Tuesday, December 21, 2004


I just had an encounter that totally bolsters my "girls who are into foreign guys are lame" theory.

While there are a thousand exceptions that prove the rule, relationships between white guys and Japanese girls tend to fall into a particular pattern here: the white guy doesn't learn much Japanese and depends on his Japanese girlfriend for all sorts of things, from translating for him to driving him around to purchasing plane tickets or making reservations at a restaurant. Then on the other side of it, I've seen tons of Japanese girls who seem to dig this situation, babying the ignorant gaijin, guiding him through Japan's intricate and refined social network.

Barf. These are the people who make Japan out to be much more complicated and mysterious than it actually is, and see non-Japanese not as individuals but as archetypes. We're supposed to be rude and clumsy and ignorant and loud. And they wouldn't have us any other way.

So anyway, I put out an email on a local English teachers bulletein board to sell my electronic dictionary, and got a response from this one guy. Strangely, he didn't leave his own number, but his girlfriend's work number. I called it and he wasn't there, so they put his girlfriend on the phone. She answered in English so I replied in English. When she didn't understand, I switched to Japanese. She replied in faltering English. I swallowed my pride and spoke in English. She still seemed to have trouble understanding, so I said it in Japanese. She replied in English:

"David... he's not here now, can you teach me phone number?"

"When will he be back?" I asked in Japanese, thoroughly sick of this conversation.

"He is... out at party, and he will come back... very later tonight. Should he call you?"

I said thank you and got the hell out of that conversation. I simply do not understand what is wrong with people when they will not speak to me in Japanese, even when it is clearly the easiest option. I have had customers at restaurants I work at insist on giving me their orders in English, sweat pouring off their brows as they attempt to translate "five orders of today's curry, three beers and an ashtray please" into English. I will try to reassure them in my most practiced and formality laden Japanese that they if they would prefer, perhaps Japanese might be a slightly easier... but no! they soldier on valiantly, oblivious to what I just said.

I also just don't get these girls who work ridiculous hours at low paying jobs, and then put up with loutish English teacher boyfriends who make twice what they do playing games with pre-schoolers and spending the rest of their time bar hopping.

Don't know why this stuff gets me so riled up, I choose to live here, and being a white guy in Japan those are the facts of life. And in the grand scope of things it's all pretty minor. For the most part these people are few and far between, and once you break out of the English teachers and their groupies circuit you find most people are alright, and will take you as you are. I've been lucky enough to have met plenty of people who don't give a damn what language I speak as long as those five plates of noodles and three sets of dumplings are ready to go in five, and don't forget those minced onions again!

So I hung up the phone and slouched downstairs, where my partner's fiance was sitting reading a comic about golf. We both agreed that girl was totally wack.


Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if your stubborn Japanese don't just want to practice their English.

Anonymous said...

An American friend who lived in Japan for 9 years tells me a big mistake he made (and many men like him)is to try to learn the language from the Japanese girlfriend. Evidently the language is quite different and makes gaijin look even more stupid. Have you encountered this?