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Old 2007-07-13, 06:56   Link #161
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Japan
Age: 30
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Originally Posted by Joka View Post
Taken excerpt from one website and this excerpt deals exactly with what you said about the chopstick things etc.
the westerner coming to Japan will right from the airport be drowned in the "compliment" Nihongo wa jouzu desu neh, or "Your Japanese is good". It's usually spoken in a "Look Mom, the horse can do math problems" kind of way -- slightly condecending. The problem with all this is that it is put on you a thousand times a day, every time you open your mouth, in exactly those same words -- never once said in a different way. And the fact that it has nothing to do with your Japanese ability. In fact, the better your Japanese gets, the less you hear it. Even more demeaning is hearing "O-hashi wa jouzu desu neh" which means you can use chopsticks well. The fact that a 4 or 5 year old Japanese child is supposed to use them easily but you're never expected to know how is an insult few Japanese are "international" enough to realize. To the Japanese, they are not consciously looking down on you, but rather trying to establish rapport through bombarding you with things they think you like to hear. It's important not to get upset about this and just play humble by denying the praise over and over as they would. All of that is relatively benign. The real problem is dealing with the occasional neanderthal where even if you've attained near native fluency they still have a "See-White-Face, Hear-Japanese, Does-Not-Compute" mentality, or the elitist complaining how you foreigners never bother to learn Japanese, and then you come along speaking proper Japanese and they insist in doing all communication in English. The reason being that more conservative types see language as race, and race as language, and when there is someone not part of the group suddenly among "us", they unconsciously feel a threat. Dealing with such Groupthink is going to be a challenge, but while you never have to like it you're going to have to deal with it. Many Japanese view westerners on two levels -- if you are taken as a temporary visitor, they nearly always treat you extremely warmly and helpfully; even lavishly. But if you are someone trying to become a member of society, there can be quite a different attitude.
I have to admit that this is actually something I'm looking forward to. I think it'll be a very interesting experience to immediately be percieved as a "foreigner", which isn't exactly a common thing for a white person (not for me anyway).
Chances are it will be getting on my nerves soon enough after all but I'm still kind of anticipating it.
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