Being a foreigner in Japan


What comes into your mind when you think about Japan? Technologically advanced country? Japanese automakers such as Honda and Toyota are both world class and Japan is known for outstanding electronics industry as well. But how about Japanese culture? I met a girl from Thailand when I was in high school. She was attending a different high school in the same district and decided to participate in an exchange program. She was struggling with cultural differences and told me that she might not have chosen to study in Japanese high school if she was more familiar with Japanese culture..We were both 17 years old and well, I could only imagine what it was like to come to Japan alone without knowing the language. I experienced that myself when I moved to Los Angeles alone after high school..I guess that we wouldn’t really understand the culture in depth unless we live in the country for five years or so..maybe longer. I don’t think I really came to understand America until I finish college and started working…

I think she had all these preconceived ideas about Japan before moving there and I think it is very common. My high school and middle school English teachers from America both said that they were trying to adapt to the unique Japanese culture. Japanese culture is very unique because of its somewhat isolated historical aspects combined with post-war American influences. These foreigners whom I met when I was a teenager thought that Japan was a westernized society. Japan is an island and even though the Japanese government emphasizes the importance of globalization, the country is still very homogeneous, with a strong sense of group mentality and the system is still struggling to be more open minded about immigrations. That is probably why these foreigners including my old friend from Thailand were struggling. It isn’t always easy to be a foreigner in Japan..especially in the rural area of Japan. People in the countryside of Japan aren’t used to dealing with foreigners and they are more likely to show “gaijin complex” symptoms.

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