Before I came to Japan, I definitely held some pre-conceived ideas about what Japan, and Japanese people, would be like. Some of these assumptions were pretty much on the mark, but there were others that surprised me.
So it got me thinking – I wonder what Japanese people think of me? What pre-conceived ideas do Japanese people have about foreigners? I quizzed a few of my Japanese friends to discover what they think are generally held ideas of Gaijin in Japan.
English people are thought of as similar to Japanese in personality – they cherish tradition but are not overly patriotic. High quality tea and scones spring to mind, as do picturesque country cottages. Some Japanese consider the English to be snobby from time to time, although their thrifty nature is much respected. Plain, bland food is something often associated with English people and their country.
There are a lot of American’s in Japan, so difference of opinion depends on which Americans they’ve met. However, it’s generally held that Americans are friendly and casual, although they can be overtly patriotic and it’s thought that they want to be seen as a hero. Americans are synonymous with unhealthy food and hamburgers.
Asians are often obsessed with all things Paris, so their views on the French are particularly interesting. The Japanese think French people are stylish and fashionable (of course) but that they don’t like spending a lot of money – not thrifty, per se, they just buy good quality things that last a long time and don’t often need replacing. The French, with their fine cuisine, are thought to be fussy about food, and perhaps a little shorter than other Europeans (though my research concludes that there is actually little difference in it).
Chinese people, of whom there are many in Japan, are thought to be outing and extrovert, and nosier than other Asians. They country is synonymous with cheap, bad-quality products that need replacing often. Japanese people consider the Chinese to be very group orientated, and they take good care of their friends.
Having not met many Koreans before, I was keen to discover what the Japanese think of them. They consider Koreans to be the most emotive of Asians – they wear their heart on their sleeves, are open and express their emotions freely. Koreans are patriotic and very family-orientated – they want to be seen a sophisticated and well-off. Matters of much importance to them are material objects, titles, careers and academic pursuits.
So what do the Japanese think of themselves? Well, their opinion is pretty much in line with the ideas I held before coming here. The Japanese consider themselves to be the quietest Asian culture, reserved and introverted. It’s hard to know the honest opinion of a Japanese person – even to each other they conceal true feelings. Japanese also like to go abroad – probably why they hold such informed opinions on other cultures!