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Common Japanese misconceptions regarding foreigners

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That is a very intersting list indeed, thanks for sharing it. But I think it's the same in every country and definatly not unique to Japan. You would be amazed (if you don't already know) at the general ignorance people in North America have towards Japan and even European countries. I was quite often reminded of thier ignorance when I read the article. I think the best thing anyone can do is try to be the exact opposite of the stereotype. Try to be respectable and cultured and eventually they will have no choice but to realize that those myths just arent true and hopefully, over time a better understanding will occur..
 
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In a thought.
I meditate for a while. :?
Japanese misunderstanding :unsure:
1.Do not say GAIJIN!
2.An education system of a school is bad!
3.Do not treat a foreigner like a criminal!
4.Do not discriminate against a foreigner at a hotel, a restaurant!
5.A foreigner can use chopsticks, too!
6.Do not refuse conversation with the foreigner who can speak Japanese!
7.Don't be proud of there being the four seasons, and there are even other countries.
8.Japan is not origin "Christmas" "Valentine"!
9.A CD, a video game are not invented on the telephone in Japan.
10.If a Japanese watched a white man, they think with an American!
11.Do not think that all Westerners speak English!
12.A Japanese student has a short time learning geography!
Is it such a meaning? :atchoo:
Translation is difficult. :mad:
 

Maciamo

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Jungle Boy said:
That is a very intersting list indeed, thanks for sharing it. But I think it's the same in every country and definatly not unique to Japan. You would be amazed (if you don't already know) at the general ignorance people in North America have towards Japan and even European countries.
As I mentioned before, North America is NOT every country, but an exception. Most Europeans are not as ignorant about Japan as Japanese are about any other countries, even their own neighbours. Do you realise that most Japanese know very little about Korea and China, a 2h flight away (nearer than the other end of Japan, wherever they live). Allmost all the Japanese people I told that Korea and China had cherry, ume or peach blossom, and that these countries had 4 seasons were surprised. It's like saying that most US citizens would be surprised to learn that it snows in winter in Canada, or for Canadians to be surprised that it could be hot in summer in Arizona. Are you telling me that the North Americans you know are so ignorant ??
 

Maciamo

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Hiroyuki Nagashima said:
1.Do not say GAIJIN!
2.An education system of a school is bad!
3.Do not treat a foreigner like a criminal!
4.Do not discriminate against a foreigner at a hotel, a restaurant!
5.A foreigner can use chopsticks, too!
6.Do not refuse conversation with the foreigner who can speak Japanese!
7.Don't be proud of there being the four seasons, and there are even other countries.
8.Japan is not origin "Christmas" "Valentine"!
9.A CD, a video game are not invented on the telephone in Japan.
10.If a Japanese watched a white man, they think with an American!
11.Do not think that all Westerners speak English!
12.A Japanese student has a short time learning geography!
Is it such a meaning? :atchoo:
Translation is difficult. :mad:
Yes, that's pretty much what I meant.
 
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Maciamo said:
As I mentioned before, North America is NOT every country, but an exception. Most Europeans are not as ignorant about Japan as Japanese are about any other countries, even their own neighbours. Do you realise that most Japanese know very little about Korea and China, a 2h flight away (nearer than the other end of Japan, wherever they live). Allmost all the Japanese people I told that Korea and China had cherry, ume or peach blossom, and that these countries had 4 seasons were surprised. It's like saying that most US citizens would be surprised to learn that it snows in winter in Canada, or for Canadians to be surprised that it could be hot in summer in Arizona. Are you telling me that the North Americans you know are so ignorant ??
Actually I am... Some Americans actually think all Canadians live in igloos with polar bears and all the police are on horseback.... Alot of Canadians (who are ignorant because of the education system much like in Japan) have no clue about countries like the US and Mexico that are on the same continent. Not everyone mind you but a good percentage don't know alot about them and don't care. Like I said before, it's a problem everywhere.
 

Ma Cherie

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Japanese people think their the only country that has four seasons, please tell me that's lie. :souka:
 

Maciamo

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Ma Cherie said:
Japanese people think their the only country that has four seasons, please tell me that's lie. :souka:
Please come to Japan and see for yourself. :)
 
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I'm curious about this 4 seasons thing as I cant wrap my head around it.

By 4 seasons do they mean 4 obviously discernale seasons or the naming.

I mean one can argue that Australia has two seasons, but we still follow the 4 season model of Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. When Japanese asked me if Australia has four season I would always reply that of course we did.
 
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Ma Cherie said:
Japanese people think their the only country that has four seasons, please tell me that's lie. :souka:
I'm sure you've come across at least a hundred posts regarding the 4-seasons matter. It's hilarious, but it seems to be true. I don't think anybody complaining are exaggerating.

On the other hand, I tend not to think there is genuine sarcasm when a Japanese said it, in general. It can be considered insincere, ignorant, and even blatantly rude for people from more direct, transparent cultures, I understand. And of course there must be at least a handful of Japanese who are truely xenophobic. But in most cases (I'm extrapolating from my limited experience with the Japanese) couldn't it be considered a mildly exaggerated surprise at finding something common about another country ?

When nothing is to be taken for granted, such as seeing a baby take its first step, or babling the first intelligible word, everybody's amazed. Now are they being ridiculous or sarcastic ? This may be a bad analogy, but I could also talk about aliens from another planet. I think there are positive ways of looking at the same thing.

But I can't criticize those who feel mistreated, and when the Japanese learn that fact, I'm sure they will stop. The modern norms of hospitality and PC-ness can be quite damaging, and people of both cultures should really seriously look at how to interface without major misunderstanding. It's not something everyone can grow into by long exposure.
 

Ma Cherie

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I would like to travel to Japan, but I'll probably be a freak of nature being black and all. It'll be something I'll learn to deal with. That is something hard to believe, I felt like laughing when I heard that lots of japanese believe their the only country with four seasons. But I'm not one to laugh at other peoples ignorance, no matter how hard it is not to. This just my opinion, but it seems to me that japanese people tend to display their ingnorance about other countries, than anyone I've ever met. I'm not saying that Americans and other people aren't ignorant about other countries, I'm just saying from what I have learned it seems that the japanese show it more. But then again, I could be wrong. :?
 
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I have very little experience of this, but I would suggest that the Japanese are very little different from anyone else with regard to their ignorance of another country.

I work for an American company, in Canada. On a daily basis I have to listen to almost continual whines from a select few colleagues who claim " Those ****** Americans just don't understand Canada !" As a non-Canadian with a history of working with Americans .... I am also aware that, in so many respects, those same Canadians are pretty damned ignorant of American attitudes and practices !

It amuses me.

I am also amused by the ignorance displayed by Europeans, wether they be British, German, French - you name it - with regard to both countries! (They all - with the possible exception of Russians - seem to have a particular problem with grasping a concept of the sheer size of the U.S. and Canada).

I also remember my own problems of coming to terms with a (slightly) different culture, too. That, now,also amuses me.

No, infuriating though it may be to some - I wouldn't say that the Japanese are unique in this regard. We're all a little weird sometimes.......

And ... incidentally .... How can anybody claim that Lamb is bland ? Compared with pork ?

It's enough to make me want to burn my entire collection of Australian Womens Weekly cook-books ! (Mutter, mutter ...grumble....grumble...)


Regards,

ニ淡ニ停?。ニ停?
 

Maciamo

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Sensuikan San said:
I have very little experience of this, but I would suggest that the Japanese are very little different from anyone else with regard to their ignorance of another country.

I work for an American company, in Canada. On a daily basis I have to listen to almost continual whines from a select few colleagues who claim " Those ****** Americans just don't understand Canada !" As a non-Canadian with a history of working with Americans .... I am also aware that, in so many respects, those same Canadians are pretty damned ignorant of American attitudes and practices !
I think you are going a step further by raising the issue not just of basic factual knowledge (Canada does have snow in winter), but cultural differences. It is much more difficult to understand another (or even one's own) country's culture (i.e. the commonly accepted attitudes, practices, customs and way of thinking), than hard facts about a country (capital, flag colours, climate, population, main languages, etc.). I do not have any problem with the Japanese not understanding other countries' culture, as this is universal. What surprised me is their general ignorance of some very basic facts about the rest of the world. I heard university-educated people who thought that Argentina was in Europe, that Napoleon was an armoured knight from the Middle Ages, that Belgian people spoke Belgian (have you ever heard of a language called Belgian ? Ever !?), or that only Japan had four seasons. A recent study has shown that 3% of Japanese university students (and they have presumably tough entrance examinations) cannot point out at the US on a world map, and 44% don't know where is Iraq ! Don't even get me started about people with less good education.

I'd be interested to have comparative studies on general knowledge with Western countries. However I expect the Americans average to be close to the Japanese one, as surveys have shown that an incredibly high number of Americans think New York is their capital ! (of course, even 1% would be an incredibly high number, but I think it was more like 20%).
 
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Ah, yes ... your point is well taken.

And your statistical examples are quite scary !

I think you might be quite right in your last paragraph, though ... there seem to be an inordinate number of Americans who think it snows in Canada ...all year round..... !

Regards,

ニ淡ニ停?。ニ停?
 
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I had a student who didn't know where the Eifel Tower was.
Two IBM systems engineers or somesuch who couldnt tell me the first man on the moon.

Comedy gold.
 

mad pierrot

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but I think it was more like 20%).
20%!?? :bikkuri:

That seems high to me, I'd like to see the data backing it up. I've never met anyone who made that mistake, but hey, maybe I just naturally gravitate towards intelligent people.
:hihi:

Regardless, I think the question at hand here is not Japan's level of ignorance about foreign culture. (Or anyother nations ignorance about any other place, for that matter.) Instead, I think it has to do with Japan's level of ignorance about its own culture. Not knowing something outside of one's culture/experience is nothing special. (As it has been demonstrated in the thread.) But why should those particular things (four seasons, etc) be unique to Japan? What has lead them to think so? That's what I'd like to know. I would say it might be Japan's isolation, but it has had more than ample time to grow accustomed foreign culture. Why does it still persist? I don't know. After being in the education business for a few years now, I have suspicions. Teachers are perpetuating many of these myths, that's for sure. (I was giving a presentation on American not too long ago, and heard my teacher announce to the class "America isn't humid.")
 

Maciamo

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mad pierrot said:
I would say it might be Japan's isolation, but it has had more than ample time to grow accustomed foreign culture.
Especially that countries like Norway, Finland, Ireland or New Zealand are not less isolated, and probably all (but NZ) have less foreigners than Japan.

Why does it still persist? I don't know. After being in the education business for a few years now, I have suspicions. Teachers are perpetuating many of these myths, that's for sure. (I was giving a presentation on American not too long ago, and heard my teacher announce to the class "America isn't humid.")
Education certainly has a lot to do with it. Especially that it is controlled very closely by the government, which wants to make all their citizens feel that Japan is (superiorly) unique in the world. That's indoctrination. Japan and China aren't that different regarding government and education. The way they proceed is the same. The difference is the content (communist propaganda in China vs "unique culture and country" in Japan).
 
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Teachers have virtually no freedom to customise their curriculum, and must follow exactly the textbooks, including for moral education and "what to think of foreigners" (it is part of the education system in Japan!), regardless of their own opinions or experience.
In which class is that "what to think of foreigners" taught?
Where is it written in what textbook?
Tell me if you can find anything applies to it in this education guidelines.
http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/01_c.htm
the Japanese commit proportionally more crimes than the Westerners or Koreans in Japan.
As I said it before, what NPA released is the crime stats of VISITORS. Permanent residents are not counted in them. So, as for Koreans, you have to subtract 489,900 (tokubetsu eijuusha) from 625,422 (tourokusha) for estimating the rate at first. Calculate it once more.
http://www.moj.go.jp/PRESS/030530-1/030530-1.html

This table of stats makes no sense.
https://jref.com/society/foreign_crime_in_japan.shtml
This may not be annoying at the beginning, but when someone has been living in Japan for 3, 5 or 10 years, speaks Japanese fluently and is still constantly asked whether they can use chopsticks just because they look foreign is close to racism.
I agree with this point of view.
It may be difficult to believe for a Westerners that almost all Japanese believe that their country is somehow unique for having four seasons
That's the weirdest misconception.
What Japanese often admire Japan's nature for is it's distinct changing of four seasons, and the blessing of nature each season has. not for that Japan has it "four".

"having unique four seasons" and "being unique for having four seasons" are completely different matters.
Indoctrination goes so far that most Japanese do not know that 1st January is not their traditional New Year day before Japan adopted the Western calendar in the late 19th century.
Most Japanese do know 窶ケナ陳青ウナ椎ス and what it means.
The same goes with inventions. No the Japanese did not invent the telephone, not even the first mobile phone. They did not invent the CD (the Dutch company 'Philips' did), they did not make the first video game (some Americans did), and no, they did not invent the camera. The system of NHK (the national TV broadcaster) to tax TV owners to finance the programmes is not Japanese either. They copied it on the BBC. The list goes on ad nauseam.
The half of the top 10 patent recipients in the U.S. are Japanese companies nowadays. Japanese are good at inventing, as well as at adopting other's idea, I think.
http://www.answers.com/topic/list-of-top-united-states-patent-recipients
Japanese teachers misinform their students by telling them that all Westerners speak English.
This is plain lie.
 

Maciamo

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Shiro said:
In which class is that "what to think of foreigners" taught?
Where is it written in what textbook?
Tell me if you can find anything applies to it in this education guidelines.
http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/01_c.htm As I said it before, what NPA released is the crime stats of VISITORS. Permanent residents are not counted in them. So, as for Koreans, you have to subtract 489,900 (tokubetsu eijuusha) from 625,422 (tourokusha) for estimating the rate at first. Calculate it once more.
http://www.moj.go.jp/PRESS/030530-1/030530-1.html
Didn't you say that it was for visitors AND residents ? How could they separate crime statistics based on whether the people are residents or not ? If they really do separate, where are the statistics for residents ? I am sure that the 1,800,000 residents (mostly Korean and Chinese) do commit at least some kind of crimes or offences.

"having unique four seasons" and "being unique for having four seasons" are completely different matters.
Exactly. No Japanese I met seemed to emphaise the fact that Japan had more distinct seasons when they asked me "does you country have 4 seasons ?". Anyway, European countries often have even more distinct seasons that Japan. In Tokyo and most of southern Japan, there is almost no winter. It snows just a few days a year, doesn't freexe (there are always flowers blossoming troughout winter). This winter, the ginko (窶ケテ「ヒ?? were still full of yellow leaves on New Year's Day, and the plum trees were already blossoming mid-February. Where is winter ?

Another seasonal change that lacks in Japan compared to Europe is major change in daylight between summer and winter. I was used to see the sun rise at 8-9am in winter (and set at 3-4pm), while it rises around 4-5am in summer and sets around 10-11pm. This is not even for Scandinavia or Scotland where the differences are even more marked.

Most Japanese do know 窶ケナ陳青ウナ椎ス and what it means.
Alright, then tell me when was the traditional New Year in today's calendar.

Shiro said:
Maciamo said:
Japanese teachers misinform their students by telling them that all Westerners speak English.
This is plain lie.
Oh yes ? Maybe in your experience, but many of the Japanese I know (including my wife) told me that. There has been a lot of discussion about this on this forum. For example, one Japanese member explained this earlier in this thread (see post #100 by Epigene)
 

miu

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Hiroyuki Nagashima said:
8.Japan is not origin "Christmas" "Valentine"!
9.A CD, a video game are not invented on the telephone in Japan.
:hihi:

When I think about something like "every foreigner speaks English", I would assume it means that you're able to comunicate in English when you go to a foreign country... But this isn't even related to the topic too much :blush:

I had a Japanese friend who said that he used to think all foreigners speak Japanese with an American accent. When he saw a documentary about people studying Japanese in Europe, he was really surprised to find out their accent wasn't quite so American! Well, to be more accurate: he thought most foreigners speak Japanese with a thick American accent and was surprised when he noticed that foreigners are able to pronounce words the japanese way (e.g. for Finns pronouncing Japanese isn't quite as difficult as the Finnish pronunciation is much, much closer to japanese than English.) I was very surprised by what he said because I'd never assume something like that...
 
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About four seasons, I read a few posts by Korean people in some forums that they said the same thing "We have four seasons." So maybe it's Asian thing?

And Maciamo-san, I agree with what Shiro-san said.
That's the weirdest misconception.
What Japanese often admire Japan's nature for is it's distinct changing of four seasons, and the blessing of nature each season has. not for that Japan has it "four".
I also think this is totally a lie too. But I guess you wouldn't believe us(Shiro-san and me).
Japanese teachers misinform their students by telling them that all Westerners speak English.
I'm sorry to say this and I don't mean to be rude, but almost every time I read your comments about Japan, I feel really weird misconceptions in them although there are some points that I would agree with. Is that because my poor English? :p

And one more thing. I think you've said in some of your posts(and some other people too) that we Japanese think that we were superior to others. But I've never met a Japanese person in my whole life who said or acted like that. (I wonder where I can meet such narrow minded Japanese people? You should tell me! :p )

Maybe your too much european superiority(Yes, I said it! I feel a lot of it when you talk about Japanese/Japan or the U.S. It's strange you blame us for it but I feel vice versa. :sorry: ) or pride make you think that you were condescended by us? That's what I felt from your Threads.

Sorry if my comment was too direct and my choice of words were too blunt. I have NO INTENTION to offend anyone. Actually, I came to think that's good thing for people from other countries to know not only positive side but also negative side of Japan. So I'm thankful to Maciamo-san in a way, but I also feel that many misconceptions from you. :(
 

Maciamo

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miu said:
I had a Japanese friend who said that he used to think all foreigners speak Japanese with an American accent.
Yes, among Westerners it's mostly native-speakers of Germanic languages, and especially English, that have problems with the Japanese pronuciation. All Latin languages, Finnish, Greek, etc speakers have all the Japanese sounds in their language (except the "h" for Latins, but that they can replace by a soft "f").
 

Maciamo

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corocoro said:
And Maciamo-san, I agree with what Shiro-san said.
Shiro said:
That's the weirdest misconception.
What Japanese often admire Japan's nature for is it's distinct changing of four seasons, and the blessing of nature each season has. not for that Japan has it "four".
I understand that. I know that. In fact we could argue (and some Japanese do) that Japan has 5 seasons (with the "tsuyu"), or 3 (no real winter in some places), or else. But if Japanese people admire so much the seasons that they feel the need to tell ALL foreigners about it, how comes they don't alreday know that about all Western countries have 4 seasons ? If they do know, why ask this particular question and ask it this way ? They could ask "Are the seasons in your country as distinct as in Japan ?" or "Does each season in your country last about the same time as in Japan, or are some seasons shorter and longer ?" I have no problem at all with such questions. However, I was never asked them by any of the 100+ Japanese who asked me if my country had four seasons.

So, yes the Japanese do admire the changing of seasons, and it doesn't matter if there are 3, 4 or 5 of them, as Shiro and you said. But I think that the Japanese are so indoctrinated to think that their country is unique that many of them truely believe that Western countries may not have distinct seasons.



I also think this is totally a lie too. But I guess you wouldn't believe us(Shiro-san and me).
Japanese teachers misinform their students by telling them that all Westerners speak English.
I think you are judging things too easily. Are you saying that my wife, or some of my Japanese acquaitances lied to me about this ? It may be that you and Shiro were not told by your teachers that all Westerners speak English, but some people are, and probably enough of them so that there will always be some Japanese starting to talk English to the first Westerner they see, or enough Japanese believing that any Western teacher at NOVA or such schools is a native English teacher. In fact, whatever these schools say, there are many non-native teachers too, because most Japanese don't see the difference, as they believe Westerner = Native English-speaker.


And one more thing. I think you've said in some of your posts(and some other people too) that we Japanese think that we were superior to others. But I've never met a Japanese person in my whole life who said or acted like that.
1) have you ever studied psychology and psychoanalysis (the unconscious, subconscious, etc.) ? Many Japanese (especially older generations) feel superior at an unconscious or subconscious level. Anyway, even if it was fully conscious (maybe a few people), most Japanese are too polite to tell that they feel superior, because even in very direct cultures, people rarely say it even when they think it.

2) have you never heard of theories of "nihonjinon" ? This is what I am talking about. Akio Morita , the founder of Sony, is just one example of people who don't mind saying it publicly. But many politicians also think like that, for example the mayor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara. It is because a majority of Japanese agree with his racist ideas that he was elected and re-elected. But I understand very well that most Japanese will never tell a foreigner directly that they think of them as "barbarians" (=inferior), because they want to avoid direct confrontation.

3) During WWII, the Japanese showed well enough that they felt superior and were meant to govern the world (at least Asia). Many of the older generation nowadays grew up with such a minset and such values. It is very difficult to change. So they may not say it, but still feel it's true. Many politicians or company president in Japan are in their 70's, and so most grew up with such a mentality. These people also designed the Japanese education system, and try to inculcate the notions of nihonjinron as subtly as possible, so that it does not clearly appear in textbooks because it would be condemed by the United States.

4) questions like "can you use chopsticks" or "does your country have 4 seasons" are derivatives of this national indoctrination of "nihonjinron". Even if younger Japanese don't feel it consciously, a gaijin is always only a gaijin - and so probably doesn't speak Japanese, canot eat sushi, cannot sit in seiza, cannot appreciate the beauty of the uniquely Japanese cherry blossoms, or any other prejudice.

Here is Wikipedia's definition of nihonjinron. As you see, thinking that Japan is unique for its disticnt seasons or whatever is a step toward nihonjinron.
Nihonjinron (窶愿コ窶怒ツ人ヒ彑, "discourse on Japaneseness") is a Japanese term referring to culturally nationalist concepts of Japanese uniqueness. Such concepts may be scientifically, artistically, or politically produced.
I think it is sad that so many Japanese do not realise that they have been subtly indoctrinated by their education system about this. The fact that "critical thinking" is not taught in Japan is the best way to facilitate this indocrination, as too critical people would immediately notice it.

There is a reason why China or Korea pressure the Japanese government to change their history textbooks. There is a reason why Westerners like me think that Japanese have underlying racist attitudes based on the nihonjinron. There is a reason that Japan invaded all most of Asia in the 1930's and 40's. There is a reason that an openly racist politician can become twice mayor of Tokyo (as much as there is a reason for a extremist Christian to be elected as president of the USA). There is a reason why -right-conservative politicians have been in power in Japan for the last 50 years. Because that it what a majority of Japanese want, or wanted at the time.
 

Maciamo

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corcoro said:
Maybe your too much european superiority(Yes, I said it! I feel a lot of it when you talk about Japanese/Japan or the U.S. It's strange you blame us for it but I feel vice versa.) or pride make you think that you were condescended by us? That's what I felt from your Threads.
This is a separte issue, so let me answer separately.

First of all, I do not feel associated with only one country in Europe, but neither do I feel much in common with many European countries (eg. Eastern Europe). So I use the word European to refer to myself, although I should really say North-West European.

Secondly, I come from a very individualistic society, and even there I am consider as very individualistic. That means that I wouldn't think or other people, even in my own family, as similar to me, or part of the same group.

Now, what I say about Japan, the US, Europe or any other country is an independent opinion. I do not try to elevate my country, as I don't feel part of any in particular.

You might feel like I feel superior when I said that Japan didn't invent the telephone, the CD, etc. but that's only because it makes you feel bad. If I said that the Chinese had invented the kanji, confucian values that rule Japanese society, the traditional "Japanese" zodiac, etc. would that make me feel superior ? I am not Chinese. In the same way, there were many inventions I mentioned that were American. So I was certainly not trying to make me or my country of birth feel superior.
 

Brooker

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Jungle Boy said:
Some Americans actually think all Canadians live in igloos with polar bears and all the police are on horseback....
Igloos? I think that might be going a little far. I think some Canadians often imagine the misconceptions about them. A twelve year old might have some misconceptions, but I think most Americans think Canada is very similar to America (which probably makes Canadians angrier than wild misconceptions :) ).

But I agree that stupid people are everywhere and ridiculous misconceptions happen everywhere.
 
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