Why foreigners in Japan are creepy but it is OK!

  • Japan – with all its facets – is a mysterious and very exotic country. Foreigners get either to love it or stay forever puzzled. And those who stay longer here surpass a queer metamorphosis. They become extremely strange and will never be able to recover, me included.

    Japanese who stay abroad and come back to Japan often face difficulties in adjusting back to social norms and often feel unhappy here. So called kikoku shijo (帰国子女), kids who lived abroad, came back to Japan and had to go back to Japanese schools, used to be treated very differently during the 60’s and 70’s. They were categorised as difficult children who lack the ability of following and were too focused on individual character.

    This is similar for foreigners who stay in Japan. The cultural clashes are so strong, that no matter what they do, they will often stay eccentric and strange. If they keep their “foreign” behaviour they are just “plain rude” and KY (ケーワイ): a behaviour of those who “are not able to understand the situation”, especially when the other person feels uncomfortable. If they try their utmost and adjust to Japanese culture, learning the language and adapting customs, they will earn praise but Japanese will always ridicule those since it does not fit the visual appearance and feels just strange.

    Foreigners often tend to exaggerate Japanese behaviour, which makes it even look worse. The gap between Japanese culture and every other is so huge, that foreigners here who love the country and try hard might experience an identity crisis.

    This is not an appeal to stop trying, on the contrary. If you are in Japan you should adjust and try to integrate yourself. Just do not get upset if it does not work out and be aware that in the current Zeitgeist of Japan is just not ready yet.