Blending in with the Japanese

reon

04-04-2005, 11:41 PM

(Note: this article is not for you if: you know 3,000 kanjis; you have difficulty remembering the year you came to Japan; you curse, make jokes or say “Ouch!” in Nihongo; you eat shiokara; you don’t fall asleep watching kabuki – you get the idea.)

There are times when we want to be different, to stand out from the crowd, but in Japan we probably need not bother. Being foreigners, with different language and customs and even a distinctive style of dressing up (or down), we Filipinos in Japan naturally stand out from the crowd like an umeboshi (http://metropolis.japantoda y.com/biginjapan/350/biginjapaninc.htm) atop a bowl of rice. However, there are lots of times when we need to keep a low profile, to do what the Japanese do and blend into the community. Here are tips to help you mingle with the natives:

  1. Use chopsticks

Needless to say, using chopsticks in Japan is considered de rigueur and yet I know many Filipinos who’ve been in Japan for years and still use spoons and forks for ramen. Don’t let this happen to you. Use chopsticks the day you set foot on Narita Airport—heck, use them before even buying your plane tickets.

Virtually everyone can learn to use chopsticks in a day; with practice, you can be a pro in a week. No, I take that back. Eating right with chopsticks in a restaurant will prevent curious glances coming your way, but you’re a pro if you can shove peas inside your mouth from a flat plate without one dropping off.

I used to think I know how to use chopsticks, until one day I ate lunch of pork chops and peas with a Japanese. The pork chops were no problem, but what to do with the peas? As if to show me how, my Japanese eating partner simply raised his plate to his lips and rolled the peas inside his mouth in a few well-executed strokes. I knew it was impossible but I tried it anyway, and I had to pick up a dozen peas off the floor after I finished my meal.

  1. Eat sushi (Sushi Vocabulary), curry rice (http://www.maff.go.jp/kyoshitsu/reki_ryu/curry01.html), sashimi (http://ytoshi.cool.ne.jp/best_friends32/study/cl/food/sashimi/sashimi1.htm) and natto (TrekJapan Food Gallery and Recipes -).

Filipinos, like everyone else, have strong preferences in food. We usually don’t like anything cold, raw and sticky—especially if these cold, raw and sticky things stink. So it goes without saying that we Filipinos don’t like cold slices of raw fish or foul-smelling, fermented globs of sticky beans. With practice, I have come to eat virtually every Japanese food you can think of, although I remember that the first time I tasted Japanese curry, I almost threw up. It’s not your fault if you don’t fancy eating traditional Japanese food, but there’s no harm in trying. No, Pizza-la is not traditional Japanese food.

  1. Memorize greetings and common expressions in Nihongo.

A friend of mine recalled the time his family ate out at a Japanese restaurant in Manila. He cheerily told me that “the doorman shouted at us when we came through the door!” The welcoming guy was probably just shouting “Irasshaimase!”, although for all we know, he could be saying something else to amuse himself, like “Itte rashai!”

The Japanese have words and expressions for almost every imaginable situation. Learn these phrases quick, even if you only speak rudimentary Nihongo. The basic greetings, of course, are “Ohayo Gozaimasu”, “Konnichiwa” and “Konbanwa” (I rarely say this myself). Additionally, practice “Ogenki desu ka?”, “Oyasuminasai”, and “Sayonara” (okay, maybe not “Sayonara”; “Sore ja” and its variations may be more common).

“Onegaishimasu” and “Sumimasen” are common expressions that are even more useful than “Arigatou Gozaimasu”, “Dou itashimashite” and “Gomennasai”. Learn as many as you can. If you say these expressions at the appropriate times, your neighbors, co-workers or fellow students will have a much more favorable impression of you. With the proper accent and intonation, you could even fool everyone with your prowess in Nihongo (even if you don’t know the real thing).

  1. Bow.

I went to the nearby elementary school once for a class observation. After their individual presentations, the children would say (with a bow), “Kore de, watashi no happyou wo owari ni shimasu. Rei!” (That wraps up my presentation. Bow!” – ala Aiza Seguerra.) I recall that even children in the Philippines bow after doing speeches and presentations. But we Filipinos seem to forget about bowing as we grow up.

From a very young age, children in Japan are taught the proper way to bow and this little ritual becomes more important as they grow up and mature. They bow to their superiors, to their parents, to someone they have just been introduced to. If you’re attentive, you may have even seen old people (probably because they have been bowing all their lives) bowing while talking on the phone! Bowing expresses (in different occasions) respect, gratitude, apology or greeting. Bowing also depends on one’s age and social status. Generally speaking, you should bow lower and longer than the person above you in rank. Practice your bow!

  1. Watch Japanese TV, read (or try reading) Manga, listen to (and sing) Japanese songs.

Okay, I have to admit I’m not a fan of soap operas, Japanese or not. But one of the first advices I got when I came to Japan was, “Get yourself a TV and leave it on all the time.” (This was just after the “Bubble Economy” burst and before the stringent laws regarding electronic waste, when you can make an early morning stroll around the neighborhood and find a TV in a nearby garbage dump.) Watch dramas, variety shows, news, sports, documentaries and funny Japanese commercials.

If watching Japanese dramas bore you, you can try listening to (and singing) Japanese pop songs. (J-Pop, with its catchy tunes and danceable beat, is also popular in many Asian countries.) You don’t need to be fluent in Japanese to sing Japanese songs. I know many people who sing Japanese songs without really knowing the meaning of the lyrics. And because the melody of the song takes care of the accents and intonation, you can appear to be better in Japanese than you really are. Singing is not one of my strong points, but if you have a good voice, try singing Japanese songs with a karaoke.

You need to read Japanese to enjoy manga, although most kanjis in manga have kana readings. Comics in Japan, unlike in the Philippines, are read by all segments of the society, young and old. (One of the Japanese kachos (section chief) in the company where I work gave a speech where he emphasized a point by mentioning a certain manga he was reading – a totally inconceivable thing to do in the Philippines). If you look around (or stand long enough in front of the magazine stall in a convenience store), you can probably find one that you’ll like, although it’s probably an acquired taste.

  1. Learn Japanese habits and customs.

I’m talking about the simple ones like taking off your shoes when you enter a house (even your own) and separating the garbage into burnable and non-burnable kinds (depending on where you live). Also, it’s wise not to play your stereo too loud. That’s a good advice to all Filipino novices in Japan: “Be quiet!” Nothing causes friction with your Japanese neighbors more than the sound of your stereo or DVD player booming through the wall (which is usually not concrete). It’s also good to give little presents to your neighbors when you move in, and to greet them a hearty “Ohayo Gozaimasu!” when you meet them outside. Of course, if you’ve been partying all night to the sound of hip-hop music, don’t expect a warm reply.

When waiting for the train, buying stamps, checking out of a supermarket or using a crowded rest room, “Fall in line!” Line up patiently and wait for your turn. When driving a car, resist the temptation to beep, don’t stop on intersections and make way for people coming to your lane. When handing something to someone, do it with both hands and right-side-up (if it’s a book) or with the handle facing them (like scissors and similar objects). Small things like these give the impression that you think it’s worthwhile to learn their way, and will probably leave them a good impression of you. (There are other things, of course, so learn as many as you can.)

  1. Read a little Japanese history and update yourself on Japan’s current events.

Do you know the name of the Prime Minister of Japan? How about the maverick billionaire who heads the Internet company Livedoor? How about the names of the two cities where the atomic bombs where dropped? Did you know that Japan was the first Asian nation to defeat a European power? Or that there are presently 108 active volcanoes in Japan? (Neither did I).

Although it has no direct connection to our topic, familiarizing yourself with general facts about Japan will make you appreciate the country of your residence better and help you understand the psychology of the Japanese.

  1. Study Nihongo

There is no better way of blending into the society than by learning Nihongo, although for many people, this is a major undertaking. But if you plan to stay in Japan for more than two years, consider a serious study of Nihongo. Learning the Japanese language is hard and will take you at least a year of study to even make yourself barely intelligible, but it’s probably worth it. If you do study Japanese, it’s also worth it to study the kanjis. One kanji a day will give you 730 kanjis in two years, which is a respectable number. At the very least, you should learn to read hiragana and katakana.

Knowing Japanese will let you converse with the people next door, read Japanese newspapers, order effortlessly at a restaurant or explain to the policeman who just stopped you that you didn’t steal the bicycle you are riding on (we foreigners tend to bump into policemen regularly), while having the option of saying “Wakarimasen!” when you’re really in a tight spot. :smiley:

betong

09-10-2005, 12:05 AM

Uhhhhhhhhhhhh.heto… …

Hai. Wakarimashita. この ポスト が とても おもしろい と たいせつですね。
Hope that turned out alright in my beginner’s japanese:O.
Yep, it’s all about blending in. When in Rome, learn to drink espresso’s right?:cool:

maple

09-10-2005, 07:59 PM

Uhhhhhhhhhhhh.heto… …

Hai. Wakarimashita. この ポスト が とても おもしろい と たいせつですね。
Hope that turned out alright in my beginner’s japanese:O.
Yep, it’s all about blending in. When in Rome, learn to drink espresso’s right?:cool:

Hi Betong,

akala siguro ni Reon aalikabukin na lang itong article niya na ito:p

why do I see some protons:) in this reply of yours Betong? :wink:

ang galing mo na mag-Nihongo!

regards,
Maple

puting tainga

09-10-2005, 09:20 PM

Tama ang sinabi ni Reon, 1oo%!

I agree with him(her) wholeheartedly.

It’s so true that no one can deny it, yet everyone knows it’s not easy, there was almost no declaration of determination to do it.

betong

09-10-2005, 10:18 PM

why do I see some protons:) in this reply of yours Betong?

As in postively charged nuclear sub-atomic particles?:eek:

Baka may highly magnified glasses ka o hindi naman kaya ay superman ka.

Kung superman (woman) ka, dapat wag mo pakita sa mga Hapon. Remember you have to conform.
Kung may special glasses ka, saan mo ba yan nabili? Bili rin nga ako.:stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for the compliment, as Reon has been suggesting, I am trying to do everything to function in this society (pero kailangan ka na sigurong maligo ng araw-araw).

jpallon

09-13-2005, 02:36 PM

If watching Japanese dramas bore you, you can try listening to (and singing) Japanese pop songs. (J-Pop, with its catchy tunes and danceable beat, is also popular in many Asian countries.) You don’t need to be fluent in Japanese to sing Japanese songs. I know many people who sing Japanese songs without really knowing the meaning of the lyrics.

Count me as one of the many. :smiley: I (used) to know the Do As Infinity song Fukai Mori (2nd ending theme of the anime Inu Yasha) by heart. :bouncy: Of course I got some weird stares here in the US on my tastes of music but looks like I finally found a great perk. :smiley:

Thanks for compiling some advice for us, reon! :slight_smile:

honeybunny

02-10-2006, 09:45 PM

its one of a nice thread, sabi nga kung anong tugtog syang sayaw,kung hindi ka marunong makisama sa bansang pinuntahan mo,ang sabi ng mga japanese, philippine kaete:D

fire3

02-11-2006, 12:23 AM

A very nice thread !!! Very informative.:slight_smile: Keep up the good work reon! Hintayin ko pa yung mga susunod mong thread ha…

Ako, helpful sa akin yung japanese songs. Kahit di ako magaling kumanta. :band:Kanta parin… malaking dagdag sa vocabulary ko…

Hilig ko nga maghanap ng video songs na may lyrics in romanji and kanji…

http://www.youtube.com/ dito sa link na ito may mga nakikita ako…( para sa mga members na mahilig din mag aral ng nihongo thru japanese songs) Enjoy everyone !

Thanks reon!

adechan

02-11-2006, 02:00 AM

reon i really enjoyed reading this one

ritzyu

02-11-2006, 08:03 AM

its one of a nice thread, sabi nga kung anong tugtog syang sayaw,kung hindi ka marunong makisama sa bansang pinuntahan mo,ang sabi ng mga japanese, philippine kaete:D

honeybunny lupet mo naman :smiley: biro lang po, sa totoo lang na enjoy ako dito.
Ang daming thread noon na magaganda, husay po ninyong maghalungkat;)

gerugero

02-24-2006, 11:22 AM

Mina san! konichiwa…i agree with Reon…the tips were pretty straight forward, direct and effective, perhaps…just have to incorporate them with your system and it’s all downhill from there…maybe…guys …am a newbie with the group…aside from other interesting information i woould learn from joining here…may I ask this tiny favor from our kababayans who have been here long enough to be versed with mobile fones here? Would anyone from the group be familiar with japanese made mobile phones? i just got here and i wont be staying for long, be back in the philippines in about 2 months time, roughly…i would like to buy one which i could lso use back home…Im looking at the Sharp model being sold at Vodafone…but my concern is…would I be able to use it back home like other GSM mobile phones? I’ve been pondering on this para maiba naman ng konti…pare~pareho na kasi mga fon brands sa atin…I’d appreciate any attention n the subject at hand…lookin forward…big help…onegai shimashita…

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