Why do Japanese people change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners?

February 8th, 2012By Category: Culture

Image: MADAME RiRi

Many Japanese people don’t have the opportunity to communicate with foreigners, so when they do, they tend to change their attitude a bit.

Foreigners react in different ways to this — some feel they are being treated special, while others are uncomfortable.

In this article, we introduce some examples from the website “MADAME RiRi“.

 “I’ve been in Japan for 3 1/2 years. Generally speaking, Japanese people are prejudiced against foreign people who don’t look like Japanese. Japanese people think that no foreigner can speak Japanese. Staff at a bento shop that I’ve visited for 3 years still treat me like I cannot speak Japanese.” (Belgian man)

“I think that the Japanese education system is the main reason why Japanese people cannot communicate with foreign people naturally. Japanese people don’t study much about other races and cultures, do they?” (American woman)

“At first, I was happy when Japanese people gave me compliments like ‘You are good at using chopsticks’ and ‘You speak Japanese very well.’ However, now that I have been in Japan for a long time, these sort of compliments sound like that they are looking down at me.” (Australian man)

“Japanese people treat me as a foreigner when I say that I’m more French than Chinese. ‘Foreign’ for Japanese people means white or black who are obviously not Japanese-looking.” (Chinese woman)

“I think that staff in shops and restaurants treat foreign people better than Japanese people. However, in some situations, I feel like I am being treated like a mascot.” (Dutch man)

“Actually, it’s annoying when many Japanese people show me a product and ask ‘Is this product available America too?’ I have to tell them I’m not American.” (Danish man)

“I’m happy that Japanese people treat me as a foreigner. I think that foreign people don’t have any pressure to practice speaking Japanese because Japanese people don’t expect foreigners to do so.” (Brazilian man)

“If you come to Japan thinking that all Japanese people are sweet, you will be in for a shock a lot. This is my experience and there is no country where everybody is sweet.” (Italian man)

“Many Japanese can’t help it because foreigners in Japan are a minority.” (Scottish man)

“Sometimes, when I see foreigners in Japanese dramas and animation, most of them seem stupid. It makes me uncomfortable if Japanese people think that foreign people are like that.” (American man)

“Japan is not a country with many immigrants like America and Europe. I think many Japanese have a hard time communicating not just with foreigners but also with other Japanese who are outside their sphere. That’s the ‘soto-uchi’ concept.” (American man)

“I think Japanese people change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners because they are interested in foreign countries and cultures.” (English man)

“Not all Japanese change their attitude when they communicate with foreigners. Japanese people who have lived abroad as exchange students, for example, communicate with foreigners in much the same way as they interact with Japanese.  Maybe it depends on their experience level in communicating with with foreigners.” (American man)

 What do you think? Please let us how you feel and share your experiences in Japan.

 Source: MADAME RiRi

Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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