Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Being a Geijin in Japan and LOVING IT

This article was in a geijin magazine and a friend posted it to FB. I couldn’t help to copy and paste it and actually answer the statements to see how much living in Japan impacted us.

Not sure if the comprehension will be there for those of you who haven’t lived or visited Japan, but hopefully my answers will make you smile.

At some point every foreign resident of Japan starts to wonder — have I been here too long? Here are the top signs you've been in Japan so long that you're basically Japanese:

1. When you're outside Japan you still call non-Japanese gaijin.
ms-havachat: YES!

2. You've continued to work through a shindo 3 earthquake without slowing down or bothering to mention it.
ms-havachat: not me personally, but friends.  However we’ve all slept thru them! Occassionally at night, DH would look at me and I’d know it was ‘can you feel that or is it me?’

3. You're giving the peace sign in most of your Facebook photos.
ms-havachat: YES, but desperately trying to stop now we’re no longer living there.

4. You start to get nervous when there are too many gaijin in a bar.
ms-havachat: don’t spend time in bars so, pass.

5. You don't find engrish funny anymore.
ms-havachat: I’ll always find engrish hilarious and remain frustrated that Japanese companies don’t ask someone to check things first!

6. You're allergic to cedar.
ms-havachat: pass

7. Most of your vacations are geared towards taking hot baths.
ms-havachat: I’ve always enjoyed a long hot bath

8. You've started to reserve seats with your wallet / purse. You don't have the slightest worry that it might be stolen.
ms-havachat: YES! I’m aware that it isn’t the ‘done thing’ in the western world, which is a shame. Japan is so trusting.

9. You get the urge to stare at gaijin.
ms-havachat: Always enjoyed people watching. 

10. You bow when you're on the phone.
ms-havachat: Nope. But we sometimes do the Irish thing of bye-bye-bye-bye (which i know isn't relevant to Japan but we lived there)

11. You've had a conversation with a vending machine.
ms-havachat: NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

12. You regularly use a manga cafe as a hotel.
ms-havachat:  Didn’t frequent them in Japan either.

13. When your train is one minute late you start to think it's your fault (maybe you have the wrong information).
ms-havachat: YES.

14. You don't know the English names for most types of fish.
ms-havachat: for some reason, we still say ebi for prawn;
hotate (scallop), sa-mon (salmon) and raisu (rice)
hidari (left), migi (right) masugu (straight ahead); hai (yes)

15. You're curious about people's blood type.
ms-havachat:  nope

16. You join Japanese bus tours outside of Japan.
ms-havachat: NO! Didn’t look for them IN Japan.

17. You've started buying those strange English t-shirts.
ms-havachat:  only as gifts

18. You can't read a book in public that doesn't have a book cover.
ms-havachat: Kindle covers this I think

19. You're starting to believe that romanji is English. 
ms-havachat: it should be! It’s purely based on phonetics and works

20. You ask people to "teach" you their phone number.
ms-havachat: no more, tho I did.

21. You own a mama chari.
ms-havachat: no idea what this is.

22. It no longer bothers you that OIOI is pronounced marui.
ms-havachat: Doesn’t bother me, but still amazes me

23. You get annoyed when young Japanese people use informal Japanese.
ms-havachat: never quite worked out the difference

24. You've become extremely nostalgic about sakura (cherry blossoms).
ms-havachat: YES; and taking lots of photos of them.

25. You regularly sleep at work.
ms-havachat: a nana nap is fine once in a while

26. You've often wished you had a doko demo door.
ms-havachat: NO

27. You remember important dates by the heisei (平成) year.
ms-havachat: never got that good at reading dates in Japanese

28. You start to think that oyaji gagu are funny (the corny jokes told by middle aged Japanese men).
ms-havachat: come to think of it, didn’t meet any middle aged Japanese men, must ask DH if any of his colleagues did this

29. You can ride a bicycle with a tiny clear plastic umbrella and not get wet.
ms-havachat: confession time, can’t ride a bicycle. Am in awe of those who can ride with a tiny clear plastic umbrella and not get wet.

30. You can wear a yukata properly.
ms-havachat: nope; don’t have the body for it

31. You mumble Oh toh toh toh when someone pours your beer for you.
ms-havachat: LOL sometimes

32. You start feeling that many Japanese futon are too soft.
ms-havachat: bad lower back, never slept on one

33. You say heeeeey a lot.
ms-havachat: No, but MissM did for a while

34. You enjoy cooking your own food at restaurants.
ms-havachat: YES.

35. You don't pull over when police flash their lights.
ms-havachat: oh yes I do. Still don’t understand why Japanese drivers don’t – other than there’s usually no where for them to go!

36. At the first sign of a cold you wear a mask.
ms-havachat: yep. MissM still asks for one.

37. You often ask police for directions.
ms-havachat: You have to find a police officer first!

38. You can sing enka at Karaoke.
ms-havachat: not well

39. When you use a taxi in your home country — you wait for the door to open automatically.
ms-havachat: YES! And wonder why this isn’t common practise for all taxi’s – it’s a very good idea.

40. You have accidentally apologized in Japanese in your home country.
ms-havachat: YES! And said ‘hai’ for yes, amongst other things.

41. You don't feel Shibuya is all that crowded.
ms-havachat: It’s not really, unless it’s a weekend or public holiday

42. You turn your headlights off when you come to a stoplight.
ms-havachat: Keep mine on automatic

43. You eat curry rice (kare raisu) at least once a week.
ms-havachat: DH would tho he’s not into Indian curry.

44. Paying two months reikin (gift money) for an apartment doesn't bother you.
ms-havachat: we were fortunate not to have to worry about this, but it can be a lot of money so i'm sure it would bother a lot of people 

45. You can hum the donkihote song.
ms-havachat: I could when I heard it, but not now thank goodness.

46. You can do seiza for 30 minutes without complaining.
ms-havachat: ??????

47. You can eat Cream Collon without giggling.
ms-havachat:  ??????

48. You never travel with a toothbrush.
Japanese hotels always provide a toothbrush
ms-havachat: not true, and I also travel with my own pillow

49. (woman) You go naked at onsen without thinking about it but would never go topless at a beach.
ms-havachat: embarrassed to say, never made it to an Onsen

50. You think Chinese Kanji is hilarious.
ms-havachat: can’t tell the difference.

51. You run for the train in a panic because there won't be another one for 1 minute.
ms-havachat: sometimes

52. You've taken a 3 day vacation that involves a 8 hour (or longer) flight.
ms-havachat: no way, that’s just silly to travel when everyone else does

53. You only know the size of your apartment in (jyou).
ms-havachat: yep

54. You think of the "Japanese only" line at Narita as a status symbol.
ms-havachat: no

55. You don't mind when every channel on television is talking about food.
ms-havachat: if only we could understand it! It was the mad endurance shows that bemused us.

56. You get the urge to yell sumimasen at restaurants in your home country.
ms-havachat: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s a great idea – you let the waiting staff know when you are ready to order, rather than them coming to your table over and over asking ‘are you ready to order?’ and you say ‘in 5minutes’ and they come back and so on.

57. You started to think that noodles are an ok filling for a sandwich.
ms-havachat: don’t think I’ll ever think that’s ok.

58. You're starting to doubt your English pronunciation of Rs and Ls.
ms-havachat: not really

59. You bought a little plastic chair for your shower.
ms-havachat: nope, but I have a shower cap

60. You have mastered more than one Japanese marshal art.
ms-havachat: nope. Does boxing count? Did that for a few months.

61. You drink corn soup from a can.
ms-havachat: never, that’s just rude

62. You own more than 8 umbrellas
ms-havachat:  yes but they are all different; collapsible for the handbag, another collapsible for the backpack, parasols for summer, cheap clear plastic for out’n’about, a couple of lovely ‘good’ ones for ‘going out’

63. You can't take an international flight without buying duty free.
ms-havachat: don’t have to have lived in Japan for this one

64. You have used a stranger for support when sleeping on a train.
ms-havachat: sadly, yes but hopefully not for long. Also been used as support for stranger - not sure which is weirder.

65. You're starting to add -san to the names of other gaijin.
ms-havachat: Only in jest, but definitely my Japanese friends, and still do, even in emails 

66. You are starting to think natto tastes good.
ms-havachat: never!

67. You chose your bank by its cartoon character.
ms-havachat: We didn't have a Japanese bank, but I do like the different characters.

68. Your friends back home ask you what "genki" means.
ms-havachat: sometimes

69. You look for umbrella condoms when you enter stores outside Japan.
ms-havachat: not anymore cos I know I won’t find them. They are a great idea, til the point of your umbrella bursts them and they drip on the floor anyways ..... and they are so bad for the environment. Much prefered the lockable systems.

70. You've become very picky about rice.
ms-havachat:  OMG YES! And had to learn how to cook rice in a saucepan again after using a rice cooker for 3 years.

71. You think it's normal for people over 30 to read comics (manga) on the train.
ms-havachat: S’pose so

72. You bow when you shake hands.
ms-havachat: Not any more

73. You think there's food in the basement of all department stores.
ms-havachat: Being used to DJ's foodhall being in the basement, it never really bothered me.

74. You have a gold drivers license.
ms-havachat: nope, I’m a gaijin

75. You're not angry when politicians with loudspeakers wake you up at 8 on Saturday morning.
ms_havachat: wanna bet! and the music from the street cleaners gggrrrr

76. You complain that young people these days are losing their kanji skills.
ms-havachat: no

77. You think 20 minutes is too long for lunch.
ms-havachat: As I didn’t work in Japan I can’t relate to this one but DH is pleased to be able to have a longer break if he chooses to.

78. You always back-in when you park — no matter what the situation.
ms-havachat: yes I do, but again didn’t realize this was Japanese

79. When you return to your home country you take lots of photos at the supermarket.
ms-havachat: YES – the bread isle in particluar

80. You started to believe that bicycle related crime is a very serious problem.
ms-havachat: ???????

81. You complain about the dangerous lack of vending machines outside Japan.
ms-havachat: It’s the complete opposite for us. We can’t understand why there are so many vending machines in Japan when they don’t sell anything the corner store doesn’t.

82. You have slept standing on a train.
ms-havachat: another confession, yes.

83. You're starting to think that coffee in a can tastes alright.
ms-havachat: N-E-V-E-R unless one is desperate and it’s freezing

84. You reserve half of your luggage space for omiyage (souvenirs).
ms-havachat:  what’s wrong with that?

85. You buy kitchen appliances based on the songs they can sing.
ms-havachat: No, but must admit hearing the rice cooker sing a nursery rhyme during the various cooking phases is more pleasant than all the beeping our current appliances make.

86. You have purchased eggs from a vending machine.
ms-havachat: never, didn’t know you could.

87. You no longer get lost in Shinjuku station.
ms-havachat: OY everyone gets lost here.

88. You don't hesitate when you put 10,000 yen into a train ticket vending machine.
ms-havachat: Never. It was the only denomination I’d use.

89. You can't use a toilet that doesn't have lots of buttons.
ms-havachat: too funny!

90. You've asked for an "American coffee" when you're in America.
ms-havachat: sort of. I still ask for a grande cappuccino with skim milk, not too hot and get funny looks. So miss my SB’s barista’s in Motomachi.

91. You believe that there's an onsen to cure all aliments.
ms-havachat: Don’t they?????????????

92. You're starting to get Japanese comedy shows.
ms-havachat: sort of, tho to be fair, there are some UK shows we simply don't get either

93. You think that corn & mayonnaise is a perfectly reasonable topping for pizza.
ms-havachat:  sorry but I’ll never agree to this topping

94. You know the theme songs for most of the products at your local konbini (convenience store).
ms-havachat: Not really, tho I do enjoy shopping in peace and quiet

95. You have said the phrase moshiwake gozaimasen.
ms-havachat: maybe

96. You buy sake by the jug.
ms-havachat: only when out with TK

ms-havachat: guess so

98. When someone is talking you say "unn" a lot to show that you're listening.
ms-havachat: Not so much unn unn but I preferred sosososos said really quickly and quietly

99. You no longer mind having to pay for NHK.
ms-havachat: gosh those guys annoyed me

100. You have a hanko.
ms-havachat: Didn’t need one but DH has a lovely one.

101. You think stoplights are red, yellow and blue.
ms-havachat: depends if you are color blind I guess

In a country with billions of people on limited land, organization and following the rules are key to keeping things under control.

  • The signs on the footpath/pavement depicting which side to WALK and which side to ride a BIKE is just clever.
  • Having directional arrows on staircases at train stations is simply clever – keeps the sea of pedestrian traffic flowing.
  • Having lines marked on train platforms showing where to stand, and people doing so is common sense when millions of people have to get off/on in seconds.
  • Menus with pictures – clever.
  • Plastic food displays outside restaurants displaying what to expect – clever.
  • People offering to help you when you look lost, even when they don’t have the language skills to understand you or be understood – simply gracious.
  • Cashiers diving into your personal wallet to help you take out the right cash
  • Cashiers chasing you down the street for 10yen change you forgot
  • A simple gesture of crossing your arms in front of your body is no longer rude, but helpful. No means No.
  • Complete service at petrol/gas stations! Not even having to get out of your car to pay is terrific.

I could go on but I wont’

We are called gaijen cos we are … ALIENS arriving on a totally different planet.

I LOVED being different in Japan; being the only gaijen on a train, or in a shop. It made being an expat so much more real.

I am loving being in the UK and having English around me again, but have to admit, I do miss being different.

With friendship


  1. Wonderful! I've never been to Japan, but I could still get a great picture in my mind from this post, especially the being chased down the street because someone wanted to GIVE you money! Thank you for sharing brother has lived in Korea for close to ten years now, I wonder if any of this would resonate with him. He still gets peaked over being called 'alien' and not being able to access various products and services as a result!

  2. Funny. So much of this I take for granted after 5 years in Tokyo. With only 71 days left here now I have a renewed joy in the crazy side of life in Japan.

    21 - Mama chari is those electric bicycles that the Moms use here. They weigh 40kg and have a huge battery on the frame. They overtake me biking uphill as their legs are hardly moving and it's no effort 'cos they're mainly using the battery. Meanwhile I'm going all-out and changing down and down the gears.

    22 - OIOI departo is pronounced Marui because marui is Japanese for circle. For example the Kanji 丸 that is the Maru in Marunouchi (丸の内駅) train line.

  3. . . . and I got a message in Japanese that my comment is to be moderated :-)