Monday, April 6, 2009

Gaijin Bubble

At times I feel like our dorm and all of us exchange students are in our own world. We are living in Japan, but not really. Not fully. It's great there's so many of us, but at the same time I wish there weren't as many. Almost everyone in my dorm speaks English to each other. We tend to travel in groups. I think when we are together we are less approachable. I feel as if we are interacting less with real Japan and more as an international smorgasbord of Western friends.

I like to do my own thing sometimes. Like explore alone and do things by myself. I feel like when I am by myself it is a totally different experience. I hear the Japanese more clearly, observe the mannerisms, and fit in easier. Its hard to explain. But as someone who could potentially pass as a Japanese person, it makes a world of difference depending on whether I am alone or with other study abroad students.

Today I went with Travis and some of his friends from the dorm. We went to happy hour at this British pub in Harajuku called the Hub. I looked around and it was like gaijin central. Such a weird feeling. American music playing, surrounded by a bunch of Americans or at least Europeans. Everyone speaking English. How do these places attract people like us?

A lot of people in my dorm are not used to the culture. And who would blame them. I mean when you're from Texas or Norway no one really expects you to be versed in these things. But it is still pretty funny. For instance, my dorm is really Japanese. We have gettabako and everything, a little step up when you enter your room. Really very Japanese. Anyway, when you enter the bathroom you first pass by the sinks. The stalls for the toilets are in another room. There are two pairs of slippers at the entrance of the room with the toilets. I have seen one of the girls go into the toilet room every time wearing her own slipper and not changing into the ones meant for the bathroom section. I wonder what she thinks they are there for.

But the worst was when I was eating lunch with another dormmate. She was saying how much she loved "soy sauce" and poured a lot onto her rice. Just eating shoyuu covered rice.

I don't think it's my place to correct them. If they ask I'll say something. But I mean I'm not from Japan so I don't consider myself an authority on stuff like this. I just wonder if they will go home afterwards without learning anything about basic stuff like that.

This is what I mean when I say we are in a bubble. I can't wait for school to start so I can break out and meet some Japanese people.


  1. hahaha ohhh now you're starting to truly experience the real japan: the alienation, the bureaucracy, and strange paradoxes unknown to the west. a rift definitely starts to form within the exchange group between those who have an earnest interest in the culture and language and those who are just ignorant and there to make the study abroad one giant party.

    i think that's so funny you guys have a gaijin bar called The Hub there. we had one in Nagoya too and it was the gathering for gaijin as well!! i wonder if it's a chain???

    anyway, yea... def making friends with japanese ppl enriches your experience. they're kind of in their own bubble too though. but i think japanese ppl who love hanging out with gaikokujin will start to step forward haha. in any case, enjoy every single day!

  2. lol it seems like there are foreigner bars everywhere. like when i went to india there was a very popular one in bombay/mumbai.

    i never expected there to be so many exchange students, so i guess i never considered the problem of balancing time between making friends with foreigners and with japanese ppl. there is some overlap, but not as much as i hoped for...