Gaikokujin Manners

Hello friends. First off I want to thank both people who contacted me to comment on my article last month. I especially appreciated Mr. Tsuda from NHK who came all the way to my apato to personally say arigato to me. I’m still working on my nihongo but very happy to shaberu with anyone who likes my writing! You need to shaberu with Japanese people everyday in order to umai!

This month I want to talk about Gaijin etiquette – how to act like a foreigner should while in Japan. First let me talk about this word Gaijin. You should know that we are actually Gaikokujin. This is the most polite form of the word and saying Gaijin is like basically calling someone a war criminal or something really bad. I know this because I read it in an article by Debitou Arudo one time.

Anyway today I have come up with three manners you should be careful to obey when you are around Japanese people and not hanging out with Australians or other gaikokujin.

Manner 1: Don’t smell bad

This can be difficult for some of us who like our meat or come from strange places with weird food like New Zealand. But Japanese people have very sensitive noses and we gaikokujin can smell funky sometimes. Mostly it is what you eat and how often or if you bathe.

But in any case you are going to need to cover that gaikokujin oder. I religiously squirt Axe body spray behind my ears if I will be seeing a nihonjin, though if money is tight air freshener from the toilet will also do. Think of it as something you should do everyday, just like scrubbing your sheriff’s badge.

Manner 2: Using “hai” appropriately

One thing is very taisetsu in Japan. At all times you must appear to be listening to the person who is speaking. For instance when my admirer from NHK came by to visit me I made sure to utter hai after every sentence he said – even if I didn’t wakaru everything. This makes people very happy and is very polite. Basically it means “Yes I understand what you said” but even if you don’t really you can still say it. Nobody will know. Plus it helps stretch out conversations that would otherwise be short and to the point.

Manner 3: Walking Correctly

As a pedestrian it is important that you follow a very basic rule of avoiding eye contact while walking directly towards the oncoming person on the sidewalk. In Japan we aruku in a group but staring is impolite and that means that sometimes we should just anticipate where the other person is walking and walk the other way.

Mostly everyone heads towards each other because they walk where they think the other person probably isn’t going, but the other person is doing the same thing so it is shoganai that you have to course correct several times as you approach another pedestrian until you just miss them. In order to avoid this problem it is important to walk as if you are not looking at the other person but imagine where they are probably not going and head the other way. See it is kantan!

Well that’s all I have space for this month. Stay tuned when I discuss my new years resolutions next month. Hint… its all about benkyo!

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