Saturday, June 24, 2006

A rant about *some* gaijin

Yesterday I got up and went to my old school Konan to see my favorite office people ever, and my three good friends from the school. Before the body of this post let me tell the rest of the Konan people... Wow the summer people have it easy. Their B class would have been behind our A class. Ok but, the meat of this post comes from what I don’t like to see in Japan: stupid gaijin. When I see people who are angry and frustrated due to their deficit view of foreign cultures and languages I wish they would have their passports revoked. Waiting for the train there was a white guy complaining rather loudly and animatedly (for a perturbed dork) to his apparently Japanese girlfriend who was nonchalantly eating a teriyaki burger from McDonlad’s. He was complaining about some sort of miscommunication about meeting the girl I assume, but all of his complaints were of his own mistake it occurred to me. Of course I’m just reporting what I overheard of the argument and can’t be sure of the whole situation at all. He seemed to be complaining about not being able to understand how to read the names of the train stations and having the count the stations to get from one point to another. This is just stupid. I cannot read all of the Kanji of the station names, but I can remember what the symbols look like, also there are the station names written in romanji throughout the trains and the stations. Counting the stations between stops is a good tool to use for navigation, but relying upon it solely is laziness. A second complaint is that he did not know of Namba station. Now, he looked somewhat like someone who has a job here, but even a small attention to ones surroundings in Osaka will make you very aware of Namba one of the towns 4 largest train stations. His third complaint was about the supermarket and its two isles of food. This struck me as just silly as, thanks to the map I carry with me, I knew there was a decently big market just on the other side of the station. Also the guy’s way of getting his point across to his apathetic girlfriend was repetition and increasing the volume of his voice. This guy, who looked like he never was able to pull a girlfriend in his native country, was crying. It was an adult cry of “everything here is different and I cannot cope with it through the me first English-only worldview that I have burdened myself with.” It makes me sad to see a 30 year old man crying like a little baby over stupid easily solved and understood cultural differences like this. Instead of learning from the differences in this foreign culture compared from his native culture and using those differences to build frames with which to live he instead has chosen to cry. I don’t feel bad for the girl, she could be training him or keeping him stupid on purpose to maintain control over him, and then outbursts like this are part of the game and her attitude towards him is the sign of her knowhow. It is stupid to get angry over things that can be so simply solved, but to make these things simple it takes a change of the way one views a foreign language and culture from an exclusive to an inclusive one.

I might seem a bit harsh and mean to the guy in this post, he might be a nice person. Who knows. It is his manner that I am critiquing which made me see problems in his adjustment to Japan, and maybe his choice in girlfriends too.

9 comments:

greg said...

davey keep the stories coming. i love to hear about what's going down in japan. i miss it so much :(

Sumire said...

I understand that you tend to complain when you feel uncomfortable in foreign countries and you want to blame someone for not being able to adjust to a different cultural environment. I used to do that. But, I tried to remind myself that it was me who decided to come and live in this country. More often than not, ...

sleepytako said...

Sumire,

I'm sorry but you might have misunderstood me a little. I don't feel uncomfortable here, in Japan, as a white guy, at all. My criticism was that the gaijin in question couldn't realize that he had chosen to be here--as you say. I tried to give him some benefit of the doubt in my post thinking that his problems could not be with Japan, but instead his interpersonal relations. Either way his loud ranting was loud enough to solicit a post.

すみれ said...

Ah, I was writing it last night feeling dead after workin overtime so my brain didn't work well enough to send my real message? and my English is getting rusty, sorry sleepytako san.

Yeah, I got what you meant. I used 'you' as people in general including the guy in question, meaning that he was childishly pinning the blame on his partner. What I'd like to say is that the guy who was ranting in public should enjoy his his life in Japan making efforts unless he was deported or something.

sleepytako said...

すみれさん
Ah, no big deal. I kind of feel bad about this post, but in a way it is expressing my feelings. I am very happy to get feedback like yours.

私の日本語がめっちゃ下手ですよ。私もたくさん間違いをしています。

sumire said...

めっちゃ下手な人は、「めっちゃ」とはいいませんよ。how natural your 日本語 is!

sleepytako said...

僕は関西人になりたい!関西べんが大好きですよ。すみれさんはどこで住んでいりますか?

Hannah is GofeetGo said...

When I read the post I thought: Well, this guy would be a loud complaining, asshole anywhere in the world so what's it matter whether he is a "gaijin" or not.

It's the opposite here: I don't know about Japan, but here in Beijing the laowai's wouldn't dare show any type of expressive frustration, as if being frustrated would expose that you are not the seen-it-all expat "China Hand" you strut about pretending to be, like you know what your doing all the time, etc. Foreign people rarely look or acknowledge each other. It's something that most of my friends have noticed (and joke about "Oh look a laowai. Don't look at him, we're cooler. I bet we lived here like a whole 2 months longer than him") about other laowais. Its a internal type of self-conscious behavior. A friend has a funny story about being completely ignored by a couple of canadian tourists when he was living in central china and they were the first foreigners he had seen in months. He went up to them to say "Hi" and be friendly, they completely gave him the cold shoudler and headed the other direction. Its like some people want to pretend that they are discovering China for the first time and that they are the only foreigner to have ever set foot in a place. That's my small beef, but not a complaint. I think its awkward and funny.


Anyway just because one is a foreigner doesn't mean he cannot complain about a partiular aspect of another culture...I think there are some critiques that can be quite legitimate and worth pointing out, it might show that you do not look upon your host culture through a unrealistic romantic lens. For instance, in China: its disarming for people from Europe and America where people are good at queing up (despite hating it) at first to see the stampede that is getting on a bus to get a seat, or buying subway tickets, waiting for a free toilet stall. And in fairness, it is not something that should happen. What the good foriegner should do is accept that this is what you must endure while here in CHina. After all, backhome you might be complaining that people drive too pokily, or that the lines move too slow, etc. It will always be something if you are in a bad mood, which is a natural part of daily life. Sometimes it sounds like you are complaining about a culture, when really you are just complaining about your own immediate discomfort.

okay.

sleepytako said...

“Well, this guy would be a loud complaining, asshole anywhere in the world so what's it matter whether he is a "gaijin" or not.

Well no. This guy didn’t look like he could get a GF in the states. Actually he looked like a sad lonely nerd who lacked social skills for most of his life who now finds him self in social situations where he lacked the coping and problem solving mechanisms that most children and young adults gain through dating, and friendships. Say he was a sad lonely nerd who never left his house, besides to communicate with the small clique of similarly minded friends in the states--among them most likely few women I might add. Now he finds himself in a situation much unlike that he is use to in a foreign land because now ‘normal’ people find him interesting and attractive. Do you see how problems can arise on levels other than the being a gaijin thing? This makes me somewhat sympathetic because he probably doesn’t have a clue and never will. His GF hopefully understands that.

As per seeing other gaijin/laowai yea, it’s true. This is how I see it, would I be interested in that person if I met them in my native country? Nope, probably not. (Although the converse is true making the situation all the more silly, many of my Japanese friends I be interested in, or have the opportunity to know given we both were from the same nation.) I don’t care for the Lonely Planet gaijin bars and very few of the more locally frequented places off the tourist map. They are fun on occasion and I have many friends at one of them--about half of them being Japanese who I talk in Japanese too. Making friends with my co-workers is great. I like them all very much, and, say we were in the same class in college I’d definitely have some sort of friendship with them. I’ve been lucky like that. English teachers in Japan have a fun sort of prejudicial way of talking about each other dealing with the school they teach at. It’s almost like the third or fourth question: “So who do you teach for?”

I make many valid criticisms of Japan as I do of many nations and as they can do of mine. That’s all good. Knowing where to choose, or actively not choosing where to not follow how the Japanese/Chinese/Americans/Indians/whatever act is part of creating ones identity not only for foreigners, but for natives themselves. Yea, that guy knows you aren’t supposed to smoke there, but he says fuck you to that law and does it any how. As a foreigner it’s hard to get the point across in body language, as the locals do, that you aren't doing this because you don’t know or understand, but on purpose.