My husband’s friends went back to France the other day. They stayed in Japan for a year since last summer holding a working holiday visa. We first met them soon after they came to Japan. I sometimes hung out together with them; eventually they left the city we live for a trip in Japan. However, they stopped by our city before they left Japan. That’s very kind of them ?✨

I remember when we first met and had lunch at McDonald’s, and I was surprised that three men kept talking for 4 or 5 hours.

あれからもう1年が経つのね~ (遠い目)
It’s been a year already. (faraway look)
French talk a lot.

Without exception, we had a nice chat at Izakaya. Since we were talking about how they spent time in Japan, I dared to ask them and my husband a question.

“Have you felt something uncomfortable or offended during your stay?”

1. Some Japanese people think black people are American or African.

“Well, nothing special. Ah! I have one thing. As you can see, I’m black. When Japanese people asked me where I came from and I answered that I’m from France, most people react like “Ah yeah..? France..? Are you?
That made me feel uncomfortable…That happened several times.” 

We Japanese may not know much about the world overseas. Of course, not everyone though. Since we are an island nation and racially homogeneous, it’s still rare to see people from other countries. But in the world, there are so many multicultural countries where people live together. You shouldn’t judge someone based on their skin color.

For my part, when I stayed abroad, I also heard “All Asians are Chinese anyway” and didn’t feel good about that as well. Everyone has their own identity, right.
Anyway, he told me it’s ok because now he knows that it happened because Japanese don’t know well.

2. Being stared at.

As I mentioned above, we tend to look at them since it’s still rare here in Japan to see people from other countries. From a Japanese point of view, we’re not looking at them with discriminatory eyes, but we do that because they stand out and it intrigues us.

But it’s true that some people feel it discrimination. No one likes being stared at, right? This kind of things can happen everywhere in the world, but much less, in our opinion.

3.People hesitate sitting next to me in the train

According to my husband, this is a common thing among foreigners living in Japan. I tried to think the reason why it happens.

Shyness particular to Japanese, and social distance.
We take long distance with someone we don’t know whether it’s a foreigner or Japanese. We can’t start talking casually to the new people, like who are sitting next, bus driver, waiter at the restaurant etc. Most people start talking casually after you get acquainted with the people at your favorite bar or greengrocer’s etc.

In a certain country, some people said hello when my eyes meet theirs in the street, and the lady talked to me and had a chat during the ride in the bus. And many of waiters at café talked something in addition to greetings, so I thought people there were friendly and different from Japanese.

I think most Japanese feel uncomfortable when we sit next to the people we don’t know. Then why are the seats next to especially foreigners vacant?? I think we can say that below↓

Anxiety of being talked in English
Most Japanese people tend to have a feeling of being not good at English, and also get nervous and feel embarrassed in the situation they can’t speak English well. That’s why we try to avoid the situation for not being talked in English, I guess.  

4.Japanese reply in English even if I speak to them in Japanese.

 This is the case that I thought Japanese are cute. For example, when my husband asked the clerk at supermarket where the product is, the clerk was agitated and tried to explain in English somehow. Even he talked to her in Japanese again, she tried hard to speak in English.

Somehow, we think ”Oh I HAVE TO speak in English?”. I analyze that this comes from the kindness of “I want to help you”, and the impatience of “He is not Japanese=Foreigner=I have to speak in English?”.

 Since some people seem to want to use Japanese for practice, especially people who came to Japan for studying Japanese, they may be pleased if you reply to them in Japanese when they speak to you in Japanese

They are confused or feel uncomfortable with this when they first came to Japan, however the longer they stay, they seem to get to know that this is not discriminatory things by hearing experience and opinions from the Internet and Japanese friends.

Misunderstanding is sad to each other. After all, “knowing” is important.
I’m sure that travelling or studying abroad are good opportunities to learn many things for your life because you will know and learn by seeing with your own eyes, hearing and having experiences.
Our friends seemed to have learned a lot about Japan over this year☺



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