26 February 2009 ~ 59 Comments

Acts of Retaliation #3: Don’t you understand Japanese?

One of my pet peeves is when staff people feel obligated to speak English to me because I’m not Japanese. Whether or not I’m using Japanese is irrelevant. My native language is irrelevant. Whether or not they can even speak English is irrelevant. Foreigner equals English. English is the language of foreigners.

So, occasionally, when I feel impatient with this presumptuousness, the following occurs:

Conversation 2/25/09 (at an Izakaya)

Me:Sumimasen… (Excuse me…)

Staff: Hai! (he turns and upon realizing I’m not Japanese) anooo! Please your order!

Me: Toriaezu, nama biiru wo kudasai (well, first of all, a regular draft beer please)

Staff: would you like beer, yes. I…

Me: Eee! Dou iu imi ka? Nama biiru wo wakarimasen? (What the hell does that mean? Don’t you understand what a beer is?)

Staff: Eeeto ne. (in a stage whisper) sukoshi Eigo mo  syaberemasu kedo… (then louder) English also I speak in English a little…

Me: Eigo? Kankei arimasen! Eigo ga zenzen wakarimasen…Nihongo wo hanashite iru yo ne. Nihon-go ga wakarannai no? (English? Your english ability is not  myconcern! I don’t understand English at all…I’m speaking Japanese aren’t I. Don’t you understand Japanese?)

Staff: Wakarimashita! Moshi wake gozaimasen! (Yes, I understand! Bowing deeply. I apologize. There’s no excuse for my behavior.)

Me: Mashi ni natta! Ja, biiru motte kite! (That’s better! Now, bring me my beer!)

Staff: kashikomarimashita, sho sho omachi kudasai (Certainly! please wait for a moment)

The End

Interesting video related to this topic below:

This guy is a naturalized Japanese citizen, formally American, and fights for the rights of non-Japanese Japanese citizens.

He shares my idea about this subject only he’s a little politer than me (-;

Quick shout out to my boy Justin at English Banditry! Thanks a lot for the info!!

Loco (-;

Related Posts with Thumbnails

59 Responses to “Acts of Retaliation #3: Don’t you understand Japanese?”

  1. Locohama 27 February 2009 at 7:24 am Permalink

    XO / EZ

    Man, you two!
    Thanks for the love! We ought to hook up…cold brewskis are on me (providing we ain't gotta hand out too many free English lessons to get it or wear ourselves out on the path of least resistance)
    No offense TLR. Shit, if i was in Hawaii I'd probably be toting around a lot less chips too. I hate the friggin winter.



    • Zen 27 February 2009 at 8:41 am Permalink

      Hehaha That was funny. However I can see both side of the coin here.

  2. Billy 27 February 2009 at 10:26 am Permalink

    – "It appears you took the long confrontational route instead of the least path of resistance."

    Very nicely put TLR.

    I remember when I used to take offense to someone speaking to me in English…especially when their English was worse than my Japanese. But I think that had something to do with my own laco of confidence in speaking JP. I would sometimes reply in Spanish just to throw them for a loop.

    But at the end of the day was it really worth getting worked up over? If that upset you then you're in for a long ride here in Japan (if you haven't had one already).


    • Hiero 27 February 2009 at 3:13 pm Permalink

      hi loco,

      i knew about this japanese-gaijin phenomenon quite some time ago.

      i've asked them japanese folks and they told me that because a lot of gaijins are horrendous in speaking their language – incomprehensible accent and all that, probably – that's why they speak to you in english. moreover, many have this illusion in their heads that they're fluent in japanese and believe that the japanese can understand every word, syllable they said.

      and japanese use english, i think, because they have this "accommodating to others" culture so they do it your way, which is why they speak your native language.

      that's why, i guess.

      i'm JLPT 2 but i'm struggling to make them folks understand me sometimes.


      • Locohama 27 February 2009 at 7:09 pm Permalink

        Hiero san, thanks for your thoughtful reply (-:
        It's not quite a phenomenon, but I know what u mean. I have, of course, inquired as to why they do it and had been satisfied with the varying responses, ranging from the one you mentioned to they want to practice. But, my point is how do they know I speak English? The staffperson has no idea what country I'm from. It's the assumption that I must be an English speaker that rubs me the wrong way at times. And apparently that position is shared by some of the foreigners living here as well. That's troubling. But, i have to step back sometimes and remember that I am a product of a multi-cultural community and city (New York) so I learned to respect other cultures and cultural differences. Many westerners, even Americans, come from homogeneous communities not very different from those found here in Japan. So they find Japanese behavior tolerable for it isn't far removed from their own thinking and behavior back home.

        I guess what I was doing was more a reminder to that staff person (assuming they were aware at some point) that there are more than two languages in the world. I could have been Nigerian, Cuban, Peruvian, etc…Many countries are not English Speaking countries. The fact that I was using Nihongo, and apparently understandable Nihongo, gave HIM an opening. He could have asked, in Nihongo, whether or not I spoke English. If he,or any staff person, were to do that i would be so grateful I would speak to him or her in any langauge they preferred. (-:

        A student of mine told me that when he was in America, some Americans would assume he was Chinese and say 'Nihao" to him in restaurants! I was aghast! That's to say this is definitely not solely a Japanese "phenomenon" to be sure. And trust me I do understand their efforts to be accommodating, but sometimes I don't want to be 'accommodated' or 'accommodating' if allowing myself to be accommodated in English means I have to suffer through English altogether ruder than the Nihongo they would have used- replete with imperatives and what not (sit please! wait please!) I'll pass. I'd much prefer to be pampered with keigo. (-: Once you understand the difference between the formal and the super formal you really develop an affinity for it. Also, sometimes when staff people speak English, they have a tendency to get tooooo casual, by comparison, thinking this is "western" style and the way "we" expect or prefer to be treated. Again, this is presumptuous. And sometimes I feel compelled to let them know.

        Sorry for the long winded response. You caught me in a writing mood and you seem like a thoughtful person, so I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on my response.


    • Locohama 27 February 2009 at 7:38 pm Permalink

      Billy san, thanks for the reply.
      I wouldn't say I was worked up. I was just throwing them for a loop like you said, a shout out for the non-eigo speaking peoples of the world(-:Universal language? I don't think so, and 2 billion in China will back me up (-:

      It's just a peeve.


  3. ItAintEazy 27 February 2009 at 2:35 pm Permalink

    Free beer? Count me in, Sensei!

  4. jturningpin 28 February 2009 at 8:29 am Permalink

    >Ja, biiru motte kite!

    This gave me a loud bark of laughter. "Fetch me mine beer, heathen!"

    Have had a couple similar episodes myself this past month, but haven't gone quite so extreme in my response. Yet another reason I enjoy reading this blog so much. Thanks, Loco.

    • Locohama 28 February 2009 at 5:51 pm Permalink

      Well, I wasn't thinking Heathen for there's nothing Christian about me, but the fetch part is about right. Do your friggin job!
      Thanks for the shout JT


  5. cooledskin 28 February 2009 at 3:40 pm Permalink

    "Nihau" = "Nihao," actually.

  6. Mike 28 February 2009 at 9:15 pm Permalink

    Hmm. Seems rather a rude way of dealing with the situation. I guess you must have been pretty peeved in order to result to humiliating that staff member…

    As much as I agree with you that many Japanese people still hold latent assumptions about other cultures, I would in no way think that the staff member was trying to be rude to you. Even people trying to practice their English on you, while irritating, is still a rare sign of assertiveness and hospitality for many Japanese people. I don't know many British people who would try and do the same thing for foreigners here.

    Well. I'm guessing this post was half written to amuse, anyway.

    • Locohama 1 March 2009 at 2:06 am Permalink

      Thanks for the shout Mike…

      I tried to react the way somebody who didn't speak English would react to the assumption and reassertion that he could.
      Maybe it seems cruel because I can speak English…but try to imagine it otherwise.

      Maybe it was a tad over the top though….syou ga nai


  7. Bored in Kanagawa 1 March 2009 at 2:02 am Permalink

    Hello Loco,
    Very interesting read and one I think alot of foreigners have troble with. I understand how you feel, however, my friends and I handle the situation on our terms. What I mean by this is I only speak Japanese when it matters the most. Sometimes I feel to many foreigners go completely out of their way to prove their ability to Japanese. I’ve been to conferences with my Japanese colleagues and the other Americans go out of their way to switch an English conversation over to Japanese as thought they think it will earn some points or something. If I go to a restaurant and I’m greeted in English it doesn’t bother me in the least it only adds comfort for me. Suppose for the moment you force them to converse in Japanese to you and they accommodate by speaking on a level that you have yet to comprehend – How would that make you feel? And how much longer would the conversation be at this point when you could already have what you desired to begin with. I also think it is totally fair for them to assume by default that you can speak English as most foreigners here can regardless of nationality. Imagine being a Frenchman in Japan that could speak neither English nor Japanese. Most of us can agree that most Western Europeans can speak some degree of English. Once you have lived here longer I think these feelings will fade to the background of your mind and you will learn to use the language when you need and you certainly don’t to order a beer.

    • Locohama 1 March 2009 at 2:10 am Permalink

      Hey Bored,

      Well Said…food for thought! (and I mean it!) I have been and continue to be victimized by my deficiencies in spoken Nihongo.
      As far as the other part, I think some people (though I'm not sure why you singled Americans out) probably go out of their way because it seems to my POV that japanese go out of their way to push their belief that Nihongo can only be spoken affectively by natives…that the complxities of Nihongo can only be hurdled by Japanese minds. It's a normal reaction to that kind of thinking I think, to prove an ignorant assumption wrong when the opportunity presents itself. Maybe it's just a competitive instinct that americans have or maybe we just detest presumption more than other people because of our history with presumption and the many errors and inhumanity that resulted from it…sure it's hard to conceive of any crimes against humanity coming from the japanese but sometimes they start small…then grow. Best to nip that shit in the bud while it's a relative non issue. Certain issues need to be addressed one way or another. One of these issues, I believe, is this notion that they, or anyone, is superior in any way to anyone else, by design, or by nationality, or by nature. Cause that seed can certainly fester into something much worse i'm sure you agree.

      Thanks for the advice (-;


  8. Mike 1 March 2009 at 2:53 am Permalink

    When this happened to me I used to speak English so quickly and with as many complex words as possible that the waiter would be forced to give up, then I'd use Japanese.

    • Locohama 1 March 2009 at 4:34 am Permalink

      Thanks Mike,

      that's funny…another good idea!!


      • Locohama 3 March 2009 at 12:10 am Permalink

        Thanks for the Shout Billy-san (-:
        Yep, it rankles and vexes and makes a lousy day lousier…


  9. Hiero/fudgepudge 1 March 2009 at 9:22 am Permalink


    >> this guy has some interesting experience with the local folks too.. you guys should talk~!



    • billywest 2 March 2009 at 11:53 pm Permalink

      I feel ya on this one, Loco. Usually, I just let it slide, but on a lousy day, it tends to rankle.

  10. xuncius 4 March 2009 at 9:02 am Permalink

    I guess you have too much of an accent, which japanese people are not used to, so it just feels awkward to them to speak in Japanese. When you get better you don't have this problem.

  11. ItAintEazy 5 March 2009 at 10:28 am Permalink

    I dunno, first of all, the guys were speaking in rapid-fire English, so you can forgive the waitress for assuming that they would only understand English. Second of all, I don't care how long he lived in Japan, he has a very heavy accent that is common for people that learn a language at an adult age, and like you said, this very insular island country just is not exposed to enough foreigners for the people to get used to accents. And third, the interviewer said the same thing happened in Kyuushuu, hell I don't even think they even speak Japanese there, if they do, it's very non-standard so it's a moot point.

    All right, done advocating for the Devil, the waitress needs to fucking pay attention. Is it that really hard?

    • LB 7 March 2009 at 2:25 am Permalink

      You know, while I have had Japanese just start talking to me in English, I have honestly never had a Japanese continue speaking to me in English after I started speaking Japanese. Maybe I am blessed that way.

      I do admit to finding it annoying when people assume that someone speaks English based on the fact they look foreign (as in white or black usually). There was a manager at the McDonald's on Showa-Dori next to Akihabara Station who was infamous (or is, I haven't been there in a long time, no desire to what with BK right next door) for seeing a foreigner and turning the menus over to the English side, as well as switching into English herself. Me, I'd just give the menu a funny look, say 英語読めへん, turn the menu back over and place the order in Japanese. She'd keep yammering in English, and I'd just look at here like she was a Martian and keep speaking in Japanese. だから英語解らへんって。なに?

      That said, as ItAintEazy already pointed out, you got two fat white boys yammering away at each other in English in a restaurant, and the waitress who ALSO speaks English (and quite well) notices and addresses the customers in English. That is called "courtesy" by most folks who aren't Debito and don't have a massive ship on their shoulder.

      • Locohama 7 March 2009 at 2:56 am Permalink

        Funny! Actually he spoke to her in Japanese and she continued in English as if to ignore his Japanese. You don't find that just a tad bit rude? If it happens often enough it's enough to put a chip on Ghandi"s shoulder!!(-; I think MLK would jab someone after a while. LOL


  12. P 12 March 2009 at 9:40 pm Permalink

    I have to admit, it really annoys me when they break out the English on me when, a) I've already spoken to them in Japanese and b) they are clearly not capable of continuing the conversation in English unless I slow it down, simplify it or even speak with a katakana inflection. But I wish it didn't annoy me because it happens a lot and I never feel good after I've reacted to one of these ingurishu episodes. Afterwards I think, I could have just said "It's ok I speak Japanese" or something witty and brushed it off but they always catch me off guard and I end up saying "Look I ordered in Japanese why are you trying to speak English?" or something like that.
    I have however had friendly conversations with people here in English when it has become apparent that they can hold a conversation. Of all the times I pretended to be French, German and once even Brazilian it turned out that the random punter who had tried to start a conversation with me was fluent in the language of my new randomly chosen nationality. Hearing this I obviously complemented them on their pronunciation of Portuguese or other said language then tried to get away as quickly as possible. So yeah, I understand how you feel but maybe you should try and find a new way to have fun with this recurring situation not because English is a widely spoken international language, not because "chill out man they are only trying to be polite" not even because a very large proportion of the westerners out here can't speak Japanese but because you'll feel better about the exchange afterwards and probably live longer. The other sollution would be to get a full Sean Connery in You only live twice makeover and change your name to Suzuki.

    • Locohama 12 March 2009 at 9:46 pm Permalink


      P, you just made my list!!! Now you've obligated yourself to responding regularly because I'll be expecting to hear from you, and if you don't I'll cyber stalk you hehehe
      Thanks for the helluva shout and please come back….or else


  13. P 12 March 2009 at 10:29 pm Permalink

    Don't think I've ever been cyber stalked. Do I have to do anything?

    • Locohama 12 March 2009 at 10:44 pm Permalink

      beats me! I've never cyber stalked before…but if it's anything like the real thing then all you have to do is lock your doors and windows….lol
      but there's an easier way…just drop me a line or two from time to time. I'm easily appeased.
      and thanks again

  14. erik 18 March 2009 at 6:53 pm Permalink

    its the same everywhere, Japanese speaking English in the states and folks go wow, you speak English or they speak really slow English thinking that will help..
    in Japan, most gaijin don't speak Japanese so they are shocked to hear gaijin speaking Japanese. My pet peeve is those Japanese who just learn slang esp those Japanese girls who've been hanging around gaijin trash too long http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/vermilion-pleasur

    • 音吉 31 March 2009 at 7:23 am Permalink

      こんにちは。空さんのブログから来ました。ロコさんのブログは、読むのはすごくたいへんですが、とてもおもしろい・・・タダの英語レッスンありがとう 🙂


      engrish を使う日本人にも、悪い気持ちはまったくないんですよ。erik さんの言うとおり、むかしは、日本語を使える外国のひとはほとんどいなかったので、単になれてないのです。たしかに日本人の「ガイジン=英語」の先入観はひどいけど、これはかならずしも差別ではないし、また「日本語の心は日本人にしかわからない (Nihongo can only be spoken affectively by natives)」などと考えているひとは、いまはほとんどいません。平均的な日本人より日本語がうまい外国人は、すでにたくさんいますしね。



      • Lobo 21 August 2012 at 10:48 pm Permalink


  15. Simon 1 September 2009 at 2:29 am Permalink

    Loco, just a friendly tip for next time this happens (because you KNOW it will …)

    Instead of ビール持ってきて, you ought to be saying ビール持って来い! which is much more fitting of your masculinity. Similarly, switch よね with のだ to become much more forthright.

    These are a bit more in keeping with how insulted you are (supposed to be) in such a situation and show that you are (even!) aware of your higher position to the lowly waiter.

    • Locohama 1 September 2009 at 3:04 am Permalink

      thanks simon, can't say I felt so insulted. Just a peeve is all.

  16. Janay 11 March 2010 at 10:39 pm Permalink

    I know that this is an older post, but I've just started looking through your blog and I love it! I've only been to Japan for 2 weeks so far and even in that short time, I've been through a lot of what you've talked about… certainly being African American, but that's a whole 'nother comment XD

    This was one thing that bothered me also. I know that there were sometimes that I did screw up a grammar point, but there were also times when I knew that my Japanese was spot on and I'd get this clueless look from people. "I know that you understood konnichwa!" I would think! It was especially annoying being automatically handed the English menu at restaurants (that only listed about 7 items from the actual menu for some reason) and again getting a crazy look when I ask for the Japanese one.

    I know that most Americans come over not even knowing what island they're on, never mind the language, so I can understand… but give us a chance! Dang!

    Alright, that's enough of my rant… I'm looking forward to reading more of your work!

    • Locohama 11 March 2010 at 10:54 pm Permalink

      Thanks Janay! Yeah, it can get to be a bit much sometimes, but i'm used to it as much as anyone can get used to that…like getting used to someone pelting you with stones everyday LOL…enjoy! And drop comments anytime!

  17. Kendall Koelling 19 January 2011 at 2:25 pm Permalink

    I like Justin's style. I'd rather not be rude, but still get the point across. I get annoyed by the impatience to listen to a foreigner speak Japanese. Especially considering there are many foreigners who travel to Japan with the intent of learning Japanese.

  18. ChanelNo5 21 August 2012 at 7:29 am Permalink

    Loco you are so funny!!!

    Thank-you for funny and clever blog posts!

    I don’t know how you sound so I always read your posts in Bobby Olugun voice! He is funny too!

  19. Lobo 21 August 2012 at 9:54 pm Permalink

    Hi Loco,

    Nice blog, really!!
    I can’t agree more about your point. It is even more frustrating to me because I’m French. Of course I can speak English but I’m always pretending I don’t in those cases. So it goes like this:

    me: nama biiru wo kudasai (a draft beer please)
    staff: you order a beer?
    me: quoi? c’est de l’anglais? (what was that? is it English)
    staff: solly?
    me: you spiiik Frrrrench?
    staff: no, solly, engrish.
    me: sumimasen, furansujin de eigo wa zenzen wakarimasen. dou shiyou? nihongo o shaberu tenin inee ka yo koko wa… (Sorry, I’m French and/so I don’t understand English at all. How can we understand each other now? I can’t believe there isn’t any waiter who can speak Japanese here…)

    There, the staff guy eyes usually do something weird, it really seems like he is hard rebooting himself and it takes a little time to make him operational again….
    staff: nama biiru deshita ne. kashikomarimashita.

  20. Mynamehere 22 August 2012 at 9:23 am Permalink


    This is essencially my probable first, last and only submission to this site. I don’t mean to be the guy who comes in to rain on everyone’s parade, nor do I usually pay attention to said “oppression” topics, but I saw your interview in yesterday’s Japan Times. I was interested as to what thought was being put into a book with such a title, so I looked up your website to see more.
    Seeing as though I’m only writing once, I’m just going to write this in a random blog segment of yours, one that feels the most appropriate to what I have to say.
    I realize that you have a lot of issues with this country and the way that foreigners are often treated. Living here for over 10 years, I’ve had my fair share too. Things like being stopped by the police (three times for me), or in this blog’s case unnecessary English, along with my personal pet peeve; “Your Japanese is very good!!” definately put an emotional strain on everyday life. However that’s not the problem. We are.
    Now, I realize in saying this, I would probably fall under your second catagory of foreigners; the anti-foreigner who “accepts” things and will usually follow it up with a “If you don’t like it, get out” attitude. I’m not here to say that. However, I do feel that we are the problem as we are creating more harm for ourselves in this “retalliaton against oppression” than good.
    Take this blog’s subject at hand for example. People who refuse to acknowledge your Japanese ability and reply to you in English. Your and Debito’s answer is to be rude to them, even speak down to them. While this is a fantastic ego trip to be a jerk to someone and then blog or vlog about it later on the internet, in reality it’s showing that waitress that the foreigner she met today was a rude incensitive customer.
    Now take into account all the foreigners she knows. Maybe there’s many, maybe not, but either way this encounter makes up for a percentage of that giving off the impression that “foreigners CAN be rude.” If you’re the only foreigner she’s ever met, then that means 100% of all foreigners in her life were complete asses to her, dispite the fact that she was only doing her job; serving the customer to the best of her ability. While I wasn’t a witness to your case, you gave us Debito’s case via You Tube.
    Here, two men were speaking English in a restaurant, loud enough to be heard by others. The waitress decided to use the language that they were using. One man, Debito decided to use Japanese. That’s fine. It still doesn’t mean that the other guy is proficient. So she continued. It makes sense. If they wanted to avoid this situation from the begining, they should be speaking the language of this country in the first place, like everyone else.
    This is the problem and the paradox that your blog is producing. Many foreigners suffer from the same ego trip. They believe they should be treated the same as everyone else, but at the same time, the rules of society that all citizens obey without complaint somehow do not apply and it’s “OK” for us foreigners to break them. Yes, speaking English in public is part of it. All things that make you stand out from others does it. While it’s not against the law, it does immeadiately give others the impression that you’re not on the same page as everyone else is. It’s not “wrong” but at the same time it also doesn’t help you blend in either.
    At this point, most jaded foreigners would chime in that their very existance makes it impossible to blend it. That’s true. That’s what happens when you’re a minority. We’ve spent most of our lives not being aware of the lives of a true minority (less than 1% of the population) is like that most are shocked and appauled when they expirience it. Too bad. That’s reality. No one is going to suddenly say, “Hey, let’s give foreigners more rights because one of them was rude to a waitress in a restaurant!” That’s never going to happen. Never.
    However what MIGHT happen is that bad reputation from one guy being rude could (and often does) spread. We’ve often heard of instances where foreigners committing crimes are “on the rise”. They’re not, and most of us understand that. The general public does not. What they do understand is that “yesterday a non-Japanese person robbed a convinience store.” That’s all. That’s also all it takes to introduce a perception in someone’s mind that foreigners CAN commit crimes too. Maybe that person is a publisher. Maybe that person thinks they could make a profit from making a magazine about foreigner crime in this country. It has happened before, and it has happened for a reason. Do all foreigners commit crimes? No. One guy did though, and that was all it took. One guy was also rude to a waitress too, and that’s all it takes to change her perceptions on the foreign population forever.
    This is my point. While I understand and appreciate your views and will to fight for the rights of the less than 1% in this country, I also wish you’d stop as it would be far more beneficial to the future of us non-Japanese if there wasn’t someone giving a bad image for the rest of us who are just trying to be an active part of the community.
    If you truely want to be accepted, it’s simple. Get JLPT 1, abandon your native language, go outside and meet the native people of this country head on. Don’t half ass it. JLPT2, or a semi-lingual ability with a giant ego to go with it is NOT going to cut it. JLPT1 is an easy test, I got it without studying and that’s because I spend my life outside with real people. People that I meet for the first time do not understand my character, thinking or philosophies at first. Good. They will in time as we get to know eachother. Maybe a waitress wants to practice her English on me. I understand and appreciate that, but I came here to set roots and be a working part of this country so I opt for the national language. Yes, there is a conflict of interests. No, not everyone is like that. This is ONE person in a sea of many. Judging an entire nation of people based off the select few people who treat you in a way that they are unaware you’re opposed to is truely racist. For that, Loco, you are just as you say you are. Racist.
    However, this is a plea on behalf of the quiet few of us who just wish to live here peacefully; STOP. You’re creating more harm than good. Being rude and writing about it on the internet will teach others that it’s acceptable, and it will create a small dent in our otherwise already scathed foreigner persona. Writing a book on the otherhand, will reach more people, even others who haven’t been to this country before. It will teach them that it is wrong to blend as foreigners deserve to be acknowledged as equal with extra benefits. It will teach them that the native people of this country are just as racist and inhumane as you make them out to be, dispite that only being true for a very small part of the population. STOP. Stop now. It is hard enough going through everyday life trying to undo the prejudices and profiles that elitist foreigers of the past have created, while others are constantly attempting to spread it further. STOP. Please please stop.
    If you truely want to make this country a better place, commit 120% to living here and be a good person. It’s that simple. If either of those are not your goal, then I will end this by coining the popular phrase used by my “type” when presented with an arogant elitist tourist who is ruining the quality of life for everyone and complains in the midst of it; If you don’t like it, leave.

    Thank you for reading this until the end, and I hope you and others will take it under consideration, instead of brushing it under the internet carpet with the rest of the common sense that most have forgotten about.

    Best of luck in the future,
    My name here

    • Locohama 22 August 2012 at 11:38 am Permalink

      Seems you got me all figured out (from reading one post) and japan all figured out as well. Well geez I guess I’ll go right out and learn some Japanese and speak it allthe time even to other english speakers because thats the japanese way and then all will be well because then I’ll be showing respect for them and be more readily able to assimilate and speed read people and become part of the gaijin anonymous masses that go around spreading the gospel of jplt as solution to the ills in japan and… Wait a minute! There goes last nights pizza all over my tatami…thanks a lot, brb.

      • agreeswith_mynamehere 23 August 2012 at 11:14 am Permalink

        Japan times online brought me here and i randomly clicked on this article and read through the comments section. Ive been in japan for 7 years now and have experienced all the peeves that was mentioned. For example to assume that I am able to speak English just coz im a foreigner is highly insulting to my mother tongue (which is not English btw) so i totally “get” what all my other gaijin brethren are saying here.

        I strongly agree and also disagree with some of the points that mynamehere made. For example i dont agree that you should abandon your mother tongue just to be accepted in this country. I plan to stay here for the forseeable future but that doesnt mean that I should forget my roots and become 100% Japanese….which strictly speaking is impossible anyway because you simply cannot erase those 20,30,40 years you spent in your home country before coming to Japan.

        On the other hand, mynamehere made some very very very good points about not giving a bad name to foreigners living in japan. What do you gain from being rude to a waiter at a bar? Nothing, apart from an ego trip coz you got to be the machoman that put that d*ck waiter in his place for assuming that you could talk English. I find that rude behaviour inexcusable, coz he’s not trying to be racist or anything. He’s just been brought up in a society where he has been repeatedly told that foreigners do not speak Japanese.
        To illustrate my point, my mother tongue, Malay, is spoken only in Malaysia and Indonesia. I can count to number of times that Ive met a caucasian person in Malaysia with my fingers and none of them could speak Malay so generally speaking, to me, caucasians cant speak Malay. So naturally if a caucasian person were to talk to me in Malay, I’d probably be totally caught of guard and my brain would be working overtime to change into Malay mode when it was set in English mode, so I also totally “get” how the Japanese feel.

        And anyway, EVEN IF it really gets to you, or EVEN IF you think that it is your obligation to “educate” the waiter that just coz someone don’t look Japanese doesn’t mean that you should speak English to that person, then couldn’t you do it in a calm, measured manner? Just smile and calmly say
        「あの、私は日本語が話せます。だって今日本語で注文したんでしょ?日本語で話したのに英語で返ってくると。。。。ちょっと。。。うれしくない気分ですね。今後気をつけましょうね (^-^)」
        (Urmm….I can speak Japanese. I mean I just ordered in Japanese didn’t I? If you reply to me in English, even though I just spoke Japanese, then well…..that doesn’t make me feel very happy you know. Let’s not make the same mistake again ok? :-)

        The waiter would immediately apologize profusely 「大変申し訳ございません!」 but you don’t come off as a pr*ck and you maintain your dignity and that of your foreign brethren. And you might also have scored points and boosted the image of the foreign community for being polite about the waiter’s faux pas.

        After reading your replies to some of the comments here, I had the general impression that you Locohama were a good person. However that image has been dented by your reply to mynamehere. I was really looking forward to your reply to mynamehere’s insightful comment but I was utterly disappointed by your sarcastic and sweeping remark “well geez I guess I’ll…..”
        You are writing a blog that is open to public view, so it is also normal that there will be people writing their opinions that you don’t agree with. But that doesnt mean that you should brush that remark off with a sarcastic sweeping comment. Mynamehere took the time to write a 1500 word essay on your blog. As a writer don’t you think you should constructively respond to that with something as equally insightful and specifically comment on which part you disagree on and why, and what should be done about it?

        I’m hypothesizing here, so tell me if I’m right, but I think when mynamehere called you a racist, that really hit a nerve, and that’s why you responded as such. But it’s never too late. You can totally make up for that appalling reply by coming up with something good.

        Looking forward to a lively and constructive discussion,

        • Locohama 23 August 2012 at 11:33 am Permalink

          Cuz I don’t like fake email addresses and Cuz his presumptuous tone is very similar to yours…and very similar to Some japanese people like that waiter and oh god, geeez why does this keep happening…must be something I ate…or read brb

        • Locohama 23 August 2012 at 12:40 pm Permalink

          Ok, I’m back…
          1- as the post plainly states, OCCASIONALLY, I do this. You and whatshisname feel a need to reprimand me for my imperfections…barf-worthy
          2- I have to represent all foreigners everyday. Too much responsibility for one man to have. It’ll never work. I shouldn’t even be expected to represent black people. We’re as diverse as any other superficial human designation (otherwise known as races)
          3- I think that If you want to be respected, you should show respect. Not come to another persons blog and presume to teach him good manners when dealing with Japanese. Are you guys for real?
          4- YOu know what, I’m done overstating the obvious…feel free to chastise me as you see fit. Clearly I’m the problem here in japan and if it weren’t for gaijin like me gaijin like you and whatshisname with fake email address would be better off. Sorry if my poor management of my emotions makes your life here more difficult. (doesn’t that even sound wrong to you?)

          • agreeswith_mynamehere 29 August 2012 at 5:57 pm Permalink

            its agreeswith_mynamehere again.

            first let me apologize. after reading my post again, i suppose i did come off a little strong stating my opinions.

            second, lets stay on topic here. i actually don’t see the big deal with mynamehere using a fake email address. im guessing s/he just didn’t want to give out personal information on the internet. we all do it. but that doesnt make his opinions any less valid.

            third, let me reiterate again that i think that the waiter was rude for speaking to you in english even though you had already engaged in japanese. but i can tell you that he did not mean to be rude or was he purposely dissing you. im pretty sure a lot of people have told you that. a japanese person called 音吉 wrote gave his perspective of a japanese person something very similar up there somewhere in the comments. it’s just a thing that happens here in japan, and also other countries in the world including mine, that foreigner = speaks english.

            it is, in your words, very presumptuous and he was wrong, but instead of putting him down, couldn’t you try to understand him and try to see the world through his eyes? he was brought up in a country where there is this bad preconceived notion that all foreigners speak english and/or horrible japanese. so he sees this typical looking foreigner, you, and in his mind he goes, “OMG this gaijin is trying to place an order. holy shit but i cant speak english! omg what the hell do i do?”

            he’s so flustered that even when you spoke japanese to him, the japanese you were saying to him just couldn’t process in his mind. again, him speaking english was rude, but he really didnt mean any harm.

            this of course contrasts very sharply with a waiter who greets you with, “Whatchu want? Hurry up I aint got all fucking day!” He was rude too, but this time he really meant to be rude. In this situation, i think it would be your responsibility to give that waiter a tongue lashing, but with that japanese waiter, i think you should have let it slide, or just give a polite suggestion of what to do next time when dealing with foreign customers.

            if you keep this in mind that he means no agony to you, then you should see that there is no reason to put him down….even if you do it occasionally.

            >2- I have to represent all foreigners everyday. Too much responsibility for one man to have.
            –> you’re right. and i was mistaken to say “not giving a bad name to foreigners living in japan”. i take it back.

            >3- I think that If you want to be respected, you should show respect. Not come to another persons blog and presume to teach him good manners when dealing with Japanese.
            –> like i said in the beginning, i guess i came off a little strong and i apologize.

            >4 – feel free to chastise me as you see fit. Clearly I’m the problem here in japan and if it weren’t for gaijin like me gaijin like you and whatshisname with fake email address would be better off
            –> i did not come here to chastise you. actually i come here in peace. i just wanted to say that are better solutions than the way you dealt with the waiter. just let it slide or tell him, discreetly and politely, that you do not agree with his actions

          • Locohama 29 August 2012 at 6:34 pm Permalink

            I think letting it slide IS the problem…that and people like you two who think / feel it’s your responsibility to make us less observant, less knowledgable, and less inclined to make peace with the natives, type gaijin aware of the handicap japanese people suffer from…How can they be expected to behave any diffeently? They’re Japanese fr’chrissakes
            geezus! You should hear yourself

  21. Name Witheld 25 September 2012 at 10:53 pm Permalink

    Agree entirely with Mynamehere.

    What I notice is that a lot of foreigners attracted to Japan do not fit in very well here and are not interested in fitting in. They are often newly graduated, having never worked a proper job O/S and have an idealised view of the world. This view would have been crushed sooner or later at home, but taken abroad and added to culture shock it creates a certain culture, especially given that many work low grade teaching jobs with low salary and little career progression. I think it creates a negativity.

    Japan is generally a very very good country. Japanese are generally very very good people. I believe that racism is not prevalent in Japan – and I have heard this same opinion from non white foreigners working for Japanese companies outside of the metropolises. Personally I just have never experienced any racism in my time in Japan or my daily dealings with Japanese people over the last 5 years. None. Not once. I just do not get why some people seem to have ongoing issues?

    Came here from Japan Times as well.

    • Locohama 25 September 2012 at 11:36 pm Permalink

      Whatever yo! Thanks for the shout, nameless one

  22. Sanna 3 October 2012 at 5:42 am Permalink

    Hmm. Common theme, that. I am a bit familiar with it myself. A couple of years ago I lived in Lebanon for a while. I’m quite good at arabic, but it is still my third language so off course you can hear that I’m a foreigner. I remember one time when I ordered food at a restaurant in an upscale neighborhood of Beirut. I place the order in arabic, but the waiter wants to show off his french. When he almost chastises me for speaking in arabic (some lebanese tend to wish they were really french, but don’t say that to anybody…), I tell him I don’t speak french, and asks why I should not speak in arabic. Because it would be better for both you and me, he said. That was openly rude and arrogant, I think, although I doubt he understood how humiliating his words were for my prickly self esteem. He didn’t get any tip.

    I don’t agree with the guys in the video though. I still think it can be an act of maybe misdirected politeness (however awkward) to try to make yourself understood for what you perceive is a foreign guest… Aren’t there plenty of gaijin in Japan that do the same? With naive well-meaning and misdirected respect they think that every japanese person they meet carry the spirit of the samurai, while failing to see japanese people as individuals, and a people more or less just as stupid as the rest of us. Hence the inevitable disappointment and culture crash after a while… Or am I completely wrong?

    My point is, I think it’s okay to take the potential conflict, it’s okay to be a bit ironic and sarcastic to make your point clear – like I once said to a syrian friend, you know, I am not deaf. I don’t understand some of the words you’re using, but my hearing is perfectly fine, so you don’t need to scream in my ear. She blushed, and stopped speaking so loudly (although she would relaps every once in a while). But humiliating someone seems un-necessary and arrogant – i don’t know what the guy says to the waitress since I don’t understand japanese, but what they say afterwards sounds quite arrogant and condescending. Why would she care that he wants to learn more from her culture? That’s just the thing about strangers, you don’t know these things about them – some people are here to learn japanese, some people are here for a weekend of business or vacation while refusing to admit they are outside of the states… And maybe I don’t give a damn about being japanese, japaneseness, fujisan, matsuri and happi-coats and whatever – maybe I’m from korean descent or whatever, and just as annoyed at my lack of rights as you. And after a brief exchange she switches languages to japanese, right – this is a sign that she gets his point, no? She’s like, okay, I get it, two beers coming right up… or whatever they are saying.

    I think mistakes like these are inevitable in a multicultural society. And I think all of us make these mistakes, so we should be a bit forgiving. Ignorance is not a crime, so one should have patience with idiots to some extent. The idiots who finally get the point, at least. The idiots who don’t, that’s another question. Feel free to educate them as you wish. 😉

  23. Odd 12 July 2015 at 9:56 am Permalink

    They are trying to be hospitable and provide good service. That they’ve tried and learned even ‘some’ English, in order to try and provide better service, is commendable in my opinion. In many places, you walk into a bar and try to order something, the barkeep will yell at you to speak the local language. In Japan, they try to communicate in a globally understood language, and bow and apologize in the face of abuse from rude foreigners.

  24. mike 5 June 2016 at 6:01 pm Permalink

    The whole nice thing wears off pretty quickly and evolves into irritation. The high pitched voice talking like a 5 year old doesnt do it for me, and I dont think its sweet. I just want to order, get it done and get on with business. I dont care about being nobodies friend or object of interest. I love Western service and giving tips. “sir, would you like a refill” Sure babe, thanks! she making the rounds, during her hustle, I love watching it all, reminds me when I was younger. Its just part of the whole experience and atmosphere. I love giving tips because I know that hustle. They get that extra to build themselves up go to school etc. I hate fake Japanese service. When the last time you got a refill? Some smug Japanese girl getting paid 900 yen an hour takes out her frustration on the gaijin. Ive had it done to me. I always call the management latter, Id like to think I played a part in getting one fired for it because she was no longer there when I checked but maybe she quit.

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