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An Interview with a Gaijin

October 15th 2009.

semi-overcast 17 °C

Its now been a month since i last blogged. With everything in life, in order to keep things fresh you have to mix it up every now and then, to keep them interesting and exciting, be it relationships, work, jobs, hobbies, fashion or appearance, life in general really, otherwise they will wither and become boring.
Blogs arent any different. So...in an attempt to make this blog at least a semi decent read, i've put an interview slant on it. A Japanese friend who studies english at University, is researching life in Japan as a gaijin, and i was asked to be interviewed as a particpant in the survey. Some of the questions are strangely worded however it made it funny at the time, and i tried to answer what i made of it.

NOTE: The questions are worded the same but my answers in this blog, are in my usual blog style and are only about 10% similar to my taped answers to the interview. For obvious reasons of making my blog slightly strange and amusing, and keeping the other one as serious and non-rambling as i can manage.

How long have you been in Japan?

Its been 6months now, and its gone verrryy fast. Which is definetely a good thing. Not that i want it to whizz by, but i'd rather keep busy and have time soar like an eagle, than time slug along like a...snail.

What is your goal or objective in Japan?

I like the wording of this question, it makes it sound like, I've been sent here on a convert mission and must complete my objectives before i can leave! Maybe i should pretend i am! Well...I've extrapolated from this simply "why am i here". To make it simple, i'd say "to have a new experience".
To be honest i've never had a concrete answer to any phylisophically open "why" question. I've never really been sure of why i do what i do since i can remember! From running through a lecture hall naked to being a human lab-rat to teaching english. Believe me i'd love to know if theres something i could be good at and at the same time enjoy...but until i find out if and what it is, i'll continue to mix it up and surprise myself and see what tickles my fancy and floats my boat.

Please tell me about your Parents native country?

Why this question wasn't ''your native country'' i dont know. Anyway...Scotland, a country rich in history and heritage. Sterotypically known for ginger beards, kilts an animal called a haggis and a 'mythical monster'. However, the modern day truth is, knife crime, drugs and fatty foods dominate our culture.
Traditionally associated with the movie braveheart, now however trainspotting is more suitable. Scots are most importantly globally known for being very friendly!

What caused you to be interested in Japan?

I dont really know. I hadn't done anything Japanese before coming to Japan besides doing Karate for many years, watching Takeshi's Castle and watching a movie called Battle royale, about some school kids who are forced to kill each other. Im not sure i'd even used chopsticks before. I suppose it boiled down to having secured the job. Japan has always appealed though, it has always looked curiously facinating...and a bit strange. Which i've come to find out it is! So...i guess i fit right in.

Were there any gap between what you had imagined and what you are now experiencing in Japan?

I'll keep this one short n' sweet. Not really, i always knew Japan was a country rich in culture and rich in tradition and at the same time fast-paced and modern. Thats what i expected thats what i got, and there wasnt any hard-to-take culture shock.

When did you feel like "Im a foriegner!" in Japan, recently?

Yes all the time. Even gaijins that have been here for many years and like to consider themselves Japanese and will refuse to acknowledge other gaijins as they try and blend in...they will always be Gaijin. Thats what its all about. Theres two sides to this interesting coin. On one side, sticking out like a sore thumb and being the black sheep is great, being stared at by inconspicuous eyes, makes me feel good that theres a reason to glance in my direction. However sometimes, Im thinking "SO WHAT im a GAIJIN!, now stop fuckin' lookin!".

Have you felt homesick? How about now? Why do you feel that way?

This question, jumps to the conclusion your homesick, ha. Well....in all my time traveling i've never really been homesick, i've been seasick and verbally-sick and sick from drinking, but not as the defintion of homesick goes. Dont get me wrong, I do miss friends n' family. but thats not the same is it? As in I dont miss the place, just the people. I'd say homesick means im sick of home, thats why im here and not there! Its always better to be scottish when your not in scotland. What does 'home' really mean anyway? hometown? literal house? home country or city?. Home never really changes anyway, people do.

Are there any Japanese customs you disliked before but now you are fine with?what changed your attitude?

Japanese customs continue to amuse me. I think the bowing and constant politeness is the most notable custom. The bowing is a greeting and a thankyou, and it depends on who the person is as to how far the bow goes. The politeness, is basically, entering shops, banks, any public establishment and getting acknowledged like your the lucky 1,000,000th customer! The apprecation for you just being under their roof, (even if your wasting time or window shopping) treating you with genuine respect and joy is very clear. They really take pride in their work, and resonate a strangely happy-smiley vibe throughout.
This bowing custom, i was a bit uncomfortable with to begin with, i didnt think i was "bow worthy", but now im so used to it, i dont recognise it as anything to take notice of. It would be cool to see bowing catch on back home, however i cant picture it. Because of this i think ill feel really unappreciated when entering a shop back home next time i enter one.
Also, as I've been told by some of my 'salarymen' students, a lot of business decisions are made while out drinking, this i could get used to!...although im not 'salaryman' material, which is just aswell because this is the only plus point to the tiresome salaryman routine.

Have you ever had any quarrels with Japanese? What was the reason for the quarrel? How did you solve it?

I'd say the Japanese are amongst the most unconfrontational and passive folk i've met.
Not only have i never had an argument with a Japanese person (that i can recall) but its pretty difficult if i wanted to, the language barrier makes it tough enough.

Have you ever joined any activity such as voluteer work or club activity in Japan? If you have do you feel you have changed in any way?

Im currently taking Japanese lessons once a week. Giving it my best shot, because i rekon you either do it and give it a good shot or dont do it at all. It is pretty tough and im not exactly mr natural at picking up new languages! I've also been to 2 karate lessons, however hadnt had much time to go back. Although i dont think i will, as i'd quite like to find an MMA class to get involved in, and finding one with a English speaking teacher might prove tricky, as the karate sensei didnt speak any english, but i managed.
Im always trying to find something, anything fun or worth doing to get involved in.However the awkward hours with Shane, and the size of Tokyo usually mean getting involved in a regular something, will be extremely difficult, even the Shane football team, which i was trying to join. Im not going to be doing any voluteer work here, its too expensive in Japan as it is, and i've not changed in any way so far, ha.

Considering the Younger generation, do you feel their are any differences between your culture and Japanese in ideas, behavious or morals?

YES! A resounding yes. I dont think the way British kids are brought up and act is anything similar to Japanese kids, depsite the fact western pop-culture is spreading. I dont think Japanese children have a lot of time to just 'play' and be a kid. Theres not a lot of teenage rebellion in Japan, at least i dont get that impression. I've touched upon these differences in previous blogs, but generally, i dont get the impression theres many similarities. I think a good idea would be a reality show, where a british teenager who doesnt speak any Japanese swops places with a Japanese teenager who doesnt speak any english, and see how the fit into the schooling system and social scene.

What is your favourite word in Japanese?

This is a tough one, with my arsenal of vocabulary and my amusement for the language, who knows!
Su-mi-ma-sen is the word used most often, which kinda means, excuse me, sorry, im in your way, and an acknowledgement all rolled into one. If i had to choose a favourite word, id go with Go-ke-bo-re, which means cockroach, i think its a really funny word for something disgusting. It sounds like a theme park ride, or a new kids sweet. Sadly its not, but it was funny once i had cover in a school. and my housewife student went kraazzzee when she saw a go-ke-bo-re across the room scuttling up the wall! Halarious!

What did you learn about your culture and yourself while living in Japan?

I cant recall how i answered this question as a taped response. However to be honest, not a great deal.
Just that, cultures are different. Not better or worse, just different. Travel broadens the mind, and its always fun to see how other humans go about their day not too far out my own back yard!

Do you consider yourself to be acculturated/assimilated?

I didnt actually know acculturated was a word, but apparently it means do i feel like im one of the Japanese now. Assimilated is just about fitting in. I dont and never will consider myself to be acculturated. It takes 8 years before you can apply for residency, and even if i stayed for that long plus I dont think i'd want to consider myself Japanese, but a foriegner that lives in Japan, i dont think i can ever really be Japanese. Assimilated however, well im working on it, i've not dyed my hair black yet or bought a PSP, but im trying to immerse myself in the culture as much as i can while im here. Sometimes you really want to blend in and not stick out, however at the same time sometimes, its cool to be the odd one out.

Would you live in Japan forever?

This is not a question that can be answered after only 6months. I really dont know, but...story of my life, i never know! Im enjoying life in Tokyo thus far, and will cross whatever decision-bridges that need crossing when the time comes. Its definetely a country i love, and would recommend. But... i definetely dont know right now, it obviously entirely depends on how things take shape and pan out.....

Posted by RMS8 07:58 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan travel strange job english asia teaching interview

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