The best example of making friends later in life is the infamous Seinfeld two part story of Season 3 episodes 17 and 18. Seinfeld meets a baseball player played by himself, Keith Hernandez. Hernandez has just moved to New York and he starts up a relationship with Jerry (not gay). The story arc concludes with Seinfeld “breaking up” with Hernandez and Jerry giving an apology to Hernandez that he is ending the relationship because Jerry is too old to have new friends, “It’s not you it’s me”. This is largely the case back in the mother country. You have a set of friends that you usually grow up with and some associates you meet from work.
So when you live outside your normal areas of operation things get complicated. You lose that base of friends and if your co-workers are losers you’re basically screwed, what are you going to do? Go to the bar to meet guys?
Here in Japan things are compounded by the fact that about 75%-90% of foreigners in Japan are … off. Either they were crazy and didn’t “fit in” in Western society and so came to Japan, or Japan has made them crazy. When I came to Japan these crazy people were quite a shock to the system and I really had to do some soul searching, as in “am I as screwed up as these freaks?”
As a measure of protection against these people, foreigners have a sort of unspoken understanding: Just because you’re a foreigner doesn’t mean we’re friends. This unspoken understanding manifests itself in avoiding eye contact, taking pains to avoid striking up conversations, etc. We go through these motions because that Gaijin (foreigner) on the train might be and more than likely probably is one of the majority of insane punters in Japan.
When you first come to Japan it’s not a big deal because you usually work at a crappy job with people who like yourself are just off the boat and everything is all shiny and new. But then as the years pass by those people that you initially met return to their ports of origin, leaving you hopefully with a hardcore group of long timers (Luckily, I fall into this group). But others are left in a sea of Japanese; lonely and sometimes desperate for male Gaijin, companionship longing for an I love you bro event. I see them on the trains and I’m tempted to talk to them but chances are they’re “Kuro-Kuro PA” (Japanese for crazy) and even if they aren’t then they’re still just collateral damage of the “Just because you’re a foreigner doesn’t mean we’re friends” policy.
If you like this then, you should check more from the “Japan ain’t so fucked up” series:
|Keeping Bathroom money||Paying the Bribe in Japan||7 Brutal Realities regarding Arrest in Japan||Hosts in Japan||Build a Killer Robot or….?|
Friendly visit from Turkey 😛
Shite! That’s a releif, was beginning to think after being here for 16 years that I was the crazy one, but it is all these other freaks around me that’s doing the damage…seriously though, I totally relate to this post, sometimes feel like I’m the only sane bastard left alive around here!
Nearly all my long term friends from way back have, for various reasons returned to their respective home countries due to family etc., etc. The other reaction I get to trying to meet new foreigners here is, “I’m not going to acknowledge you because I want to be the only foreigner here.” Like they seem to think they are special..I think that’s another way to spell “All fucked up!”
“Here in Japan things are compounded by the fact that about 75%-90% of foreigners in Japan are … off. Either they were crazy and didn’t “fit in” in Western society and so came to Japan, or Japan has made them crazy.””
Waaay back in the day (say 35 years ago) it was much worse, even in Tokyo. It was like being in a Somerset Maugham short story set in some outpost of the British Empire: if you wanted to speak English, you ended up spending at least some time with the least objectionable of the school staff (there really weren’t all that many ex-pats of any other stripe back then).
During the Bubble, the country seemed to fill-up with anyone who spoke English because of the promise of private gigs that paid a mon an hour (ya, right).
I will say that most of the English-speaking foreigners in Japan now, particularly in Tokyo, seem to have real jobs.
The same applies to China 😉 But I always had the feeling that English-speaking people got along very well and it was only us (Austrians) avoiding each other like the plague.
When I have travelled I have avoided contact with fellow Canadians, enjoying the company of my American neighbours more.
Canadians travelling are filled with loathing – a combination of the overwhelming fear we may be mistaken for Americans and the fear that they will not even know what Canada is. Americans travelling are out and baout having some fun. And they treat you like a long term friend when you chat.
And what I said about Canadians gets multiplied around 10,000 times when dealing with Vancouverites
Haha DAMN! Layin it down! Well, I frankly have only one or two American Acquaintances here let alone friends. However I have been good friends with several Canadians -one in particular (you know who you are! wink-wink!) and it’s funny I sort of have similar feelings about my American brothern over here. I am always wary when I first meet an American in Tokyo….like a long stay patient at a mental hospital going up to talk to the new guy for the first time; no way to know if hes just in here for depression or he’s a raging lunatic. Caution.
I, unfortunately, am one of the crazy spoiled ones. I apologize for ruining my country’s reputation.
Is that…a heart felt apology? I hope so. Really.
This is very true. In my short 5 year stay I have lost count of the number of crazies that I had to deal with. People who are looking to re-invent themselves, lying about their name, age, state, country, profession and etc. A lot of them geeks or ostracized kids of the internet comms. Sometimes they end up dragging you into a certain form of humiliation.
The transparent attempt to both keep relevant the farce that the people escaping the beige bordeom back home are the oddity and not dreary societal, work-norms, and that the misfitts are others, and not oneself, would be hilarious if not so common. Yeah, we’ve all met weirdos in Japan.
When was the last time anyone on this board was back home? The mental illness, poverty and desperation is rampant. Even the biggest moron-gaijin has a college degree. As a health care professional, I routinely meet toothless, illiterate degenerates entering the ER on the government’s dime snooping for narcotics. In any context, the “We wouldn’t say hi back in America, why would we when we are the only two Americans in this part of Tokyo.” routine is a pathetic self-defense mechanism to deluding oneself that one’s presence in Japan does not fit into the pre-conceived notion of “can’t hack it back home or can’t get chicks back home”, both of which are largely concoctions of spurned female gaijin. Regardless of the sour faces I receive from much wimpier, more dull male gajin, in response to a simple smile on the train, I will continue to politely engage gaijin. When a mono-culture shows more friendliness and class than one’s own countrymen, it’s a sad state of self-defacing; it’s a sad state of affairs.
Its a relief to read this!
I am a fairly sane, stable person working a regular job and various interests trying to live a normal life, but Ive been targeted by crazy foreigners many times. Americans, mostly- and I’m american!
They are almost always (initially)looking for friendship but unable to offer the same, due to being totally egocentric, possessing various off-putting neuroses/unhealthy obsessions or apparent personality disorders. I say initially because after they catch on to your attempts to avoid their company, the mask drops and they became hostile.
Its a sad state of affairs when eye contact with another foreigner sends you moving in the opposite direction! But based on my experience living here for 10 years, the reaction is totally justified. There arent many decent, sane foreigners in Japan. Most that Ive met have been in varuious stages of mental collapse.
p.s. Most of my time has been spent in Tokyo, so maybe its not this way in the countryside or smaller cities?
It’s a dice roll all the time. Sure, he/she might be cool, balanced, “normal” although I have to admit I don’t like normal, however nor do I like raving social eye sore and manic loud mouth horrible drunks either.
Defensive measures must be taken.
This post has been around for a long while now, but due to the topic it is not surprising that it is still drawing comments. Since my last comment back in 2010, most of my sane, (but not quite normal) friends have departed and gone home to live out their lives and retire in a slightly more sane environment, as most of us are getting on in years. My friends going home did however get me off my butt and I have since gone back to a body building gym and got back into serious training. This has been really good for me to meet many new Japanese friends, it has sort of shaken me out of my previous comfort zone where it was easy to just stick with the few hard core foreign friends I hung with and rarely meet any new Japanese friends, apart from the ones I had. Have to say now, that I have many more local friends than foreigners and most of them are ALTs so if there are any crazies, they will rotate home within a couple of years. Having said that about crazy,I do believe that one has to be a bit crazy to stay in Japan long term, it helps just a tad to fit in where you have to fit in and also in a funny kind of way the “little crazy” keeps one sane enough to handle the rest of the daily stuff be it crap or good stuff. I always say to the critics of Japan, no one is holding a gun to your head, so if you don’t like it here, well frankly,..get the hell out of here..go home! I originally came here for 2 to 3 months, 17 years ago, so what I like here must well overcome what I don’t like but I think some of these lunatics that stay here and rub others the wrong way, maybe have no where to go where they will fit in quite as well as they do here. After all Japan can be a quite insane place to live sometimes, but you gotta love it.
What country are you from?
Because I am American, and few things seem more uncomfortable to me than the concept of moving back there.
I’m from England originally, but my family moved to New Zealand when I was about 10. While I have no worries about going back to NZ, not that I’m even entertaining the idea, I would not ever consider retiring back in England, it’s probably as big a mess as you think the US is, maybe worse being closer to the other mess…Europe. My friends who have returned have been a mix of Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians and a few Americans. At least they had no worries about fitting in again back home even after being here for a long time, although I do agree with Yosomono that some of them just get left behind tech and job prospect wise so they are stuck here. But being stuck is a state of mind to some extent, one can always become unstuck with a bit of effort.
Pretty much ever where on the planet has it’s problems, don’t think there are many places where you could say the grass is definitely greener right now…is there????
I hear that. Unless you have a job waiting for you, you’d have to crazy to go back the economic situation the way it is. I have a friend who went back to San Fran hoping to get a “normal” job but found there were no jobs and ended up teaching at a Benesse office in San Fran making near minimum wage.
I’ve been thinking about making a post about how I’ve seen financial/banker/investment types drop like flies as businesses in Japan lay them off while tightening the companies’ belt. But working for a school is pretty recession proof. There will always be students in schools (Eikaiwas are a different story). Although I’ve had some friends loose hours as less parents can afford to send their kids to a private school.
Bottom line the grass is Japan is very green.
Yeah I think a lot of these people, that are bitter about Japan, can’t go back to their home country. If you’ve been gone more than 10 years the country will have changed immensely, to the point they might not fit in anymore.
I can imagine coming here in the 90s when there was no Internet and no real need for computer skills. Now to get any decent job you need to you know how to use, at least, the office suite. All they have on their resume is a decade of teaching English with no real certification, so they’ve gotten left behind technology and job experience wise and are now stuck in Japan, hating everything about it.
This reminds me of this:
“Bottom line the grass is Japan is very green.”
Have to agree, and even as the planet slips into deep shite, I think we will be ok here, could be a lot lot worse.At least there are no crazy bastards running around here shooting people, that’s gotta be a plus.
If America was functioning the way it was intended to, it would be the most incredible country on earth for anyone who appreciates absolute liberty. The problem is that the powers that be have systematically destroyed that, and it is nothing but a pale shadow of the REPUBLIC that was initially formed. This degradation has occurred by design.
So, for now, and the foreseeable future, I would rather live here, my second home, Japan.
Amen. The USSA is not the Republic. Hell, Texas ain’t even Texas anymore. Someday we will be free again, but there’s gonna be one hell of a ‘Yugoslavia’ moment between here and there.
Japan is just Japan. Mostly harmless. Fukushima aside, it won’t kill you, and no one will stop you from taking care of your own business. Just abide by the polite rules of social segregation and do your own thing.
Congratulations a great blog. I know I’ll be stopping by more often.
“Either they were crazy and didn’t “fit in” in Western society and so came to Japan, or Japan has made them crazy.”
During my five years and change in Tokyo the second clause of this sentence just never occurred to me.
I’ve been back in Toronto now for eighteen months and while I’m getting over the cultural re-induction it’s the long slide into oblivion here in N. America that’s becoming impossible to ignore. To anyone carrying on in Japan, stay as long as you can. Our bug-out plan is to go right back over there, jobs or no.
This article is good stuff.
Excellent article, and saying something Ive been spouting ever since I got into this ‘teach-y in Asia-y type’ thingy. The words I keep asking myself are ‘where do these people come from!?!?!? Who are they!?!?!? Are they real?!?!’. Anyway, as good an article as it is it still doesnt help me……i’ve been in Japan now, Ibaraki prefecture, for 6 weeks and am STILL relatively friend-less. Im going in the local gaijin shaped bar each week, but have the problems you mention and always end up sitting there alone pretending to be doing things on my phone or feigning interest in the baseball on TV. Im trying but lord its hard, and as a social ‘lets seriously unwind at the weekend’ type person, its really affecting my life here……I dont know how because the problem is I dont even have one! So some tips on meeting people would be great! I met people in Korea using facebook and so set up a page myself but up to now I am the only person thats ‘liked’ it! So any tips on this matter would be smashing! Oh, im out in 2 weeks for a secret rendevous to some Izakayas in Mito with 2 of of my adult students….on the contract or not that I cant go out with them, I bloody am! Balls to the contract, I need FRIENDS!!!
Take up rock climbing. Lots of good people in the gyms, and the ethos is everybody supports each other. Expect to hear some gambattes from total strangers. Reciprocate, and you’ve made some new friends. Having Popeye forearms is pretty cool too.
I’ve always wondered the same thing about the really kooky people you bump into. I’ve met great foreigners here who I’ve become good friends with, and then met others who I can do nothing but shake my head and and think “what the hell?!”. I was walking to an appointment in an unfamiliar neighborhood years ago, and consulting a map as I walked (this was before iPhones). The street was plenty wide enough for anyone walking but for some reason, this utter tool of a foreigner walking toward me from at least ten paces away, took it upon himself to call out “let’s not collide!”. I was so baffled that I stopped and just stared at him as he walked away shaking his head, no doubt congratulating himself for teaching a green foreigner (I had been in Tokyo for a few years already at that point) how to walk the streets of Tokyo. But, all of the weird foreigners aside, I’ve come to realize there are even more weirdos among the Japanese I dealt with on a daily basis working at a large Japanese company. Granted, they were socially inept engineers/nerds, but they were undoubtedly weirder than any foreigner I’ve ever met here.
who cares if the other foreigners suck? foreigners don`t even make up a single percent of the population, including other asians. just make friends with japanese, youre in japan! ive been living in japan for 2 years and i barely have 2 foreigners in my circle. theyre really hard to meet unless you actively seek them out (and theres no reason to in the first place)
it doesn`t make any since to want to be friends with someone because he`s not something. (in that case, japanese)
What do you mean by crazies? I’ve heard of the foreigners that think they’re better than you and refuse to associate with other foreigners, and I’d expect so some hardcore otakus…
wtf, that comment makes you sound like youre one of the people being talked about here, those that come out with pretentious guff like that. Listen, we are all happy to meet Japanese people, but from my experience its nice to have a friend you can truly relate to too……if I can sit and chat about English football (OUTSIDE of the top league) with someone, and have some British TV talk too, then im happy……and I also find that a gaijin friend or 2 actually helps you to meet more Japanese people as alone its scarier to approach/be approached etc. Dont be so full of yourself because you have Japanese friends. We all do, but some of us have roots still and know where we are from and dont want to lose that. I am enjoying living here, but im still and always will be English and I want to discuss English things with people who understand them! That means Americans and Canadians are as excluded as the Japanese for me in my hunt for a good mate! Amen.
Kind of funny, I’m French, and i moved to Montreal, but i’ve been moving quite a lot because of my father’s job since i’m 9, so much that i find myself at 24 with no long term friends.
And that’s what i’m trying to explain to people that say it’s difficult to make friends with Quebecers, i’m like, no, not more than anywhere in the world, it’s just that just like you have grown up with your friends, they don’t seek for any ‘new’ friend, while we’re just like DESPERATE to make friends with locals.
And this is why, want it or not, we French always end up frequenting just other French, even when we truly have NOTHING in common except for our nationality – seriously i’m so fed up with going from parties to parties just to hear guy just talking about their experience as immigrants, guy that i’ll end up bumping into once in a year, meeting for the first time again, repeating the same stuff, while i’d know it’s not the first time we talk.
And there’s also the other type that won’t ever want to talk with another French because they like “fled France”, and french people all suck.
Arh, the story of my life, sometimes i can’t help thinking i’m having more interesting conversations with strangers on the internet.
(Yeah, and sorry for the crappy english).
I’m American, and I’m guilty of something similar. When it I meet new foreign people, the first group that worries me are Americans. It’s not that Americans are “bad”. They are not. But, the Americans that end up here in particular, for some reason, a lot of them are insane, in a bad way. My French friends here have been pretty good.
Yep. I’d be one of the weird fucked up ones. That is, if I had gone to Japan. I went to Istanbul instead.
Anyway, I was one of those you speak of. I thought that changing my circumstances could solve the things I didn’t like about myself, but of course the problem was me.
No amount of travelling, changing countries and so on was going to change the things that were what made me a person that gaijjinass would want to avoid.
So, I guess I learned to be less of an asshole.
Anyway, great to see all the comments.
Awesome response Umut.
I think the first thing to say is you’re certainly not of the people that I think we are talking about here. You’re too aware. The people I’m thinking of would never say ‘i was/am one of those you speak of’.
Secondly the term ‘weird’ needs to be defined. Again, you sound too smart to be weird in he sense that’s meant. Weird like quirky or funny or just plain interesting is obviously great. My weirdness is that I’m very childish. The weird we mean here is those that sit with heads down, miserable, with a look of murder in their eyes! Or the guy I saw the other day that had his trousers pulled up to his armpits. Or the vast amount of pony-tailed guys there are (sorry pony-tailed guys, it’s a bad look!). The leerers, too. I’ve met some who just don’t seem to be from the planet. One guy I met was angry because a bar owner kicked him out for not buying a drink! I told him ‘we’ll, do you go in hairdressers and just sit reading magazines?!’. No concept of how society works at all. Another guy made a 2 hour trip with us to Tokyo for a night of drunken debauchery…..went in 1 bar, said the smoke made him feel ill, and took the train home again!!! It’s these overly geeky types that I mean (emphasis on the word ‘overly’ coz the right amount if geeky is awesome but too much and……jeez, I’m judgemental!!!). Anyway, hope that gives you all an idea of the type of people that at least I am referring to. People who you ask yourself ‘who are you, why are you even here, and where the hell do you come from?!?’
define crazy, i just spent a month here, considering moving here for good. by crazy do you mean 500 pound unbathed anime junkies in akihabara or something even worse. i have made it a month with out having to punch some ones lights out so i am still in the euphoric zone, although i feel asleep at a bar and woke up to a high bill but i avoided any physical stuff by having a clint eastwood stare and a empty bottle as the punctuation to my im not paying extortion with out hospital bills all around attitude.
also, any one had any conflict with the nigerians? every body tells me to be wary, but i do rap videos in the states and would like to find out if there are any african rappers who pay for video work. i prefer to not get ugly if i can avoid it, any one have any advice on what kinds of organized crime to watch out for?
Making friends is totally useless thing in Japan.
Japaneses are simply inferior races and they are not worthy to know.
Personally, I ignore Japanese people!
But, I utilize Japanese people’s faces to clean my shithole.
Yes, I clean my shithole with Japanese people’s faces after taking shit.