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Gaijin language snob


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
The gaijin language snob

So, have you met him or her yet? Don't worry, you will at some stage. The gaijin language snob has usually been living in Japan for more than ten years, is either married to, or is in a serious relationship with a Japanese, is MOST DEFINITELY NOT a humble English teacher, and seems to have lost the ability to speak English. Not only that, but he regards the "blow ins" or the FOTBs (fresh off the boat) gaijin as down there with Heinrich Himmler and Charles Manson.

Lets call him "George," and I'm not being sexist, but if we are honest, "he" is usually a he. George is typically in his late 30s and lives with wife "Keiko" and two kids "Harumi Jean" and "Atsumi Leanne" in an anonymous suburb (less contact with gaijin out there). George is from Minnesota but now thinks he's from Gunma Prefecture. The most important day for George is the Emperor's birthday. He works for a Japanese company now as a salaryman, but plays down his original role - as, gasp - an English teacher. "I was young, I needed the money." Most importantly, George speaks Japanese. Oh boy, does he really speak Japanese. Not only does he speak Japanese, but also he feels that he must let every gaijin within a ten-mile radius know that he speaks Japanese.

And here is the rant. You're in the 7-Eleven, struggling to understand why the old woman is smiling eerily at you and asking you a question at 100mph simply because, by saying "arigato" previously, you have indicated to her that you are fluent in the Japanese tongue. As you sweat and gesture like Marcel Marceau on speed, the tut-tutting from the gaijin behind you is making you nervous. He leans forward and says something to the woman, who bows to you and says "gomenasai." Looking at the gaijin, who turns to be our hero George, you smile to acknowledge his help, as he casually blanks you and begins speaking to the woman, keeping an eye on you to make sure you see that he can speak Japanese and you can't. Na na na na na!

George's language snobbery is his trophy, and he loves to show it to anyone who happens to be around. In a video store recently, I saw George and his two kids milling about. The excited kids were babbling away to pop in Japanese, who was answering them in English and making sure that I could see what was happening. So folks, if you have the chance to meet George, say a big "hi-diddly hi hi" for me!!

Many thanks to Brian O'Neill for this Rant.

=> Tokyo Classified - Tokyo Rants and Raves: The gaijin language snob

This was a bit harsh, was it not? Living in a foreign country can cause many sorts of insecurities. How some people cope with the relative isolation of being a "gaijin" is through trying a bit too hard to fit in. While admittedly I have met one Westerner who fits George's description, and I am sure there are also a few Japanese snobs living in Western countries too, this sort of article stereotypes all Western males with ten-year in Japan.

Some Japanese think it's really cute when the "gaijin" can speak a few words of Japanese. Yet when the "gaijin" becomes fluent and is able to articulate his/her thoughts clearly in Japanese, we're not so damned cute anymore. I can see how this "gaijin language snob" propaganda might be quite popular to some.

Is this a form of subtle racism?

Well... for what it's worth... that's my opinion anyway. :p

p.s. that avatar of a kamikaze you use Thomas, could also have some connotations to a George like personality as "The most important day for George is the Emperor's birthday." But you don't live in Japan, or do you?
I think the point was to show that they were once a FOTB and now the think they are all high and mighty when they put there pants on the same way we do and shouldn't be so snooty and ******.
I think John's post sums it up. I've met Georges in many places, they are not restricted to Japan only.

@ avatar

Just a little provocation, I felt bored by Crayon Shin-chan.
Originally posted by samuraitora

I think the point was to show that they were once a FOTB and now the think they are all high and mighty when they put there pants on the same way we do and shouldn't be so snooty and ******.

I don't know man... This sounds a bit more like bellyaching to me. Crazy thing is when you have been living in a rural Japanese suburb for a long time without ever seeing another Westerner, and then one day you see one walking near the train station... Westerners come in all colors (races)... but this person walking by is your color... so you want to speak with them... and immediately it's like dogs pissing and marking their territories. Maybe this guy you meet really is a rich snob that doesn't give a crap about talking to you, answering your questions, or being your new friend. You greet him in English, he gives you the "two-faced" grin, and then turns to the Japanese guy next to him and says a few Japanese words he thinks you don't understand, and then they both chuckle.

So go ahead and write an article about him, and popularize the idea that there are many "Georges" living in Japan. And the next time you see someone that you think might speak English with you, walking on the sidewalk near the train station, then just walk on past him/her and pay no notice (thinkingツ… they are probably "Georges" anyway). Then maybe you might come to understand how ridiculous this whole snobbery thing really is.

Pay more attention to how you are acting, and be more tolerant and accepting of all sorts of peoples. You will be much happier... I assure you!

p.s. I've watched several episodes of Crayon Shin-chan in English, and I really wanted to like it like I do the Simpsons, but I must admit that it did get pretty freaking boring after a while.
FOTB? Do you mean FOB? lol, I think it would be fine to be flabby in Japanese. And if you meet a "George" just to let it slide. Personally, I would be excited to be able to speak English than I would be preoccupied with "impressing" someone with my Japanese skills.

However, when my friend, a 2-year exchange student from japan was here, and the 3-week 3rd year English Japanese students came over, my friend spoke so much English all the time it was startling. We finally figured out that he was trying to impress the other Japanese students visiting that he knew more English than they did. And it was very entertaining. I don't know how it made the 3-week Japanese students feel per se... but I'm sure that my friend didn't ever disrespect them.

My point is.. you can be a "George" in japan... but you don't have to be an ***. Like you can be great at Japanese and "impress" a fellow gaijin... it's up to the other to take that negatively (showing some jealousy or smug) or positively. "wow you know a lot of Japanese" blah blah. It makes no difference.. but people seem stuck because everyone out there is just trying to one-up another.
I think he means "Fresh off the boat." Which is also a sorry sort of terminology for newbies to Japan. For one, most of we Westerners fly into Japan (so we should be called FOTP), and secondly this whole separation of newbies vs. ten-year's is something only people who are racist against their own race actually take into account.
@FOTP vs 10-year resident
So what are you if you are neither a newbie, nor a 10 year Japanese speaking veteran ? Imaging the Uni Japanese language students who come for the first time in Japan but speak as well as the "veteran", or just a guy that would have spent 10 years in a bubble and still don't speak a word or doesn't understand Japanese mentality better than when he arrived (common in embassies, etc.) ? Anyway, some people go native as soon as they arrive, while others stay with the international community till they leave. That really depends on one's situation, personality and reason to come to Japan.

@Crayon Shin-chan
Watching it in English is like watching a Hollywood movie in Japanese, it's boring. What is really funny is the way he speaks in Japanese (just his voice is hilarious). Then it makes a good listening practice for not so advanced learners like me.
OUCH! That article strikes home pretty hard.

Hmmm, I probably come aross as one but try not to be. It's really weird though whenever you see other foreignors. IF it's out drinking you're all back to being normal, if you're out shopping watch out!

I see foreignors in trouble every once in a while at the store but maintain my distance unless the look towards me for help, since I don't want to come across as a know-it-all even though I'm trying to be helpful.

One point I didn't like in the article was how paranoid it seems. "They keep looking at me." Hell, If you're being looked at maybe because it's more like they're checking on you to make sure everything is ok and they don't want to interpret everything for you. I help people I know all the time and it's just a complete pain in the neck having to say everything twice in 2 different ways. I teach so I spend enough talking and would rather just clear things up and be off doing something else.

My wife asks me ever time I knock out a quick "hi" or even a nod of the head if that's a friend. It gets a bit of a pain to explain no, it's just a greeting since they're like myself a foreignor in a see of black hair.

Territorial symptoms ... haha ... I was thinking of posting a similar topic yesterday. Up here, way long ago we used to laugh at those who would be geeks, nerds, at home are all of a sudden a Movie Star. It's very intoxicating, all the attention you recieve. So, I guess, it sort of goes to your head untill somebody comes around to give you a swift kick in the arse.

Western New York usage was FOB. Probably just like in the title of book or story, you don't capitalize words like "the" so in the shortened FOB form letter "T" is dropped. lololo ... I could be way wrong though too.
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