Monday, July 19, 2010

Stranger, pt 2

Many foreigners hate the word "Gaijin" (an outsider), feeling that it's pejorative, but just what do they think our own words 'foreigner' or 'alien' mean? "Relating to or originating in another place or part of the world; Not contained in or deriving from the essential nature of something. Not belonging to that in which it is contained. .[Wordnet]
[Websters] Outside; extraneous; separated; alien; as, a foreign country; a foreign government. Remote; distant; strange; not belonging; not connected; not pertaining or pertinent; not appropriate; not harmonious; not agreeable; not congenial." Not congenial? Well, excuse me! I'm congenial! - just not right now…

Being a Gaijin means that you are more times than not outside the rules. This is often a good thing. This can be a great thing. Some of the foreigners here have something they call the “Gaijin Smash”, a term coined by one of my own favorite bloggers. It refers to the ability to smash through usual rules or get the occasional advantage of being a minority in Japan. But smashing your way through things, breaking rules and pretending stupidity, a few folk even go so far as intimidating people at times, just isn’t my style. I prefer to play on people’s own prejudices.

I have to be fair, though. Over the last 20 years most people, damned near all really, have been nice and respectful to me and have treated me like or even better than everyone else. I have accidentally ridden my Yamaha right into the middle of tough-guy motorcycle gangs at highway rest areas, and had them start to talk to me, "Japanese bikes are good, yes?" "How you like Japanese girls?" I even had a Yakuza wiseguy sit down next to me at a hospital (suddently all the surrounding benches were mysteriously empty) and ask me if I knew the Yakuza, then begin showing me his full body tattoos - even his eyebrows were tattooed on (and no, I don't know if he's tattooed down there). We ended up talking almost 10 minutes, until the hospital staff called me up front to pay my bill.

To these people, I am polite, cordial and respectful. This is as it should be. What the hell, I'm not a complete moron!

Yes, there are certain distinct advantages to being a (western) foreigner in Japan. For example:

Shortly after I first came to Japan, I went to the local post office to pick up my bank card, but it turned out I needed to go to the main branch. Well, I couldn't understand the directions, so I was drawing a map when someone behind me tapped my shoulder. A farmer-type gestured for me to follow him, took me to his truck and actually drove me to the main office. Not only that, but he waited for me to come out, and gave me a ride back! Our conversation was only two sentences long. "English Teacher?" "Hai!" and then me saying "Arigato Gozaimashita" (thank you very much) afterwards. How cool is that?!

Whenever a salesperson or religious type knocks on my door, my Japanese ability goes right out the window. ;-)
[This backfired once, as the religious guy fluently replied, "That's OK. I lived in the US for 5 years!" ;-( ]

I got pulled over for speeding on my motorcycle and running a yellow light. When I pulled off my helmet, the cop just bellowed over his car's loudspeaker to slow down next time and drove off. Didn't want to deal with any language problems, I guess. ;-)

I don't have to be overly polite, or speak in circumlocutions, never directly saying anything negative. I'm like a bull in a china shop, they expect me to break shit. So whenever I forget and speak too directly, even in passable Japanese, it's considered as my culture and therefore excusable. ;-)

Every kid in the neighborhood calls me "Daddy". They thought that was my name at first, and now it's so set, it'll never change. It's kinda cool, having 10 extra kids I don't have to support. Now as long as it doesn't morph into Sugar Daddy. ;-)

I do have one story I want to share. My job just after I got married involved driving to dinky little neighborhood community centers and visiting local English classes. Many of these areas only saw one foreigner every 3~6 months, sometimes less. Well, I showed up at this one center for the first time, and one of my favorite teachers from main office met me there. We had just opened the doors to the center and were standing right inside the doors when a kid walking by on his way home pointed at me and shouted "Gaijin!" I pointed at him and shouted "Nihonjin! (Japanese!)" His eyes got huge, his mouth opened in shock, and he ran away. When I turned around, my coworker had collapsed onto the stairs laughing... Ooops!

1 comment:

  1. Very Funny Love to Read About Japan :D
    True Asian Here :3
    Wanted to go some day TT_TT


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