving Japanese culture (they know well enough how to copy the West, or China in the past). I believe that I am repeated enough times that this was all a matter of education that needed to be changed. Is it changing the culture of a country that to tell the people about other countries so that they understand them better and do not cause offense when meeting foreigners because of misplaced or prejudiced comments ? I just want to open their (and maybe your) eyes.
    Aside from serious issues of education reform, I've yet to come across another foreigner as easily, or at all actually, offended by these so-called myths that are driving Japanese perceptions of Westerners. On the contrary, the most offensive and disrespecful comments have consistently been in the other direction.

    Improved relationships on a personal level naturally involve compromises and change from both parties. The issues have been laid out ad nauseum over several months and years here -- let us know next time when you begin to see some real progress.

Page 2 of 7 FirstFirst 1234 ... LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Do you speak Japanese ?
    By Maciamo in forum Japanese Language & Linguistics
    Replies: 327
    Last Post: May 21, 2013, 19:58

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •