Quote Originally Posted by Mikawa Ossan
As far as people talking about you, calling you a gaijin amonst themselves, yes it happens. But what's the big deal? I have noticed that they often will mention it, but then it just passes. People often make only as much of the fact that you are a gainjin as you yourself do, in my experience.
Complaining about it will not solve anything. I think that the more you put up a fuss about it, the more you reinforce people's sometimes negative stereotypes of "foreigners".
So, am I allowed to call the Japanese "naijin" (内人, insiders/natives) to stay coherent with the Japanese dualism of uchi (inside) and soto (outside) ? Next time a salesman comes and ring to my door and he says "ah, gaijin da!" when I open the door (this has happened to me 3 times, among about 10 sales people that came), I will reply "ah, naijin da!". This way, if he is shocked or find my utterance inappropriate, we will be even. I suspect that the guy won't even understand what I mean by "naijin" and won't think about it (wondering about the meaning of words is not something the Japanese normally do). I would be fun with a group of "gaijin" to start talking about the "naijin", giggle as me mention it at the bewilderment of locals. Everytime a lift/elevator door opens and some Japanese are inside, I will say "oh, naijin da!" and ask them "Nihonjin desu ka ? Watashi no nihongo heta desu yo." and laugh aloud alone. This way maybe they will understand how I feel when they tell "gaijin" the same in reverse.

The only thing we can't do as gaijin talking about naijin is grouping all countries in the world under the "naijin" term to make stereotypes and misconceptions all the more outrageous. I could say "oo, these naijin you know, they eat natto every morning !". But it doesn't sound as bad as "oh, these gaijin, they all eat hamburgers" - if gaijin meant "American", there would be at least a bit of truth in it, but as a gaijin could as well be Indian, Chinese, Ghanan, Italian or Swedish, only the Japanese have the priviledge of making such gross overgeneralisation on a world scale.

If you're not willing to accept that burden, then IMHO you have no business complaining about minor inconveniences you face here.
But is it fair that they do things we can't do to them in Japan ? (see above) Even outside Japan, when Japanese people come to Europe, we don't call them "gaijin" or foreigner in the country's language. We don't look all surprise and say "oh, a gaijin" when a Japanese appears in the lift/elevator. We don't try to speak broken Japanese they don't understand when they address us in the local language. We don't assume that they cannot eat the local food or cannot use some utensils because they are Japanese. I don't understand how most Westerners want to be tolerant of such behaviour while staying in Japan, using for argument that we live in their country and should do as they like, but if somebody were to behave like that with Japanese tourists or residents in a Western country, he/she would be labelled as a racist for making fun of them or assume they can't do things every human being can do.

Honestly, what would you think of a French person (just an example) who would ask Japanese residents in France whether they can eat "fois gras" and if met by a positive answer, take a surprised expression and say "oh, really, you can eat fois gras ? Wow ! you must be French ! I thought the Japanese couldn't eat fois gras." Then, the same with cheese, bread, or whatever with most of the typically French dishes at a meal. First that would be boring, but the person would be thought of as seriously deranged or bizarrely prejudiced.

Let say that same Japanese person has lived for 5 years in France and speaks French quite fluently. Everytime he/she asks something in a shop, station, etc. the local French people reply in (broken) English or give the person a explanation leaflet/map/timetable in English. Don't forget that this is France, and the Japanese person speaks French to them. Assuming that a Japanese speaks English is not much better than assuming that a French or Italian person speaks English. Almost as many don't (or not fluently at least) in any of the three countries. So, that Japanese person would certainly get frustrated after a while. Living in France and trying hard to learn French, it must be annoying when the locals reply to you in English seeing you are Asian, regardless of how good your French is. It's even more bothering if one does not speak English, or less well than French in this case. Not being a native English speaker, regardless of my English skills, I find it as bothering when I address someone in Japanese and the Japanese all assume that I speak English and reply in English (or say they can't speak English), just because I am Caucasian.

What they difference between being a Japanese who can speak French in France, or a French speaker who can speak Japanese in Japan ? Local people shouldn't behave differently. Yet, I can tell you that nobody in France (or Belgium, Germany, Italy or whatever) will reply to you in (broken or good) English if you address them in their language with a reasonably good level (i.e. not reading from a phrasebook, but making comprehensible sentences on your own). So why do the Japanese feel they have to right to hurt foreigner's feelings and pride by basically feigning not to understand your Japanese well enough so that English is the only solution left to communicate, however poor theirs is ? How could they be so careless about other people's feelings ?

Ironic for a country so concerned with "omoiyari" that people should lack so much what I call "kangaeyari". Omoiyari is try to feel how another would like you to do for them (e.g. offering them a present on their birthday). Kangaeyari is actually reflecting (not just feeling based on one's own emotions) about how to achieve that. In this case, having "kangaeyari" means understanding that 1) somebody who makes efforts to speak the local language does not wish to be talked to in another language, 2) not everybody may speak this other language, so there is no point assuming that the foreigner can if he/she is addressing you in your language. My entire article Things Japanese people should not say to Westerners is based on this typical Japanese lack of "kangaeyari" (a neologism of mine).