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I don't want to be 'that' person...

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I don't want to be 'that' person...

Postby Koomori » Fri 01.25.2013 11:50 am

This is maybe a bit weird to say, because I have been told many times by people who have gone there that the Japanese tend to be a very generous and helpful people towards foreigners, however I don't want to be that person who still manages to be socially awkward.

My reasons for wanting to go to Japan aren't anything grand but I do not want to be a tourist. I'm literary planning on just going to where I want to get to and accomplishing just a series of personal goals, for example; I want to see certain temples in Kyoto, sing karaoke and find random people to just chill out with. I want to stay as off the beaten tourist track as possible - so no group activities or sight-seeing... but I also want to feel safe which is why I am determined to learn Japanese before I go. That way, if I get lost or actually need help - I can handle getting it.

So I guess what I am looking for, are tips to not be automatically fingered as a tourist. I know that since I am probably the whiteist most non-Japanese looking person in the world (I am French and Romanian) I will automatically get the label but.... maybe if I can somewhat act natural and not commit some of the social blunders foreigners normally are guilty of it would gain me some 'street credit'.

I've heard that the Japanese don't do things in transit, so no walking and smoking or walking while drinking coffee - I have heard that's a big no-no, which I wouldn't normally think twice about doing. I know not to stick my chopsticks upwards in my food because that is something you do to offer it to the dead, right?

Is there anything else I should probably think about?

I am already pretty socially awkward among my own kind - I'd hate to finally go to Japan and ruin it with cultural faux pas.
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Re: I don't want to be 'that' person...

Postby Mike Cash » Fri 01.25.2013 8:59 pm

You're far more likely to ruin it by pointlessly obsessing over this stuff.

It is a safe bet that most of the Kyoto temples you want to see are primarily tourist spots, complete with tour bus parking.

Think about what a tourist spot is....it is a place people who have no business or connection with the place go for the purpose of looking at it. So any non-touristy places you go will be places you essentially have no business with or connection to, and you would stand out there for that reason regardless of your nationality or skin color. Not that you would necessarily be unwelcome....you may find yourself very welcome....but you'd still be a tourist. Know what? Even Japanese people are often tourists in Japan, sometimes very OBVIOUS tourists.

If you find random strangers to chill with it will be BECAUSE you are an obvious tourist. If you think you're going to play it off like you're some old-timer here then they're going to be no more interested in hanging with the foreigner than they would a fellow Japanese total stranger they have no connection with.

You're going to be a tourist. You're going to stand out. And Japan has hosted millions of people who look just like you....it is a much bigger deal to you than it is to them. They're for the most part not going to take the slightest notice of you, no matter what you do. So put all your worries out of your mind and just relax and enjoy your trip.
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Re: I don't want to be 'that' person...

Postby Koomori » Sun 01.27.2013 11:06 pm

Yeah... thanks... I guess. That really wasn't what I was looking fr in a reply but whatever. OBVIOUSLY I have accepted the fact that I'm going to stick out like a sore thumb but that's not what this is about. I was looking more for just common practices I may not be aware of. I doubt I'll be able to fool anyone into thinking I am some casual old timer and I'll even accept the fact that people will hang out with me because of my being noticeably different but I just don't want to commit any typical outsudr blunders. I'm not too worried about it but its more in the realm of things I'd just like to know, that's all.
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Re: I don't want to be 'that' person...

Postby Mike Cash » Mon 01.28.2013 12:47 am

Same things you'd do at home....don't pick your nose or break wind in mixed company.

Other than the obvious, "monkey see, monkey do" will serve you very well. If you don't know, just ask. Most people here are very gratified to be able to explain some fine point of Japanese customs to a foreigner. In fact, the more acquainted you are with the customs, the less interesting they will find you because there will be nothing left to tell you. So having a few rough edges will actually work out better for you, perverse as that may sound.

Just don't do anything that would be universally considered boorish anywhere on the planet and you have nothing to worry about. Seriously.
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Re: I don't want to be 'that' person...

Postby Ongakuka » Mon 01.28.2013 3:47 am

I think Mikeさん has lived in Japan for a long time (forgive me if I'm mistaken) but anyway I would definitely trust his response because he'll give it to you straight. In my own opinion, knowing Japanese customs will show that you made an effort, which Japanese people will appreciate, but you should always bear two things in mind:

1. Even if you strive to be perfect in this manner, you are almost certain to do things wrong at some point. I know you know this, but knowing and bearing in mind are different things

2. A foreigner with absolutely no knowledge of any Japanese customs (and does everything slightly wrong) is still capable of making an equally good and positive impression as someone who does everything by the book. I, like many, have always wanted to demonstrate my love of Japan, and like many I have been successful, but sometimes I forget that there are more important things I need to show about myself.
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Re: I don't want to be 'that' person...

Postby furrykef » Sun 02.10.2013 9:00 pm

Mike Cash wrote:Even Japanese people are often tourists in Japan, sometimes very OBVIOUS tourists.

Do they wear Hawaiian shirts too?
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Re: I don't want to be 'that' person...

Postby askeladd » Mon 02.11.2013 1:58 am

furrykef wrote:
Mike Cash wrote:Even Japanese people are often tourists in Japan, sometimes very OBVIOUS tourists.

Do they wear Hawaiian shirts too?


Haha, maybe not, but they certainly carry around a camera ;)
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Re: I don't want to be 'that' person...

Postby Lawless » Wed 07.30.2014 11:16 am

Sounds like you like to travel the same way I do. I think you might have more success having naturalistic social experiences if you pick one city and stay there for several weeks.that week give you the chance to meet people and get familiar with the pace your are in. How long do you plan to stay in Japan?

One thing I recommend looking into is trying to meet people through some kind of organized Club. I know that many libraries offer free Japanese lessons to foreigners, taught by volunteers (usually retired people or house wives with grown children. ) that's a great place to make connections with others.
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