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Screaming is the Message
March 7, 2010 6:14 PM   Subscribe

Japan: It's not funny anymore
posted by anotherpanacea (198 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
There is a whole verb in Japanese which, when appended to the stem form of any other verb, allows you to express the opposite of that verb without having to use its negative form.

What verb is that? (He doesn't say.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:26 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's like reading a tl;dr version of this joke.
posted by Memo at 6:27 PM on March 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Tim Rogers a bit on the prolix side, but I love these features.

(I recommend his pieces on EarthBound (aka Mother 2) and Super Mario Bros. 3.)
posted by danb at 6:30 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of glad I don't know this dude.
posted by exogenous at 6:31 PM on March 7, 2010 [41 favorites]


WHO TOOK MY VERB
posted by danb at 6:31 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a chance that I'm overreacting and/or having some mid-life crisis. Actually, my most recent physical indicates this might just be a quarter-life crisis (I am somewhat unfortunately a paragon of health).

Wait, what? Does he not understand the terms? Either you're in your 20s and for the first time deciding what you want to do in life, or 40s-50s and feeling trapped by what you've chosen.

That said, a lot of these complaints are things I've read about before and it's nice to have them described in more detail.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:33 PM on March 7, 2010


Read this a couple days ago - he has a few decent points, and I get that he's trying to be funny but mostly he seems like a bitter, unpleasant person. It sounds like some kind of delayed culture shock or extreme homesickness.

Yes, a lot of Japanese pop culture is terrible. This is hardly unique to Japan.

I lived in Japan as a student for a few years, hated certain aspects of it, and loved others. I've felt much the same about most countries I've been to.

Writing a giant essay about only the negative parts is either a dumb ploy to increase web traffic, or the ranting of a really disagreeable person.
posted by ripley_ at 6:36 PM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


I once put a note in his mailbox: "You know, if you're going to blow the smoke out the window — if you don't love smoking enough to just close the windows and turn your apartment into a hot-box, maybe you should just quit." He never quit.

I had no idea Tim Rogers is actually Pat Reynolds.

Oblig. Tomithy Rempers link.
posted by griphus at 6:36 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


ripley_: "Writing a giant essay about only the negative parts"

Hey, he did say they make good experimental music.
posted by idiopath at 6:40 PM on March 7, 2010


Time to move eh?
posted by Max Power at 6:44 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Japan is not what I thought it would be !!! I expected to be happily awash in the beautiful culture of glorious Nippon, not to feel isolated and angry like Shinji Ikari in the excellent anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion

now if you'll excuse me I must channel my outrage by posting an AMV to YouTube which features the song "Don't You Want Me" by The Human league
posted by threetoed at 6:45 PM on March 7, 2010 [30 favorites]


I've seen this before. For some anime/JRPG fans, Japan is seen as a mythical place. A small percentage of these people will make it over to Japan, via the JET program or other means. Some of these people will become extremely bitter about the country, and leave it cursing.

You could probably insert any other country with Japan, but I think it happens in Japan more because of the presence of highly skewed, even my media standards, version of the country. Although the case could probably be made about California, especially Hollywood.

on preview, what threetoad parodied.
posted by zabuni at 6:47 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


What verb is that? (He doesn't say.)

I think he is referring to かねる.

I agree with _ripley above: while this article raises some points that could make for an interesting discussion, the way it is written is pretty obnoxious and certainly not constructive.
posted by caaaaaam at 6:48 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mmmm lard.
posted by melissam at 6:48 PM on March 7, 2010


Also, tangential:

THIS ISN'T MECCA, IT'S DISNEYLAND FOR MANCHILDREN: THE MYTH OF AKIHABARA
posted by zabuni at 6:48 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


"What I mean is, what kind of comedy is it that you really would 'love' to do? Give me a for example."

"It's . . . hard to just think of something off the top of my head."

"Here's one you can use — just come out and immediately say, 'So, I just want to confess, I haven't jerked off in four years. Yeah, ever since that day my microwave malfunctioned, I can't reach my hand high enough over my head!"

"I don't get it. Masturbation is a taboo topic, so, no."


I'm not Japanese, and I don't get it either.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:50 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


After reading this piece, I no longer want to go to Japan. The odds that I would run into that guy, whatever they may actually be, are too damn high for my liking.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:50 PM on March 7, 2010 [15 favorites]


If you are a non-smoking vegan who doesn't like loud noises, you probably picked the wrong country continent to live in.

You could always become a Buddhist monk, though.
posted by mek at 6:51 PM on March 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


With the service industry so twisted to a point where "chatting up a shop girl" is literally considered by men-about-town to be the hardest form of pick-up...

It is only in a social climate where chatting up a shop-girl is considered arcane black magic...

Chatting up a shop-girl used to be the ultimate pick-up....

Tim Rogers I have now lost complete faith in the idea that you have, East or West, ever socially spoken to a human woman who was not being paid to speak back to you.
posted by griphus at 6:52 PM on March 7, 2010 [20 favorites]


Hey, he did say they make good experimental music.

Heh, I've got Polysics loaded up in winamp right now :
What this has to do with videogames: Once, when I was working for a Japanese game company as something of a liaison to help them develop games with a more future-proof "western" method, I suggested that every employee be, at all points in the process, encouraged to offer input on things such as game design. The initial reaction was, "That's what the game designers do!" It took days of near-futile conversation to uncover the controversial finding that, prior to designing a game for the first time, people like Shigeru Miyamoto had actually never designed any games. To be most blunt, modern Japanese games are so soulless because the only people who make them are people who make games. You need some outside influence, I said. And anyway, maybe some of these people who like videogames enough to learn how to program them might have some decent ideas of what they like or don't like in game design? What happened, eventually, was an email: "ALL EMPLOYEES ARE REQUIRED TO REPORT TO THE CONFERENCE ROOM IMMEDIATELY FOR A BRAINSTORMING SESSION RE: GAME DESIGN". Some part-time kid fresh out of college sat there with a notebook, writing down literally everything everyone said. The meeting was a terrible failure. "That didn't work," someone said. "So much for that idea," someone else said.

Once, another foreign employee at another company suggested to the management that they try doing things like ordering pizza — or the Japanese equivalent — for the employees, every once in a while. You know, because these guys put in soul-crushing work hours and could probably use the encouragement from the company. He was immediately greeted with an automaton-like voice: "QUANTIFY: 'ENCOURAGEMENT'". His explanation was that employees who are actually happy, or content, or who feel appreciated, generally do better work. The guys in this company were the type to sit at their desks with bowls of terrible convenience-store ramen through the night. Why not treat them to, you know, one higher class of a food? The human resources department passed the idea around, and figured it couldn't hurt. So, one day, we got an email: "THIS FRIDAY AT SIX PM, EVERY EMPLOYEE IS REQUIRED TO REPORT TO THE CONFERENCE ROOM TO EAT PIZZA". Well, there you go.
Heh. Actually when I was visiting a friend in Texas, we went to a party with a couple of girls from Japan. One was from Tokyo and I asked her whether she liked Tokyo or Huston better, and she said Huston. The reason was that everyone in Tokyo was much more "Serious"
posted by delmoi at 6:53 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Houston.
posted by mullacc at 6:55 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Almost 16,000 words. I hope he doesn't devote that much talk to each thing he apparently dislikes but spends so much time living around.
posted by Doug Stewart at 6:56 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm also sure that it's a good idea to address the unavoidable comment that I sound like a person who wouldn't be happy anywhere: Maybe this is true.

I'm guessing that it is, in fact, true and skipping the rest of the article.
posted by Doohickie at 6:57 PM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


so let me see - the japanese smoke a lot, all the food has meat in it, they have to indulge in senseless rituals at work, the shop clerks say the same things to everyone all day, people get drunk as a mandatory social activity, there's always some guy who's keeping his job trying to take care of everyone else's needs at parties, and you're judged in public by older people with trivial prejudices

sounds just like the midwest to me
posted by pyramid termite at 6:59 PM on March 7, 2010 [51 favorites]


Special verbs for negation like that are not really all that weird. Hell, we do the same thing most of the time in colloquial English: "I don't go," "He doesn't go," and so on and so forth. This is not some wacky ass-backwards thing caused by the mysterious perversity of the oriental mind, hamburger hamburger hamburger. It's just one of the half dozen basic strategies that languages use to express negation.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:59 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw how teeny my scrollbar was and was like, "Man, he must have gotten a lot of comments on this thing."

I don't think it's the country that has the problem...
posted by Scattercat at 7:00 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Holy shit, dude. Just put IT'S NOT AMERICA and buy a plane ticket home.
posted by vorfeed at 7:08 PM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


It sounds like he mostly has issues with Japanese office culture which, for the most part, sucks no matter what country you're in.
posted by hellojed at 7:08 PM on March 7, 2010


MetaFilter: at-wall shit-flinging.
posted by doubleozaphod at 7:11 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dunno, maybe I'd have a stronger reaction if I actually knew who this guy was, but he framed it as a rant and a rant it was. Not sure why that should make me dislike him.
posted by treepour at 7:14 PM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


The smoking, it's a feature, not a bug. I love the Japanese view of smoking.

I thought this was really sophomoric.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:15 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a joke about expats in Japan, that the only people who can give you an accurate depiction of the country is someone who has been here either A) for three weeks, or B) for thirty years. The three-weekers see Japan with fresh eyes and there is a new surprise every day. The old timers have been in Japan long enough to absorb the language and, more importantly, the nuances and subtleties of an often inscrutable society.

Everyone in between is gonna be too jaded for the A attitude, and not experienced enough for the B attitude. Call it the C attitude, and this guy is much like, well, most of us expats living here.

I like Japan, but I agree with a lot of what he's saying*. It's entirely possible to want to live in a place but still not love--and actively dislike--certain elements. That said, dude needs an editor and a sense of humor. As in, I'm not saying he should stop his bitching, I'm saying if he's gonna write that many words on the subject he should see to it that it's funny.

*Mandatory company parties, astoundingly loud music and announcements over loudspeakers in shops, Japanese manzai "comedians", the entertainment industry/mill, smoking everywhere. Lots more, but I'll stop there.
posted by zardoz at 7:17 PM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sounds like someone is experiencing pretty heavy culture shock. The whole article was basically THIS IS NOT HOW THEY DO THINGS BACK HOME. They have a different culture :shock: and you're not going to agree with parts of it. So either you can just approach the culture with the idea that it's different but that's cool, or you can be a dick.

This guy was a dick.
posted by Allan Gordon at 7:19 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I mean is, what kind of comedy is it that you really would 'love' to do? Give me a for example."

"It's . . . hard to just think of something off the top of my head."

"Here's one you can use — just come out and immediately say, 'So, I just want to confess, I haven't jerked off in four years. Yeah, ever since that day my microwave malfunctioned, I can't reach my hand high enough over my head!"

"I don't get it. Masturbation is a taboo topic, so, no."
Uh... I don't get it either.
posted by delmoi at 7:23 PM on March 7, 2010


Scanned this, mostly, as I don't have the time or interest to cover it exhaustively. He's right about the experimental music scene being good.

If he's really that bugged about the meat thing and the smoking thing and the drinking thing, yeah, maybe he should move. Any number of US cities will be better for him. I'd add, though, that the smoking is waaay down from when I first moved here 16 years ago, and, since this guy says he's a long-termer, I'm surprised he doesn't see that. There really has been huge improvement. It used to be MUCH worse: now more and more restaurants have no-smoking zones, and the city ordinances in many areas throughout Tokyo against smoking while walking down the street are largely, in my observation, obeyed by the vast majority of Tokyo smokers.

As far as the office culture thing, i wouldn't really know. Maybe the guy needs to get into some line of work that doesn't involve being in offices all day. Aren't offices kind of awful all around the world? Always seemed like a particular kind of hell to me.

But, yeah, Tokyo blogger guy, you should probably pack your bags. One less unhappy foreigner will not be missed round here!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:25 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Take just one drink!"
"I'm allergic."
"Oh, no you're not! Just take one drink!"
"I'm allergic. I'll die."

Repeat 20 to 25 times.


Yep. I imagine if I knew this guy, I would probably be tempted to repeatedly pressure him to drink after he said something like that too.
posted by Avelwood at 7:25 PM on March 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


oh, it's written by Tim Rogers? It's too long, and filled with shallow self-centered bullshit? You don't fucking say!
posted by shmegegge at 7:31 PM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


I volunteer to chop off his head if he decides to disembowel himself.
posted by digsrus at 7:36 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Uh... I don't get it either.

I had trouble with it as well, but I think I figured it out. The joke is that the microwave radiation made the dick longer than the arm. I could be wrong, though. Yeah, it's not funny.
posted by amuseDetachment at 7:36 PM on March 7, 2010


I remember several thousand years ago when I was just a wee ichinensei in my first Japanese class, I read a column by Nicholas Kristof that he wrote as he assumed the position of NYTimes Tokyo bureau chief. He said that for foreigners, Japan was the ultimate Rorschach Test, what we saw was merely an reflection of our own attitudes. I've searched repeatedly for that essay in the NYTimes archive and failed to find it. I found it entirely more perceptive than anything else he ever wrote. This theory seems to accurately characterize this Kotaku essay, Mr. Rogers is a bitter man.

Anyway, the most repulsive thing I hate the most about expat society is the ranking of people by their time in-country as if this information is necessary to evaluate whether their opinions are worth hearing. What arrogance. Whenever I encountered an expat doing this crap, I knew that nothing else they said was worth listening to. They sling around insults like "fresh off the boat" and then expect us to believe their authoritative opinions on foreign culture are without prejudice. What a load of crap.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:38 PM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


amuseDetachment: "The joke is that the microwave radiation made the dick longer than the arm. I could be wrong, though. Yeah, it's not funny."

I thought it was about godzilla/mutation/tiny-arms.
posted by Memo at 7:40 PM on March 7, 2010


I read the whole article.

--
Have you ever had a snack or meal that you were kind of iffy about. Say a burrito from a gas station or something. So you buy this thing and you try it, and it turns out yeah it's not actually any good But after that first bite you can't stop eating it. So you keep going, and it's like never gets any better.

And then when you're done you feel kind of gross and really just wish you had thrown it out, because you're really just worse off then you were before?

That's how reading that article felt.
posted by delmoi at 7:44 PM on March 7, 2010 [41 favorites]


He does know how much of a jerk he comes across when he refuses to drink with someone right? I mean if you're allergic then you're allergic, but at least carry around something nonalcoholic to drink with anyone who asks you. Or you can do the same thing that makes you look like a jerk everytime.
posted by Allan Gordon at 7:45 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


The solution to second-hand-smoke is to avoid dining out - it's healthier, and it saves money. The solution to finding cheap ingredients for vegetarian food is to pick up a shojin-ryori cookbook. The solution for dealing with screaming coworkers is to scream along with them - it's fun. The solution to dealing with working in a Japanese workplace is to start your own company.

The guy might benefit from moving out of Tokyo to Kanazawa or Sapporo or Otsu, but it's obvious he's not interested in finding solutions. That's okay, because Japan isn't for everyone - it's hard enough for regular Japanese people to live there, let alone foreigners.

But foreigners in Japan (or anywhere) have the unique opportunity to question the worthiness of the existence and the choices they have made to reach wherever they are in their lives on a daily basis. They're going through things everyone anywhere goes through, but they can choose to view it through the lens of "being a foreigner in Japan" (sometimes I often wondered what the fuck I was doing there, just how unusual it was for a foreigner like myself to be walking my dog or purchasing auto insurance).

Being a foreigner anywhere means being able to step out of your own culture and your host culture and developing unique, personal insight. This guy's insight is a hate letter. I can't believe Kotaku paid him to write that crap.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:47 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeh, he should go hate some other culture for a while. Travel is broadening.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:47 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Japan is definitely not for me. I'm vegetarian, don't drink, don't care about video games plus I really resent that Japan still kills whales.
posted by chance at 7:49 PM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is about half-volume some of the awfulness I hear from the other ex-pats in Korea. This place really drives them totally insane.
posted by GilloD at 7:50 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, eventually, they made a croissant with a little bit of chocolate in it. They called it the "Chocolate Croissant." What a name!

Uhm, you can buy these in France...they call them pan au chocolat...bread with chocolate. What a name! Fucking French! What a fucked up culture!

Very good, and popular for breakfast. I wish they had them at Starbucks.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:52 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


oh, it's written by Tim Rogers? It's too long, and filled with shallow self-centered bullshit? You don't fucking say!
posted by shmegegge at 12:31 PM on March 8 [1 favorite -] Favorite added! [!]

You have no idea how close I am to spending $20–30 just to start new accounts with which to favorite this again.

Seriously? Another Tim Rogers FPP? This is why we can't have nice things. Cancel my subscription, if I had one.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:56 PM on March 7, 2010


This part struck me as particularly dickish:

From that day on, when I arrived in the office and he was the only other person there, I wold snap my fingers, point directly at him, and then, when I had gotten his attention, I'd give him a sharp military salute, letting some huge "HOOH" sound escape the back of my throat.

I spent five years as an office worker in Tokyo. A Japanese office's culture has to be negotiated like any work culture anywhere else. No need to be an ass about it.

He's typical of what I'd seen in a lot of Western foreigners in Japan. After the honeymoon period ends, they start to notice everything that bugs them about a society. But instead of realizing that these things aren't really particular to Japan, they start to convince themselves otherwise. He complains of insipid pop culture, senseless office culture, and things that are common for densely populated areas. Any weird or annoying thing that a few Japanese people do will become a weird or annoying thing that all Japanese people do. The longer they stay in the country, the more they're convinced that the things they hate about the slow, easily amused masses are the things they hate about the Japanese in particular. The only cure is to leave the country for at least a couple of years and see that there are sucky and cool people everywhere.
posted by zerbinetta at 7:58 PM on March 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


I think he's spurning Japanese.
I really think so.
posted by Ratio at 7:58 PM on March 7, 2010 [64 favorites]


Prior to reading any comments at all: I'm at, oh good god, maybe 1/10th down the page. A group of 40 young executives in the Japanese Lifestyle have all just screamed.

Wow. That's a place I just couldn't put myself. Not now as contractor; not in the past or the future as an employee. Once, in my past, as short-term LGAT cultie. As a continuous lifestyle? Er, not gonna happen.

There are significantly different cultural lifestyles/societies on this globe that are operating at the truly large scale. Say what you want, the bottom line on China seems to be one of continuous upward trend toward greater health and education for all; doing that at a scale of billions is one hell of an accomplishment. It puts the problems of governing the likes of California, New York, and Canada on an entirely different scale. Things are frigging easy when you're not dealing with billions of people, and especially not billions of peasants.

I sometimes doubt that Western-style democracy can be long-term effective. I suspect the workable mixture is some sort of meritocracy crossed with social democracy. No one person is in the least bit capable of wisely and beneficially controlling every aspect of a diverse population spread over vast distances, networked by an infinitely complex economic, distribution, communication, special-interests network of people with great differences of religious, let alone personal, morals and desires.

We're gonna have to do something different than what we are doing. I doubt the Japanese model is the way to go, but it's interesting to read about it. I doubt it's really like what he says, that there's probably a lot of stereotyping and bias, but there's probably also enough of a kernel of truth to be worth thinking about and comparing against our own society's behaviours.

Yadda, etc, bullshit. Good FPP, thx.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:03 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you are a non-smoking vegan who doesn't like loud noises, you probably picked the wrong country continent to live in.

You may be right about the smoking & the meat, but - if Tokyo is anything to go by - Japan is dead silent, almost spookily so.

Some kind of cultural taboo against drawing too much attention to yourself with noise (loud music, raised voices etc) is my best stab-in-the-dark guess as to why this might be.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:07 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. I used to get told, point blank, that if I hated living here so much, I should just go home. The thing is, I don't hate it here. I just complained too much, and I've learned to tone it down a bit. I still usually come across as a pretty negative person, and it's something I've had to work on, because that shit just doesn't fly here.

This guy? He needs to go home. Not because he hates it here, but because he seems to be refusing every possible method of making his life here more tolerable. I've had several vegetarian friends here. Yes, many of them said it was difficult to find good food, but in the last several years, there have been many, many vegetarian and vegan restaurants opening in Tokyo. If he's too bitter to go find them, he should get a plane ticket.

In a lot of ways, he reminds me of the AskMe question where the guy wanted to find a witty, snarky comeback to "How are you?" and he was essentially told not to be a dick, that social conventions are there for a reason. Japan, among other things, is pretty famous for it's rather involved, strict social conventions. If he's pissed off at having to say good morning, he needs to get a plane ticket. Greetings are something you do. It doesn't matter who it is. Not greeting someone is fucking rude. Drinking culture? It's part of the thing here. A while back, I stopped drinking for about half a year, just to give it a try. It was nice, and I felt fine. But beer tastes good. I still went out with coworkers and friends. Why? So as not to be a dick. Most places have non-alcoholic drinks. It's not a big deal.

I didn't get all the way through, it was just too damn long. If he's got so much vitriol that he can seriously write that much on how much he hates it? Plane ticket. Hell, being pissed that a successful company spawns imitators? He's just looking for shit to be angry about.

And Japanese comedy? Most of it is crap. Some of it's funny. If you don't like it, don't watch it. Same with Japanese pop (except the idea that some of it's good).

If you'll pardon me, I think I'm going to go enjoy the almost nice weather, while I battle with the real problem of Japan: mono-culture cedar forests that 90% of the populace (and, since two years ago, me) is highly allergic to.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:07 PM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


He's typical of what I'd seen in a lot of Western foreigners in Japan. After the honeymoon period ends, they start to notice everything that bugs them about a society. But instead of realizing that these things aren't really particular to Japan, they start to convince themselves otherwise.
Yeah. It seemed like generic misanthropy combined with some cultural dissonance.
posted by delmoi at 8:09 PM on March 7, 2010


He does know how much of a jerk he comes across when he refuses to drink with someone right? I mean if you're allergic then you're allergic, but at least carry around something nonalcoholic to drink with anyone who asks you. Or you can do the same thing that makes you look like a jerk everytime.
posted by Allan Gordon at 12:45 PM on March 8 [2 favorites +] [!]


Also, this. Work parties in Japan almost invariably have oolong tea available as the Alternative Pourable Brown Beverage, and unless your coworkers are complete bags of cocks, "I can't drink because I'm driving" is at the very least an extremely solid excuse.*

Tim Rogers is also famous for writing extremely long articles about the Famicom game Takeshi's Challenge (which included outright fabrications that were crucial details to the article) and Earthbound/MOTHER 2 for Super Famicom (which also included outright fabrications that were crucial details to the article), both of which were really more about how great he was to be a FOREIGNER! living in JAPAN! who got to drop names. Every time I'm even accidentally almost exposed to one of his articles nowadays, I get the feeling that I'd feel less dirty watching an actual video of a man masturbating, instead of just doing so in so many tens of thousands of words.

*Japanese drunk-driving laws are unbelievably strict. Being caught driving drunk (as defined as "the police officer has decided you were driving while impaired) will generally result in the loss of your license, as well as often, especially in the public sector, your job. It's very nearly as illegal to be a passenger in a vehicle being driven by someone drunk, and it's almost as illegal as that to knowingly allow someone to drive away after drinking. There's a burgeoning market for taxi services that will drive your car home, as a result, and all but the dumbest folks know not to even chance it. The designated driver is also, as a result, a very important person to have in your group most of the time. In other words, the Japanese BAC legal limit is "no way," and it's your job to keep your friends from making dumb choices in the matter. Where else in the world are you going to be told that the recommended length of time to wait before driving, per drink, is three to four hours?
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:09 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Japan has great snacks.
posted by jonmc at 8:17 PM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love how he pulled the "here's how you silly people could improve your [company/comedy act/sales techniques] by doing them the way we do them In America(tm)!" trick, and then boggled at the negative results. The flaw in this line of thinking is simple: the Japanese have had many of these same "problems" for hundreds of years, because they work. Thinking you can move in and do better in Japan than the Japanese do is a bit like thinking you can jump in the sea and out-breathe a fish: sure, you could get lucky, but natural selection suggests otherwise... and no, the fish are not going to give a shit about your "helpful" fin-improvement suggestions in the meantime.

Funny how these suggestions of his worked almost exactly as well as the short-lived "Japanese management method" craze worked in America. Why, it's almost like we're a couple of totally different cultures!
posted by vorfeed at 8:18 PM on March 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Tim Rogers is also famous for writing extremely long articles about the Famicom game Takeshi's Challenge (which included outright fabrications that were crucial details to the article) and Earthbound/MOTHER 2 for Super Famicom (which also included outright fabrications that were crucial details to the article)

Really? What are the outright fabrications?
posted by danb at 8:20 PM on March 7, 2010


He thinks he has absorbed Japanese culture, but he seems to have failed to learn the most Japanese lesson of all: it's not all about you.

Seriously. Why be a jerk about ritual behavior like the "good morning" thing? It's important to them. Just do it, man. Many of his other complaints seem to just be his refusal to suck it up and tolerate a little discomfort in the interest of the traditional methods of maintaining the team morale.

I also noticed the part where he tries to sell this company on Western ideas about game development, and just takes this very Western direct approach, and gets upset when they don't understand. You're supposed to kind of discreetly spread around ideas leading up to an idea, so everyone else will come around to the same conclusion as you on their own, so that way you don't seem like such an individualist. I thought everybody knew that about Japanese companies.

He does know how much of a jerk he comes across when he refuses to drink with someone right?

Wouldn't the Japanese thing to do about this be to just drink a little, get taken to the hospital if necessary, and then apologize? That way, you prove that you care about the company because you were willing to go that far to fit in, and at the same time, no one will expect you to drink again.

Disclaimer: I have never been to Japan. But I do watch a lot of anime.

posted by Xezlec at 8:22 PM on March 7, 2010


I've just read a bit more... I still ended up skimming, but lord. He doesn't like pachinko? No one does aside from the drones that line up at the shop in morning, waiting to play. He complains that he can hear the pachinko near his apartment. Why does he live there? Didn't he check out his neighborhood? I understand hating it. It's grating, it's awful, and every time I walk past a pachinko parlor, without fail, the doors open, the sound and the stench of cigarettes smacks me in the face. So I find alternate routes. I don't live near them. He talks about passive-agression? Pot? Kettle? You know each other? Good.

He hates small talk, politeness (developed in a country that pretty much owns the concept of overcrowding, next to Hong Kong), apologizing ("Sorry for keeping you waiting" isn't a shitty way to answer a phone. "Sorry to bother you when you're busy" isn't a shitty way to start off when you call a business) and he's just fucking wrong about costs. Yes, some stuff is expensive here. Movies are 1800 yen. There are coupons. CDs are not usually 4000 yen (still, usually between 2,000-3,000 is ridiculous), although movies are.

And DoctorFedora is right about the drinking and driving. Being a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver gives you the same charge. The driver gets a DUI? So do you. Same points on your license, possible jail time, the whole thing.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:24 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've spent a lot of time in Japan, but none of it in video game culture. So: I don't really get this, even though I read every word.

Japan is a weird fucking place, no doubt, to Western sensibilities. But complaining about employees saying (screaming?) "Welcome to our restaurant" should hardly be grounds for calling Japanese people insane.

Admittedly, in my several visits, I never learned much of the language. But it became apparent that the surface similarity to Euro-America was just that. Underneath lay a very long development of a very interesting and highly developed culture.

I'm sure the author felt good about venting. I'm not sure this helped anyone who has not been in Japan understand the culture better: in fact; quite the opposite.
posted by kozad at 8:27 PM on March 7, 2010


Kirisito, what an asshole.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:27 PM on March 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Leaving aside the generally whiny tone of the article, which would be my chief complaint... I don't understand the complaint about idiomatic language... from a guy I'm sure uses idioms every day. OH MY GOD, SOMETIMES WORDS DON'T MEAN LITERALLY WHAT THEY SAY.
posted by sparkletone at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2010


Tim Rogers is also famous for writing extremely long articles about the Famicom game Takeshi's Challenge (which included outright fabrications that were crucial details to the article) and Earthbound/MOTHER 2 for Super Famicom (which also included outright fabrications that were crucial details to the article)

Really? What are the outright fabrications?
posted by danb at 1:20 PM on March 8 [+] [!]


Among the ones I can name off the top of my head are the "this was made by a man who hates video games" warning on Takeshi's Challenge and the thing about 10,000 hits on the last boss (which, as I commented on the previous FPP about it, seems to have been invented along the way and played Musical Sources around the English-speaking internet) and the bits in the MOTHER 2 article about the built-in names (specifically the Japanese version's obscene ones, of which there is no such thing on the copy that anyone else ever played) and the phone call from Jeff's friend to ask about the player's name being based on some number-of-in-game-steps bullshit (it's scripted to happen when you step on a certain tile in Summers between two buildings you have to walk between. You'd think that someone who claims to be a super-huge fan would have noticed it happening at the same place and time every time he played through it).

Of course, the articles aren't really about the games themselves. They're about how great Tim Rogers is for living in the Internet's Promised Land. This article is mostly about his dispair at having to deal with the fact that it's just another country, and it is occupied not by talking robots and magical teenage girls, but actual people, with an isolated-island-country culture that is older than his native language.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


(For the record, I've read and enjoyed some of his other pieces! Just didn't care for this one.)
posted by sparkletone at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2010


But complaining about employees saying (screaming?) "Welcome to our restaurant" should hardly be grounds for calling Japanese people insane.

God, I love that here. There's a fairly large ramen chain called Rairaitei (来来亭) where they all yell "welcome" and then when they take your order they yell it to the kitchen like at an old-timey diner or something. It's a lot of fun if you don't have a rod up your ass with a smaller, ass-rod-ass-shaped rod up its ass.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:32 PM on March 7, 2010 [16 favorites]


Everything in Japan has meat in it

THIS IS A FEATURE NOT A BUG
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:34 PM on March 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


Well, that was much, much too long. I don't think the guy is a dick to feel the way he does; a lot of the things he's complaining about do sound bloody obnoxious, quite apart from their not being How It's Done In America. But, he is a dick for writing at such deranged length, and with so little good humour or affection. This is the kind of thing you can get to thinking when you're living in a foreign culture and you've had a really bad few weeks, and that's understandable. But to get thousands and thousands of words into it and still be taking it all so hard, so seriously... That is not the way.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:34 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, it's also worth pointing out that it is, in fact, possible to write at length about living in Japan whilst simultaneously being in possession of a sense of humor. The guy who wrote "I am a Japanese School Teacher" a while back (now hosted, if memory serves, at gaijinsmash.com or something) is a great example of someone who can write honestly, relatively unbiasedly, and hilariously (doubly so if you actually get jokes that involve phrases like "wake-up shoryuken").

Tim Rogers makes me almost as angry as Carlos Mencia, mostly because I can't think of a single reason he should open his mouth, much less have an audience. At least MegaTokyo had good art to go with its unrealistic self-aggrandizing fantasies.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:39 PM on March 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


You know what's great about this sort of rant? It makes me wonder what he thinks of new migrants back in the states who express displeasure about american culture.
posted by Jilder at 8:50 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Epic. IM sending this to my SiL who worked in japan for a couple of years and got first hand look on how broken it is.
posted by MrLint at 8:50 PM on March 7, 2010


Another gaijin-in-Japan writes Tokyo Damage Report, and has a bit more of a humble perspective.
posted by anthill at 8:58 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm Mr. Complain.
Yeah my life is shit.
posted by knave at 9:01 PM on March 7, 2010


Epic. IM sending this to my SiL who worked in japan for a couple of years and got first hand look on how broken it is.

I'm not sure what's more irritating - 'epic', 'SiL', or that fact that you took this article at face value.
posted by ripley_ at 9:05 PM on March 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Just put at the the top of any article that you are a non-smoker and a vegan and I can fill in the rest of the self-centered, health-solipsistic, proselytizing whinery myself, thanks.

No, I don't smoke. But I do eat animals. And sometimes THEY're smoked.....
posted by umberto at 9:08 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


This guy seems like he went to Japan for the games and the lulz. As far as I can tell he's 31 now and has been living there for six or more years (which is not such a "long time" to live somewhere). Which means that he left for Japan when he was 25 or earlier.

I would guess that this is less Japan and more the fact that the routine of day-to-day working and living is beginning to grind on him as he's entering his mid-30s.

The problem is that too many people traveling to Japan go with these loaded preconceptions of how wacky the country is going to be. That's fine, but the real problem is that Japan becomes this continuous Other, and it becomes this realm of weeeirdness, absolute bizarreness that must be talked about and parodied and spoken about in tales. It doesn't help that travel itself is seen as an opportunity to have an adventure: "Guess what happened to me on this one trip to Japan?"

As an Asian-american, some of the most blatantly racist encounters I've had in the US were with white foreign males who had lived in Japan for a few years. (One person insisted on speaking Japanese to me all the time, despite my repeated reminders that I was, in fact, not Japanese, and didn't understand the language.) It's an Orientalism that happens there, like it's an Other you're living inside.

I get this image of a droplet of oil in water, a sort of culturephobia or resistance to cultural change created by this constant, incessant setting-up of a binary between me and this culture. Once Tim Rogers learns to break down this barrier and stops thinking of himself as a foreigner living in Japan and thinks of himself as just a person in Japan, things will get better for him. Too bad it doesn't look like it'll happen anytime soon.

I've known people who lived in India for a year and never even learned to visually distinguish between Hindi, Urdu, and Tamil, etc. I've met people who lived in Japan for ten years and never learned to speak the language. Part of this was because they just never thought of themselves of anything else than themselves, their boundaries were solid, they were themselves, but they just happened to be living in a "foreign" country. It's a pretty lazy and a pretty stupid attitude to take. After al, if you moved to a different city within "your" country, you'd do your damnest best, not only to adapt but to change yourself.

If you moved here, to New York, you'd find certain things not-understandable and intolerable but would probably have the flexibility of mind to accept these things, to grow and to adapt, so that eventually five/ten years down the line you are the person who understands these things. That's partially because everyone is super eager to become a "New Yorker".* My point is while many many people are excited to live in Tokyo, not very many people are eager to become a Tokyoite. In fact, the word is sort of awkward, barely used in English -- Tokyo isn't even seen as a place to grow into that way.

And again, it's this attitude of me vs. Othered Tokyo that's the culprit, that's the issue at the heart of this, because it's also the initial reason that Tokyo is so attractive to many (wacky, weird, different, etc, etc). Give and take. If you exoticize a place, you can't live inside it.

Deal with it, Tim.
posted by suedehead at 9:15 PM on March 7, 2010 [59 favorites]


Just put at the the top of any article that you are a non-smoker and a vegan and I can fill in the rest of the self-centered, health-solipsistic, proselytizing whinery myself, thanks.

Wow... pretty nasty. and I'm not even a vegan... flagged!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:19 PM on March 7, 2010


(er bad edit... "I found this offensive and I'm not even a vegan")
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:20 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's not really fair lupus. There is a difference between being a VEGAN and having a vegan diet. This guy seems to define himself by being a VEGAN who doesn't SMOKE because obviously only losers smoke.

Pretty much he's a dick. When someone asks him if he wants to go out for a smoke he can take it as a hint that whoever is asking wants to get to know him a bit better. It's really easy to say, "I don't smoke, but I could use some fresh air," and have a conversation with whoever. Same with just asking for a meal without any meat. If he's the type who can't stand the thought that meat might CONTAMINATE his meal then dining out with people is kind of out of the question. So it comes down to thinking only the way he's living his life is the right way or trying to find ways to meet people halfway.
posted by Allan Gordon at 9:28 PM on March 7, 2010


Robert Brady's Purelandmountain blog is a refreshing tonic to the bitterness of this Kotaku post.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:30 PM on March 7, 2010


What a painful read. As the son of immigrants, I saw my own parents as well as my aunts and uncle all have a very difficult time adjusting to the differences in this country but they kept their whining to a minimum because they didn't have the luxury of going back to their home country. This guy is just a candy ass.
posted by cazoo at 9:31 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, this is a first for me:

TL;DR

Good grief what a whiny screed.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:36 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a load of whiny garbage.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:38 PM on March 7, 2010


I'm convinced that there's a point you reach where all the attention you get for being a foreigner living in Japan gives you the unfortunate idea that everybody actually thinks what you have to say is interesting and novel and insightful. It's like those cringe-worthy asides on reality TV shows, where "stars" are completely absorbed in this ridiculous contrived scenario and talk about how everything they've done is a super clever part of their grand strategy for winning the game.

I think a good thing for this guy to remember is that back home, when you used tell everyone your stupid stories and ideas, they used to tell you to STFU instead of going "eeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEH?", and when you go back home again everything goes back to normal, and you're just another guy who really likes video games and complaining. Probably about how much better shit was in Japan.
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:42 PM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


As a midwesterner who always imagined Japan to be a little... tame, this article has convinced me that I might actually enjoy myself there. Mandatory drinking? Secret meat in all the food? Shouting for no reason? Everybody smokes and no one gives them shit about it - and you can still smoke in the restaurants? I think I may actually be Japanese. These are my people. Dude, come back to America. I need your pad.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:43 PM on March 7, 2010 [20 favorites]


I'm gonna be honest, the guy lost credibility with me when he complained about all the pervy pandering and "guys with huge hair and impossible weapons shouting jargon" in anime, but then in the same breath said "manga aspired to be like Dragon Ball Z." Replace "impossible weapons" with "impossible strength/abilities" ('It's over 9000!!!') and you're talking about the Dragonball franchise.

The whole thing reminded me too much of bitter expat in Korea blogs. Funny to see the two countries attract a similar type. And it's not like I don't get you can be unhappy in moving to a new place, but at a certain point you try to make the most of it by changing yourself, or you change your surrounding instead of turning it into a "this is why this country is weird/sucks/a bad place to leave" rant. What always makes me laugh about the types of complaints I used to hear/read from bitter expats is how often what they find annoying is probably the same shit that happens back home. Seriously, you could complain about how fucking everything in America has meat in it. Sure you can find vegetarian restaurants, but go to a restaurant that doesn't espouse itself as a veggie place, and you'll just have to do some creative ordering. Same in Japan (or Korea). But it's not like you can't find things that are vegetarian anywhere. Vegan...might be tough. But again, that's tough in the U.S. too sometimes if you're not making your own food. Or how about check out a restaurant specializing in vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, or something? I mean, there are ways to do it and it's hardly a just Japan issue.

Terrifying/annoying office traditions? Mandatory parties? These kind of social annoyances happen in America too. Maybe in a different form, but work and social bullshit is still work and social bullshit. Weird reservation policies? You ever tried dining out in New York?

Instead all of these things they just loooooooove to skew it because it basically boils down to X country sucks, not Y aspects about X country sucks. It's the same recycled conversation they have with the same group of like-minded bitter expat friends, in the same expat bar they like to hang out in.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:47 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


That was way too long. I even gave up trying to read the headlines only. I hope the guy does something to get the hell out and back to wherever he belongs, 'cause it sure as hell ain't where he is.

I'l love to do Japan for a year or two. Any more than that and I'd implode just like this guy has.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 PM on March 7, 2010


I'm not sure what's more irritating - 'epic', 'SiL', or that fact that you took this article at face value.

I'm gonna go with "broken." How broken ... Japan is. Ho-kay ...
posted by Amanojaku at 9:57 PM on March 7, 2010


Everything in Japan has meat in it

THIS IS A FEATURE NOT A BUG


Except for when it actually *is* a bug. A tasty, salty, crunchy bug.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:03 PM on March 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


The piece was interesting- too bad it was written by a colossal turd.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:04 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: "I remember several thousand years ago when I was just a wee ichinensei in my first Japanese class, I read a column by Nicholas Kristof that he wrote as he assumed the position of NYTimes Tokyo bureau chief. He said that for foreigners, Japan was the ultimate Rorschach Test, what we saw was merely an reflection of our own attitudes. I've searched repeatedly for that essay in the NYTimes archive and failed to find it. I found it entirely more perceptive than anything else he ever wrote."

Is this it?: Fortune Cookie: Your Ignorance Clouds Asian Joy

Relevant quote:
"Asia is sufficiently far away and exotic enough to Americans that it becomes a Rorschach blot on which they perceive their greatest hopes and worst fears," said William H. Overholt, a managing director of Bankers Trust who has lived in and followed Asia for a decade.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:04 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Terrifying/annoying office traditions? Mandatory parties? These kind of social annoyances happen in America too.

To be fair, office culture in North America is nothing like office culture in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:06 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never been a huge fan of Japan. I mean, I like some Japanese things, like electronics and guitars and a bit of music, and I hate others, like Anime, but I'm a typical American in that I'm not hugely familiar with Japanese culture in a realistic way.

Nonetheless, I've always wanted to visit Japan. It would be interesting and exotic and maybe I'd learn something about another culture. And I could buy stuff.

But now, after reading this article, I have to admit I've lost most of my desire to visit Japan.

BECAUSE TIM ROGERS LIVES THERE AND I'M WORRIED I MIGHT RUN INTO HIM.

Christ, what a colossal asshat. And a bad writer to boot.
posted by mmoncur at 10:08 PM on March 7, 2010


Gee Rhaomi, that doesn't sound like the same essay I recall, but it's been a long long time so maybe my memory is faulty. Perhaps Kristof used that quote from Overhold in another essay. But wow, I searched repeatedly and could never get a hit on both "Kristof" and "rorschach." I don't know how you did that, I am impressed.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:16 PM on March 7, 2010


I literally read the word literally too often in that literally whiney POS.
posted by maxwelton at 10:18 PM on March 7, 2010


The only thing more hilarious than an entire thread of people bitching about some guy on the Internet bitching is the fact that Kotaku pays writers based on page views.
posted by yellowlightman at 10:26 PM on March 7, 2010


charlie don't surf, I used the NYT's "1981 to present" archive search to pull up that article, with "Nicholas D. Kristof" as the author and "Japan" and "Rorschach" in the article text. (That was the only article he's written using the word "Rorschach").

If there are any other phrases or ideas you can recall, you might have more luck. I tried various combinations of "Japan", "culture", and "Americans" but didn't find anything that looked like a better match. If it helps, it looks like he started as Tokyo bureau chief starting in 1995 (that's when his chronologically-sorted articles shifted focus from China to Japan) and continued on through at least 1999.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:27 PM on March 7, 2010


Yeah, you're right yellowlightman. Posting snarky comments is the best way to express an opinion. Hey, it's like I'm just like you. Being a snarky jerk sure is fun.
posted by Allan Gordon at 10:35 PM on March 7, 2010


I liked the article. It was eye-opening and funny. Depressed people are funny.

What's with all the negative nancyism over a negative nancy?
posted by colinshark at 11:06 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just read this article this morning. My take: it's ten percent good points drenched in ninety percent whining, bitching, and flat-out misinformation (I mean, what is his problem with the way you're greeted with "irasshaimase"?!). More than anything, Tim Rogers needs to take a vacation, because he obviously hates where he is and what he's doing.

I get pissed off at some things here, too (smoking is a big one). But you know what? I don't go crazy and post a 15,000+ word screed on the internet -- I go somewhere, relax, and remember what it is about living and working here that I enjoy. It sounds like he needs to go and find what it is he enjoys, because it doesn't seem to be living in Tokyo.

Oh, and the whole "chocolate croissant" thing is ridiculous -- the cafes are STILL called St. Mark's Cafe (in Japanese)! It's only the bit in English that says "Choco Cro". That's probably some kind of metaphor for his interaction with Japan.

What verb is that? (He doesn't say.)

As caaaaaam said, it's かねる. But you only use it in fairly formal contexts and with the subtext that you're disclaiming responsibility for doing the action being negated.

After reading this piece, I no longer want to go to Japan. The odds that I would run into that guy, whatever they may actually be, are too damn high for my liking.

With any luck, he'll be leaving soon, so I wouldn't worry about it.

Anyway, the most repulsive thing I hate the most about expat society is the ranking of people by their time in-country as if this information is necessary to evaluate whether their opinions are worth hearing. What arrogance.

Well, to some extent is *is* true, but what matters more in my experience is Japanese ability. If someone's been here 10 years and can't speak more than a first-grade level of Japanese, then their thinking is limited to the subset of Japanese who speak English (or whatever their mother tongue is) and other expats, which only scratches 1% of the surface of what goes on here.

I spent five years as an office worker in Tokyo. A Japanese office's culture has to be negotiated like any work culture anywhere else. No need to be an ass about it.

Indeed -- every company has their foibles.

He's typical of what I'd seen in a lot of Western foreigners in Japan. After the honeymoon period ends, they start to notice everything that bugs them about a society. But instead of realizing that these things aren't really particular to Japan, they start to convince themselves otherwise. He complains of insipid pop culture, senseless office culture, and things that are common for densely populated areas. Any weird or annoying thing that a few Japanese people do will become a weird or annoying thing that all Japanese people do. The longer they stay in the country, the more they're convinced that the things they hate about the slow, easily amused masses are the things they hate about the Japanese in particular. The only cure is to leave the country for at least a couple of years and see that there are sucky and cool people everywhere.

I want to second, third, and fourth this. This is exactly how expats come to hate where they live because they see everything as part of the same undifferentiated mass.
posted by armage at 11:10 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks again Rhaomi, but my own history (my 1st year of Japanese classes) would make the date more like 1992. You say he took over as bureau chief in 95 and I have no reason to doubt that. This probably is the right essay. But I swear I've searched repeatedly over the years, searching the same way you did, and never got a single hit. I couldn't even find it just weeks after it ran, it just wasn't in the archives.

Maybe I've got it all wrong, maybe my memory inflated this article to contain much more than it actually did. Oh well. Maybe I should write the article as I imagined it, it would probably be a much better essay than Kristof's, since I have spent many more years thinking about this topic than he ever did. And for that matter, I always thought Kristof was a pretty crappy writer in general.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:17 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


suedehead, while I agree with you here: And again, it's this attitude of me vs. Othered Tokyo that's the culprit, that's the issue at the heart of this, because it's also the initial reason that Tokyo is so attractive to many (wacky, weird, different, etc, etc). Give and take. If you exoticize a place, you can't live inside it.

...I have to disagree with you here: If you moved here, to New York, you'd find certain things not-understandable and intolerable but would probably have the flexibility of mind to accept these things, to grow and to adapt, so that eventually five/ten years down the line you are the person who understands these things. That's partially because everyone is super eager to become a "New Yorker".* My point is while many many people are excited to live in Tokyo, not very many people are eager to become a Tokyoite. In fact, the word is sort of awkward, barely used in English -- Tokyo isn't even seen as a place to grow into that way.

There are many, many people who come to Tokyo (both Japanese and non-) who are eager to become Tokyoites. Admittedly, it's not quite the same as New York's quintessentially American attitude of assimilation, but to many thousands of Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Southeast Asians, and others, Tokyo is very much a place where they can find their fortune. I think this will improve once Japan becomes more open to immigrants, but Tokyo is still quite a melting pot (mixing bowl?) of people and cultures.
posted by armage at 11:20 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Too long. Did not read.
posted by jeffmik at 11:28 PM on March 7, 2010


Secret meat in all the food?

From now on, whenever people ask me what living in Japan is like, I'm just going to tell them I live in The Land of Secret Meat.
posted by armage at 11:30 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


these complaints are... nothing.

come back to america, tim. i'll take you with me when i travel around the rust belt for my job, show you some examples of real cultural and economic problems.

or maybe fill you in on the health care debate. or let you listen to talk radio. or take you to a tea party convention.

or maybe show you how awesome the gaming industry is here. maybe a tour of activision?

and oh, how we'll enjoy american television. jersey shore is so much better than those mindless japanese variety shows. TLC may even have a marathon about those morbidly obese christian midgets with 18 kids.

and the comedy! we'll laugh and laugh at jay leno's monologues and maybe rent nutty professor II: the crumps. i hear there's farting!

after we do all these fun things, we'll go to starbucks since you like it so much.
no, those guys with guns on their belts aren't cops.

wait, tim, where are you going?
but you just got back from there!
posted by clarenceism at 11:37 PM on March 7, 2010 [19 favorites]


tl;gb
posted by bwg at 12:23 AM on March 8, 2010


...whose face (figuratively) literally screamed "hall monitor"...

I want my ten minutes back.
posted by cromagnon at 12:25 AM on March 8, 2010


Agreed about the expat thing, but I'm curious about what people think of this article as a critique of "Better People Through Videogames" ideology (previously on mefi, and McGonagal).

Sooner or later, everyone is going to be connected on a service that tracks everything, Unlocking Achievements in all forms of art and entertainment, every game they play or book they read logged meticulously for future generations to see. Schell says we might read a new "Star Trek" book, and then be told we've just Unlocked the Achievement of having read 500 books, and we might feel dumb that this is our 500th book. Maybe, if we know that so much of us will remain behind for other generations to inspect, we'll try being better people.
posted by honest knave at 12:52 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The meat thing can be difficult if you're vegetarian or vegan. You really need to just accept the fact that if you're in Japan (or Korea for that matter) for a year or so you are going to ingest meat and/or animal products (more likely, some sort of seafood product).

Hell, even kimchi is made with fish sauce nine times out of ten.
posted by bardic at 12:55 AM on March 8, 2010


Yes this is from someone who needs to go home. Or somewhere else.

It's pretty common in expats here to become this bitter when their time is up. Seen it lots - hell sometimes I'm even that person. The angry person who doesn't want to be here. Wants to be where it's maybe easier. Sick of being on the edge of not totally understanding. Being fed up of being the gaijin - the foreigner - the alien - the DIFFERENT one.

He's venting in a big way. He's wrong about lots of things - as mentioned there is a big movement against smoking here, places to smoke have been restricted - many train stations do not allowing smoking on the platforms or trains. He mentions having a child and going into a smoky restaurant - well when you have a kid you know not to go into the places that are smoky. While the concept of vegan food is new and fish products are considered to be vegetarian, there are many places which specialize in vegetarian food now. As for drinking - you can be polite about declining and drink tea in most cases, giving out some health excuse. Although I will be fair in saying a foreign male is likely to be considered able to handle a lot of drink.

His comments about celebrity - *shrugs* from my understanding that's how the Cult of Celebrity works in every country. Music - lots of good stuff happening here - but the chart stuff is the same drivel you find in just about every Top 40 anywhere. The comedy is either very physical or very verbal - and the ones who use gimmicks usually have a short shelf life.

As for anime - there's some really interesting ideas amongst a huge amount of fluff.

I guess from reading this I just feel he has no ability to filter anything.

His Japan is not my Japan.
posted by gomichild at 1:03 AM on March 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I work with 3 other Americans and we all live in a conservative rural English village working with a conservative English boarding school. And we have each had a similar rant at one time or another -- and honestly I believe it's part of the process even 3 years on.

Some days you wake up and look around and realize how out of place you feel and how you feel like you will never really fit in or how you don't want to deal with or negotiate some of the social hurdles. Then everything becomes a burden. Every difference, social fumble and inconvenience is magnified. We call them "England Days" (as in "seems like you're having an England day today"), but we don't put them on the interwebs.
posted by sundri at 1:29 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


SOME JAPANESE OFFICE TRADITIONS ARE GENUINELY TERRIFYING

Did someone just say weeaboo?
posted by JackarypQQ at 1:32 AM on March 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


This kind of writing about Japan used to annoy me but now I just pretend to be a grim-faced immortal reading about the demise of one of my rivals in the newspaper delivered that morning to my sparsely furnished penthouse apartment.
posted by No-sword at 1:55 AM on March 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


Yeah, this is typical of large numbers of foreigners in Japan and Korea. Many of their complaints aren't without merit. But in my opinion, these people take themselves way too seriously. They lack the ability to see that, in fact, they aren't nearly as important as they think they are, nor is their culture. Other people, especially in these two countries, matter a lot more than you do. This is the culture, and many people just don't get it. I'm not sure it's their fault, really. It's just the way (many) people are. (I've lived in Korea for about two and a half years, working mostly with Koreans and Japanese, and I rather like the culture about as much as I like Western culture).
posted by smorange at 1:58 AM on March 8, 2010


Oh, wait, this is Tim Rogers! I knew I recognized that name. This is a guy who, 10 years ago, got into a huge spat with another video game writer, Andrew Vestal. TR argued that games journalism ought to be centered around the writer and should be more creative, whereas Andrew argued that it ought to be centered around the game itself and should be more informative.

I'm not at all shocked that he wrote this narcissistic article. Oh man, this brings back memories.
posted by smorange at 2:11 AM on March 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Everything in Japan has meat in it. Potato chips pretty much always have beef or pork extract in them. I've watched ingredient labels with perverse interest over the years..."

Alas! Our hero's Holy Quest for Secret Meat will end in utter despair with this revelation.
posted by stringbean at 2:16 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, this article made me sad. I've always liked Tim's articles, particularly the Mother 2 one and his recent scathing review of Final Fantasy XIII. Funny, well-written (for internet anyway)... rather longer than needed, but good reading all the way through so length isn't really a problem. Good stuff.

I came across this article a few days ago, and started reading, and just found it unbearable -- whiny and bitchy and full of shit. Self-centered refusal to deal with a culture different than his own. And the broad-brushed "All anime is shit" nonsense is something that always ticks me off -- as though anime's a single genre. You might as well say "all novels are shit" and then rattle off a list of attributes of novels that make it plain you've never read anything except Harlequin fucking romances. and One Piece is fun dammit.

So I stopped really reading and started skimming, and then said to myself "Jesus this thing is long. This is practically Tim Rogers long. Who the fuck wrote this? ...aw, shit." And I looked back up at the byline, and sure enough. Say it ain't so!

Hopefully it'll turn out he was just attempting to be satirical, to make some kind of point about other foreigners he's met while living in Japan or something. I'd hate to not be able to enjoy his game reviews any more because of this new overwhelming impression of him as a whining fuckhead.
posted by rifflesby at 3:12 AM on March 8, 2010


Tim Rogers: He's not funny anymore
posted by PsychoKick at 3:33 AM on March 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


PsychoKick summed it up rather succinctly there, I think.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:09 AM on March 8, 2010


I had the same reaction as delmoi, much above in this thread -- I started reading it, didn't care for it, and then felt committed to choking the whole thing down.

On my end, I've lived in Quebec for over a decade now, which isn't nearly as much of a culture shock as I imagine Japan must be, but definitely still has social mores, etiquette and traditions much different from most of English-speaking North America.

I recall feeling much the same way around the six-year mark, and wonder if there's maybe a "seven-year itch" kind of effect that expatriates have; a fuzzy amount of time around which you realize that as somebody not born and steeped in a culture you realize you're never going to really, totally get it, and start getting frustrated at feeling like you're a sane person in an insane culture.

Which you're not, of course -- you're an equally insane person in an equally but differently insane culture. But I definitely went through an "everyone is crazy here! I don't get why everyone is so crazy! Why can't they see that?" phase; after a while I settled down again, learned to accept that while there's lots I love here there will always be things I don't understand or appreciate, and moved on.

I do understand the feeling, and may have written something similar a few years ago. You either learn to accept things and move on, or you leave, or you go stark raving mad. He seems to be moving towards #2 or #3, but he might pull out, chill out, and learn to re-love Japan. I hope he does.
posted by Shepherd at 5:44 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I work with 3 other Americans and we all live in a conservative rural English village [...] Some days you wake up and look around and realize how out of place you feel"

That's what London is for, mate. Anyways, you don't need to be American to feel that. Mrs MM grew up - as did I for some time - in the countryside and she'd rather slap herself round the face with a wet kipper every 10 minutes than move back.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:45 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone who uses that many superfluous italics in a post (which is actually just a poor substitute for the ALL CAPS that he is seriously dying to use) is fundamentally suspect, in my book.
posted by blucevalo at 5:49 AM on March 8, 2010


What gomichild said. Tim Rogers' Japan is not my Japan.

I have to admit being unwilling to waste too much of my time on this caustic screed, but before making good use of my backbutton (which is installed in life, too, in the form of a plane ticket to get the hell out of somewhere you don't have to live if you don't want to), I noticed that he says nothing about individual people anywhere. It's like he's seeing every single person he meets as A Japanese - and he's already decided what he feels about those guys.

If I were to make a list of Things I Love About Japan, all the conversations I've had with people here would be right there at the top of it. A lot of them have challenged my own preconceived ideas about how things should be done and lives should be lead and happiness should be reached. There are other ways than my way. There are different sets of priorities.

Being able to discuss things both big and small with people who come from a variety of points of view that are so different from my own - it's a constant learning experience. That, and not TV or video games or popular music, is my Japan.
posted by harujion at 5:50 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


God, the first comment is some patronizing shit that just sums up the whole article.

"I get the impression that the Japanese society is, while advanced, soulless. For me, soul is what can lead to the good things we appreciate. Art, inspiration, innovation, literature, and even machines that inspire, like Ferraris and Lamborghinis."

Where have I heard this before?

Oh yeah, the 80s. Go fuck yourself.
posted by johnnybeggs at 5:56 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of a blast from the past. See also this if you missed it.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 6:03 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm with Baby_Balrog on this. I've read a bunch of Japanese fiction but never had much interest in going to Japan. This article makes me realize there's a whole lot of cool stuff about everyday life in Tokyo that I never read about. Shouting circles? Mandatory drunkenness? An aversion to tattoos? The bit about the little sticker over the bar code delighted me. Sure, the guy's attitude need some major work (assuming he didn't just put on his snark hat for this article), but all the ethnographic details have awakened my curiosity. Am now thinking of revising my travel ambitions for the next few years to include a Tokyo visit...
posted by artemisia at 6:17 AM on March 8, 2010


I'm not up on my Japanese, but I'm pretty sure that irasshaimase might actually translate (at least in this guy's case) as "Oh, it's you again. Hi, douchebag."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:49 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I'm sort of in sundri's situation--I'm an American living in England, and I've been here for about two and a half years now. My wife and I both love it now, and we can't really imagine living anywhere else, but we had many, many England days at first--or as we refer to them, "LOL England". * We never sat down and wrote 6,000-word rants about dealing with, say, Virgin Media, though.

*And yes, we pronounce it "lahl". We'll stop doing it when the English stop pronouncing "fillet" all funny.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:00 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I have spent a large part of my life circling the globe, immersing myself in languages, and tolerating the hell out of some world cultures. Believe it or not, though, I am the kind of person who focuses on the positive things until, one at a time, I manage to wear them out. In short — and maybe this is just a theory — if I move someplace new, I like it for a while, until finally I can't stand it."
This is your problem.
posted by ericb at 7:07 AM on March 8, 2010


If you hated this and want to cleanse your mind of it, do yourself a favor:

Go to Gaijin Smash and read it from the first post to the most recent. Azrael brings the real funny, and writes it like a person anyone could like.
posted by rahnefan at 7:14 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is the sort of cringe-inducing rant I feared when traveling with other Americans. It is what people are talking about when they use the phrase "ugly American." Things [suck|are wonderful] everywhere. Enjoy figuring out the differences. Come home if you're no longer enjoying it.

He doesn't speak for us all!
posted by theredpen at 7:16 AM on March 8, 2010


I grew up in upstate New York andI've lived different places in the U.S. and have just as much to complain about as this guy. I used to think it was just that the other places were were simply inferior in certain respects compared to my hometown. Then I started to realize that my hometown isn't perfect either.

If it's something I grew up with, though, I just saw it as "normal" even though I might not like it. But when I would see some other thing that bugged me somewhere else, I'd see it as a condemnation of the place.

I finally realized that hey, no place is perfect. You gotta accept a place as a whole, not just embrace the good and reject the bad. Accept the bad is there, too, but that it doesn't negate the good, and it's easier to deal with it.

If you can't do that, you end up sounding like this Rogers guy.
posted by Doohickie at 7:16 AM on March 8, 2010


Gawker blogs: Just kind of going through the motions.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:18 AM on March 8, 2010


"ANIME SUCKS it's just a bunch of shit pandering to perverts and pedophiles. Anime heroes used to be people with amazing job descriptions; now they're reasonably young men who find themselves miraculously sharing houses with a dozen girls aged six to nine"

I have really liked several of the most recent anime series airing in Japan. I am currently following several of the latest fansubs out there, and there's much worth seeing, in many different styles.

One animated series that wrapped up in December was Kara no Kyoukai. It's easily some of the best anime I've seen, right up there with the first arc of Death Note, or the Kenshin OVA releases. Released on video over the course of the last few years in seven parts, this is a stunning, darkly gorgeous, gritty epic that will leave you questioning what's really happening until the final episode. (I recommend watching it in chronological, rather than release, order however. Episodes 2, 4, 3, 1, 5, 6, 7.)

Kimi ni Todoke is a great "date" anime. The wife and I play it from the home network to our widescreen, curl up, and watch it every week.

Nodame Cantible has become a beloved cultural institution in Japan as it builds to its conclusion in the next few weeks, as have the two sequential Nodame Cantable live action movies, one of which is completing its theatre run in Japan, where it has brought in as much money as major Hollywood blockbusters normally do, on a budget that's probably no larger than $10m.The second movie completing the live action series is set to premiere in April.

I just finished watching the live action fansubs (torrents here and here) with my wife, and we loved them. They can be a bit goofy at times, but their charm and heart wins you over... and they will get you excited about classical music, just like they did for the Japanese, where music for the series broke the record for highest chart rating for a classical release in Japan's history.

There are other recent series I have enjoyed as well... Trapeze, Eden of the East, Bakemonogatari, K-on!, and Baka to Test to Shokanju... and they are hardly the only recent series I have heard good things about.
posted by markkraft at 7:20 AM on March 8, 2010 [16 favorites]


I thought it was a really funny piece. He sounds homesick or that he's having a rough time. It's not anti-Japan or Japanese. You don't have to go to a country and live there and keep your mouth shut about things. It's mostly a reflection of his own stress. And it's funny. Fish out of water and all that. Haha!
posted by anniecat at 7:23 AM on March 8, 2010


I thought the part about screaming at the gym was particularly funny.
posted by anniecat at 7:46 AM on March 8, 2010


Amélie Nothomb at least made a decent novel out of a similar experience. (It helps that, while she must have as difficult a personality as Mr. Rogers, she appears to be much more aware of it.)
posted by Skeptic at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have really liked several of the most recent anime series airing in Japan. I am currently following several of the latest fansubs out there, and there's much worth seeing, in many different styles.

The whinging about anime not being what it used to be is such old hat that I immediately realized the rest of the article wasn't going to be all that pretty (or worth more than a skimming). I appreciate him putting that right up front. Saved me some effort.

I've lived in Japan, speak a reasonable amount of Japanese, do work that's closely associated with Japan, love anime, enjoy various things Japanese, collect freakin' ukiyo-e (have you figured out my shtick yet?), etc., so I obviously run in circles full of people who find Japan interesting in some way, shape or form. These sort of "Japan actually sucks and you suck for not realizing how much it sucks," flameouts are pretty common. I suppose what makes this one unique is that it's actually written by someone who has lived there for a number of years; typically, they're written by people who haven't even set foot in the country. Still, a troll is a troll.
posted by jal0021 at 7:53 AM on March 8, 2010


To be fair, office culture in North America is nothing like office culture in Japan.

Well, to be fair, I didn't say they were exactly the same, either. The being forced to go out to drink until you puke for office "meetings" and the emphasis on seniority and such might be a more Korea thing (which is what I was talking about rather than Japan, but from what I understand from hearing from Japanese friends, happens there too), but the point being is there's bullshit in American office culture too. Maybe not as overarching or the same, but bad or terrible office culture or employment policies is hardly a just in Japan or Korea. Just read AskMe. If I remember correctly (and even if it wasn't here on AskMe, I've seen this case study plenty of times in other places giving advice on workplace behavior), someone once asked about how there were a lot of after work gatherings for happy hour, but while they didn't particularly drink, they didn't know if it was rude or wrong of them to not attend since it seemed like a lot of the office shmoozing happened there, and plenty of people answered that said person should just attend because usually these types of things are were you get face to face time with bosses/connect with coworkers and not be branded that weird outsider. Inept bosses, clueless management, low morale and passive agressiveness pervading the air of cubicle farms, gossipy coworkers. The point is, yea they're different, but where there's people, there's always possibilities for shitty workplace behavior. It's not the monopoly of any one country.
posted by kkokkodalk at 7:58 AM on March 8, 2010


I haven't lived in Japan, but I've lived in foreign countries and it's effin' hard sometimes.

It becomes so, so, SO easy to romanticize your home country in the same way that you romanticized your "new" home at first. F'rinstance: when I was living in Iceland, I longed for American grocery stores. The selection there is tiny and everything, especially fresh produce, is horrifically expensive. Now I'm in the US and dread going grocery shopping because the stores are so big, it takes forever to find what I want, and the lighting is too bright. Also: I don't even buy produce that often because I'm never home and it goes bad before I have a chance to eat it.

If he came home for a month, he'd start missing Japan and wax nostalgic for the experimental music scene or some such thing that he liked. I felt the same way about Iceland after I left - suddenly, it was once again this magical place full of beautiful scenery and heated swimming pools.

I think it's just human nature that anyplace we're not looks way more appealing than where we actually are.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:10 AM on March 8, 2010


So I sent this to my friend who lived in Japan for 8 years and was greeted with a "What the FUCK is he going on about?" and "Oh god this is like being trapped in a expat conversation make it stop he is such a tool." My friend's reasons for leaving Japan?

1) He could be fired at any time cause his legal status was kinda tenuous and it just became too stressful and he was making No. Money.

2) Realizing he probably wouldn't get far in his performing/comedy career outside of "wacky american" or play to an ex-pat niche crowd --which he hated.

3) The difficulty of obtaining decent grass.
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, and on some specifics:

"Anime sucks!"

"Uhh, I just ...didn't watch it. I worked mostly in live performance."

"Smoking! everywhere!"

"Well yeah. They do that a lot. I didn't eat out enough cause it was expensive."

"The comedy is terrible!"

"I will give him that."
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 AM on March 8, 2010


The difficulty of obtaining decent grass.

Holy crap, I didn't realize it before but that's exactly what this guy needs.
posted by Kirk Grim at 8:23 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you exoticize a place, you can't live inside it.

This is definitely true.

However, in my limited experience as a white person living in Japan, I've found that-- at least in a large city like Tokyo, where you can't get to know everyone you're going to run into on a daily basis-- my ability to "live inside" the city was hindered not so much by the way I saw those around me but instead by the way I was seen by them. Furthermore, this was due in large part to my physical appearance, which of course I cannot change, regardless of how much I grew into the culture and language (I say this with some confidence because the problem did not occur when using indirect methods of communication, such as e-mail or telephone).

For example, in many cases when I was meeting someone new, we'd need to go through the routine of:

- "Oh my God, you can speak Japanese???"
- "Uh, yeah. I live here!"
- "Wow!!! How long have you been studying it for??"

While I can appreciate this as being polite, it can get to be tiresome and frustrating (as you can probably imagine), and this sort of inescapable "special" treatment is the main reason why I never got to the point of being able to see myself completely settling in.

You can't become, as you say, "just a person in Japan" because you are constantly reminded by those around you that you are in fact not. (Close friends excluded.)

I'd love to hear others' input on this matter.
posted by caaaaaam at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed this, even though it was so long. Thanks for posting it, anotherpanacea!
posted by interrobang at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2010


You can't become, as you say, "just a person in Japan" because you are constantly reminded by those around you that you are in fact not. (Close friends excluded.)

Agreed. After you stop thinking about Japan as an extended vacation and start thinking about it as your place of residence, you realize that you're still always going to be the gaijin.

I found that the people most bothered by this were those who weren't used to being a minority in their own country. Mostly Caucasians, to be honest. I'm Asian American, so I'm used to some people looking at me like I'm a foreigner. But if you didn't grow up with that, it comes as a major shock to be facing it in your adulthood in the country you've come to call "home."

I've had foreign friends in Japan who'd complain a lot about being treated like King Whitey and I'd think, "Could be worse, you know."
posted by zerbinetta at 8:51 AM on March 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think it's just human nature that anyplace we're not looks way more appealing than where we actually are.

Yes. When I lived in the UK for a year, I loved it, almost to a fault -- but I also was constantly reminded that no matter how attached I was becoming to it, I would always be an American. I developed nostalgia not so much for the US but for people and things that I'd left behind that were comforts. Once I got home, I almost immediately developed a nostalgia for Britain (and that nostalgia has never left).
posted by blucevalo at 8:59 AM on March 8, 2010


After you stop thinking about Japan as an extended vacation and start thinking about it as your place of residence, you realize that you're still always going to be the gaijin.

Non-Japanese folks need a thick skin and a good sense of humour to live in Japan, that's for sure, but often it's not skin colour or hair colour or length of nose that marks non-Japanese as being different; rather, it's language ability, communication styles, body language and social intelligence that is the real difference.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:41 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


but where there's people, there's always possibilities for shitty workplace behavior. It's not the monopoly of any one country.

Is anyone actually saying that Japan is the exclusive domain of shitty workplace behaviour?

Or is it rather more true that there are actual cultural differences between the East and the West? And perhaps true that these differences can be stereotyped in a manner that is useful in understanding our own culture?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 AM on March 8, 2010


fff: Or is it rather more true that there are actual cultural differences between the East and the West? And perhaps true that these differences can be stereotyped in a manner that is useful in understanding our own culture?

Of course there are differences. But I think the point is that you're only going to make yourself miserable if you (general "you") keep placing a value judgment on those differences. Observe them, accept that you can't change them, and use them as a basis for understanding and communication within that given culture.
posted by zerbinetta at 10:06 AM on March 8, 2010


So according to Kotaku's bio, this guy is very young, doesn't need to work, spends all his time on video games, wants to be a writer and a rockstar and spends a lot of time lifting weights -- and his perspective on life is completely narcissistic, selfish, and intolerant?! How unbelievable!!
posted by jfwlucy at 10:11 AM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


And then there's the ex-pat in Japan who is attached to the US Military. My parents lived abroad for 10 years, 6 of them in Japan. They LOVED it!

Of course they did. Their work environment was AMERICAN! They lived in JAPAN. When I visited I got to dip my toes in, rather than fully immerse myself.

Yes, I slept on a Futon in the living room of their 100% Japanese home. The toilet took a few lessons to learn to operate (wash, blow dry, curl.) Sure, we took our shoes off when we entered the house (it was written into the lease.) BUT...there was an American fridge in the kitchen, with Edy's ice cream in the freezer.

When I got sick from the pollution and travel crud, we went on base and loaded up on familiar remedies.

We drove past a pachinko parlor, but was advised that it was too smokey to enjoy.

Little school girls stopped us and wanted to pose for pictures with us. Possibly because we looked like the Claus family, especially my Dad who sports a white beard and a Santa hat during the hoidays.

I enjoyed the Japanese grocery stores. Yes, they have a 10,000 Yen melon. Suitable for presentation. They also have one that's the equivalent of $2 suitable for eating as dessert.

It's incredibly difficult to totally leave behind your culture and adapt to one that is so very different from your own.

Your experience is colored by your expectations. My parents expected to have a grand adventure, so they did. I'm not sure what the author of this piece expected, but I suspect that he got it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tim Rogers. Oh me oh my.
posted by JHarris at 10:32 AM on March 8, 2010


I tried reading this, but gave up somewhere around the special snowflake vegetarian axe grinding. Maybe he should move somewhere more veg-friendly like Portland so he can write 20 page articles about how awful hipsters and street corner canvassers are.
posted by TrialByMedia at 10:47 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The comedy is terrible!"

"I will give him that."


So here's the thing -- I haven't really watched Japanese comedy, so maybe it is really atrocious. But as somebody who has been to a lot of open mikes, there is a lot of really bad comedy in America as well. If you're comparing people who have HBO specials with 'I went in to a bar and there was a fat Japanese guy and a skinny Japanese guy', it's not really a great comparison.

To be fair, my sense of humor does not go the 'edgy' "MASTRUBATION! MY PENIS IS GIGANTIC!" route, so it is entirely possible that to him, the United States is a nonstop wonderland of hilarity.

(Also to be fair, one of my least favorite phrases in the entire world is 'here's one you can use'.)
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2010


For some anime/JRPG fans, Japan is seen as a mythical place. A small percentage of these people will make it over to Japan, via the JET program or other means. Some of these people will become extremely bitter about the country, and leave it cursing.

I WENT TO AKIHABARA, AND NOT ONE SINGLE ITEM SHOP
posted by jtron at 11:55 AM on March 8, 2010


I found that the people most bothered by this were those who weren't used to being a minority in their own country. Mostly Caucasians, to be honest. I'm Asian American, so I'm used to some people looking at me like I'm a foreigner. But if you didn't grow up with that, it comes as a major shock to be facing it in your adulthood in the country you've come to call "home."

This. In your "home country", there are millions and millions of people who feel this way.
posted by suedehead at 12:25 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm homesick and will trade this shithead his Japanese work visa for my French one if he is so unhappy there. :-(
posted by whatzit at 12:35 PM on March 8, 2010


Non-Japanese folks need a thick skin and a good sense of humour to live in Japan, that's for sure

Holy shit yes! I still remember my first sighting of the "Uyokus" in their black vans with loudspeakers, having no idea what they were. I asked my friend from the neighborhood about it, he says "Maybe they don't like foreigners. They think you are here to steal Japanese jobs and women. Maybe."

I was shocked at first, never having been a visible minority back home and having had to deal with racist gangs or political movements. Then I started laughing when I realized they were totally right about me and probably at least 95% of my co-workers. Carry on, uyoku man!
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:47 PM on March 8, 2010


- "Oh my God, you can speak Japanese???"
- "Uh, yeah. I live here!"
- "Wow!!! How long have you been studying it for??"



Said friend also mentioned this as a factor - more annoying then anything else, but he's Cuban American so he got all these Weird Ideas About Hispanic-Lookin' People thrown at him. Being a minority isn't always fun but, yes, could be much worse.

Comedy everywhere is awful. Going to an open-mic is being being beaten with a oar.
posted by The Whelk at 12:56 PM on March 8, 2010


As my frame of reference for "Not Japan," I'll try to use San Francisco.

Tim-san you should have stopped right there.
posted by tinatiga at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2010


I read that shit article and all of the comments in here.

What a gigantic waste of time.
posted by subaruwrx at 1:47 PM on March 8, 2010


I stopped having any sympathy for this guy when he announced that he didn't like eating meat because he didn't like eating dirty things - like ramen with 'grease bubbles'. You know, the bit that imparts most of the flavour.
Dirty things... Sheesh.

(Actually, I got annoyed with him long before that!)
posted by opsin at 2:09 PM on March 8, 2010


Oh, given it's housed at Kotaku though, it highlights one of my major issues with that site. They're not only fantastically prone to the kinds of ladlike objectification and misogyny that the gaming community is trying to shake off (I say prone to, they manage it quite routinely, often cloaked in the guise of their Otaku referencing title) but also manage to reach Pitchfork heights of hipsterism.
Two things that annoy me almost as much as stupidity on the internet.
posted by opsin at 2:13 PM on March 8, 2010


And just to clarify a bit: the bitching this guy is doing is something every gaijin does at some point or another. It's more or less impossible for a person who grew up in a Western (maybe even any other) country to not find the Japanese way of doing things (whether that's the ATMs that close at night and the weekend, for no apparent reason or the trucks that creep by your house slooowly with a massive speaker strapped on top, yep--just like in The Blues Brothers--blasting out advertisements for gyoza, or sweet potatoes or politicians at an a astoundingly high volume) is...not what you're used to.

In the honeymoon phase, experiencing these things for the first time is a novelty; after hundred times it feels like the beginnings of your personal Vietnam. But it'll happen.

What my expat friends and I "do" about it is complain to each other over beers and chuu-hais and forget about it. It's the price of living here, and I do want to live here. The sum total of the inconveniences (for me) aren't enough to make me want to leave, not by a long shot. So I don't complain, but I can understand why someone in Japan would--every expat in Japan does at some point. Now that I think of it, I used to be this guy the first year I was here, when I didn't understand the language at all and felt very much in a bubble.

Tim Rogers is odd because he obviously speaks fluent Japanese but seems even more estranged from the Japanese people than people I know who live here and can barely count to ten. As for the good things of Japan, he glaringly omits the kindness and generosity of the Japanese people. Just the massive length of this article makes it more of a screed, and it's a bit disturbing to see so much written on the subject that is meant to be funny but isn't. I wouldn't normally say this to any expat, but to Tim Rogers I think I would in fact advise him: dude, go home.
posted by zardoz at 3:34 PM on March 8, 2010


Non-Japanese folks need a thick skin and a good sense of humour to live in Japan, that's for sure, but often it's not skin colour or hair colour or length of nose that marks non-Japanese as being different; rather, it's language ability, communication styles, body language and social intelligence that is the real difference.

What KokuRyu said, a thousand times. I'm a white southern boy from Virginia, but living in Tokyo and visiting other (rural and urban) parts of Japan I hardly ever get the "Wow you're so white but you can use chopsticks and say 'konnichiwa' I'm so amazed" treatment from people. I've noticed that looking stereotypically "foreign" really only flusters people at first contact, and then once I open my mouth and have a conversation I'm just like anyone else here.

No matter where you live, if you put in the effort to understand the people among whom you live and the culture/society they share, you will find it much, much easier to get along -- no matter how much other aspects of said culture/society might annoy you.

This FPP seems to have drawn out some more Japan expats -- get thee to the meetup thread!
posted by armage at 5:15 PM on March 8, 2010


So here's the thing -- I haven't really watched Japanese comedy, so maybe it is really atrocious.

On average, manzai and the usual stuff you see on TV is bland more than anything else. However, most non-Japanese totally ignore rakugo, which is a form of comedy closer to storytelling that is much more cerebral than anything on TV (Shōten is a comedy program with rakugoka, but not about rakugo per se -- it's full of wordplay, satire, and references to modern culture and history). It's also quite difficult to understand without a fairly good comprehension of Japanese -- but the same could be said about American stand-up.

I think what gets most people is the relative lack of sarcasm and irony in Japanese comedy. That's a cultural issue rather than a content issue, in my opinion. Satire, likewise, exists in manga and other media, but it's not as cutting as it is in the US or the UK.

I read that shit article and all of the comments in here.
What a gigantic waste of time.
posted by subaruwrx


Sounds like someone needs to go home!
posted by armage at 5:27 PM on March 8, 2010


armage: I've noticed that looking stereotypically "foreign" really only flusters people at first contact, and then once I open my mouth and have a conversation I'm just like anyone else here.

To a point. There's a glass ceiling, unfortunately. Hell, I've seen the glass ceiling work for Japanese returnees just because they were perceived as "too foreign."

There's also still going to be a feeling among the Japanese people you meet (before you really really get to know them) that you're a guest in their country and they should therefore treat you as such. They'll be super nice to you and extremely generous with their time, going more out of their way for you than they would for another Japanese person. That's not exactly like fitting in.
posted by zerbinetta at 6:17 PM on March 8, 2010


Well, it's not like we're friendly with everyone back "home" (wherever your non-Japan home is). Life is not a great big Smurf singalong with hugs for everyone you meet. Some people you hit it off with, some you do not. It's unreasonable to expect to "break the glass ceiling" with everyone you meet in Japan, or in every Japanese workplace a "foreigner" happens to work in. Just look at all of the "my work sucks" AskMe questions out there.

In more familiar situations, you make friends with people who share your outlook on life and your experiences, and the same thing happens in Japan. The challenging thing about Japan is that you meet more people on a more continuous basis because of your foreign-ness. It's also easy for more obnoxious people (folks you could safely avoid in other situations) to target you in Japan.

There are plenty of non-Japanese folk who exceed in Japan. It's better to examine what makes them successful, rather than commiserate with the folks who, for whatever reason, just don't enjoy living in the country.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:27 PM on March 8, 2010


To a point. There's a glass ceiling, unfortunately. Hell, I've seen the glass ceiling work for Japanese returnees just because they were perceived as "too foreign."

I've seen that, but that's a separate issue, in my opinion. There are, for better or worse, a different set of expectations working in the case of kikokushijo than for non-Japanese.

There's also still going to be a feeling among the Japanese people you meet (before you really really get to know them) that you're a guest in their country and they should therefore treat you as such. They'll be super nice to you and extremely generous with their time, going more out of their way for you than they would for another Japanese person. That's not exactly like fitting in.

To be fair, that depends entirely on who you talk to. In my experience, it is especially untrue the younger a person is. Don't, however, mistake being treated like a guest in Japan for simply being a guest in one's home. Japanese are quite generous towards guests in general, no matter where they happen to be from. How they treat you may be different because their expectations of you are different (as someone who is not innately familiar with Japanese culture). Of course, some people will just treat foreigners differently, and all you can do is shrug and accept that that's who they are.
posted by armage at 6:38 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm just popping in here to second what armage and KokuRyu said in their two comments immediately above.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:57 PM on March 8, 2010


Amélie Nothomb at least made a decent novel out of a similar experience. (It helps that, while she must have as difficult a personality as Mr. Rogers, she appears to be much more aware of it.)

It's really disconcerting that the self-centered bozo who wrote this excessively long whine gets referred to as "Mr. Rogers". That's just wrong somehow.
posted by Lexica at 7:04 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's unreasonable to expect to "break the glass ceiling" with everyone you meet in Japan, or in every Japanese workplace a "foreigner" happens to work in.

Of course it is. But I'm simply addressing the idea that a foreigner can be "just like anyone else here," assuming that means "just like any Japanese person here." If it actually means, "just like any Japanese or foreign person here," then...uh...sure, I guess.

Don't, however, mistake being treated like a guest in Japan for simply being a guest in one's home.

Yeah, I didn't. Don't mistake them being welcoming to you for them thinking of you as one of their own. There are distinctly different levels of politeness and language for different circles of familiarity, as I'm sure you're well aware. As a foreign-born-and-raised person, you're still going to be thought of as a bit outside in comparison to other Japanese people.

I'm not even saying this in a wah-wah-Japan-sucks sort of way. I've had Japanese friends who were particularly good at delving into and explaining these aspects of their culture, and I'm totally willing to take their word for it because it matches what I've also experienced. I don't even think it's a bad thing, necessarily. It's just a thing.

How they treat you may be different because their expectations of you are different (as someone who is not innately familiar with Japanese culture). Of course, some people will just treat foreigners differently, and all you can do is shrug and accept that that's who they are.

That's exactly what I mean when I say, "That's not exactly like fitting in."
posted by zerbinetta at 7:27 PM on March 8, 2010


Hell, I've seen the glass ceiling work for Japanese returnees just because they were perceived as "too foreign."

I've seen that, but that's a separate issue, in my opinion. There are, for better or worse, a different set of expectations working in the case of kikokushijo than for non-Japanese.


Yes.
posted by misozaki at 7:47 PM on March 8, 2010


The "just a person" thing is a red herring, guys. To the extent that someone notices you at all, you are never "just a person." Humans make judgments based on superficial characteristics; it's what we do. It makes sense that some people would rankle at the judgments made of them in Japan, and dislike making small talk on the topic, but it's just silly to pretend that back in their country of origin no judgments are made of them at all.

Speaking as an introverted and bookish nerd who likes to keep it low-key, hates being a nuisance to others, and generally strives to live and let live, I have felt more at home in Japan since the very first day I set foot here than I ever felt anywhere in Australia, where I was born. And then I have friends who are the opposite: they grew up in Japan feeling like outsiders, then finally found happiness in Australia where they could be extroverted and jovial in the great outdoors and actually win social approval thereby.

(Note: There is real discrimination in Japan, and I don't want to minimize the issues of those who deal with it. But white male Anglophones are very rarely the target of such discrimination, and the idea that "the Japanese" are constitutionally incapable of "accepting" "outsiders," no matter what, is just nonsense.)
posted by No-sword at 9:16 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I didn't. Don't mistake them being welcoming to you for them thinking of you as one of their own. There are distinctly different levels of politeness and language for different circles of familiarity, as I'm sure you're well aware. As a foreign-born-and-raised person, you're still going to be thought of as a bit outside in comparison to other Japanese people.

How do you know? I think you're assuming things based partially upon what people (Japanese and non-) say Japan is like rather than what it actually is. Of course I'm going to be an outsider in many contexts, but that's because I'm not part of person X's family or their circle of friends or what have you. However, I will very much be an "insider" in other contexts. That's true in any culture.

I don't know what your experience in Japan was, who you met, where you went, etc., and I'm not trying to denigrate what you're saying in any way. But I think what you're saying about the insularity Japanese society just doesn't hold true as much as you claim.

That's exactly what I mean when I say, "That's not exactly like fitting in."

But your comment seemed to be saying that Japanese people in general are like this, when I really believe that it's limited to a minority. And what do you mean by "fitting in"? Being considered a friend? Being considered a part of someone's family? I doubt there is any way a first-generation immigrant could "fit in" 100% to any society, even in the US or other immigration-friendly countries. But within a specific social or family group? Very possible, even in Japan.

I think our disagreement comes down to our different experiences, and I doubt we'll bridge this gap via an online discussion, so I'll leave my comments in this thread at that. (Feel free to mail me if you'd like to discuss it more, though.)

I think we can agree, though, that Tim Rogers probably isn't fitting in very well, no matter what definition one uses.
posted by armage at 9:31 PM on March 8, 2010


On non-preview:

(Note: There is real discrimination in Japan, and I don't want to minimize the issues of those who deal with it. But white male Anglophones are very rarely the target of such discrimination, and the idea that "the Japanese" are constitutionally incapable of "accepting" "outsiders," no matter what, is just nonsense.)

No-sword, as usual, cuts to the heart of the matter.

Oh, and there are absolutely too damn many islands.
posted by armage at 9:33 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


How do you know? I think you're assuming things based partially upon what people (Japanese and non-) say Japan is like rather than what it actually is.

I could ask you the same question. How do you know? We could go back and forth like this forever.

Look, I think you guys are leading to the conclusion that there is only one kind of discrimination---the kind that denigrates a person. But there's also the kind of discrimination that treats you as somehow special just for being white. Foreigners in Japan build whole careers off of their foreignness. If you want to see that as fitting in, then fine. But I see that as taking advantage of being very different, and it's based more on your country of origin than your sparkling personality.

(Note: There is real discrimination in Japan, and I don't want to minimize the issues of those who deal with it. But white male Anglophones are very rarely the target of such discrimination, and the idea that "the Japanese" are constitutionally incapable of "accepting" "outsiders," no matter what, is just nonsense.)

I don't know where the quotes around "accepting" and "outsiders" came from because, from what I can see, you're the only one using those words, No sword. I have no problem believing that there are Japanese people who can accept outsiders. I'm just saying that your "foreignness" plays a big role in how Japanese society sees you.

I doubt there is any way a first-generation immigrant could "fit in" 100% to any society, even in the US or other immigration-friendly countries.

See? You guys are even agreeing with me, but using different words to make it look like a debate. I'm the one who, upthread, confused discrimination in Japan with discrimination in other countries. So I think you're reading negativity into my posts where I don't even mean for it to me.

Honestly, like No-sword, my habits and mannerisms made me feel more comfortable in Tokyo than in New York. And I sometimes feel like I "grew up" there in the sense that I came into my own and spent important years there as a young adult. But how I saw Japan and how Japan sees me are two totally different things. What in the world is so wrong with admitting that?
posted by zerbinetta at 10:57 PM on March 8, 2010


Ugh. Not "confused." Compared! I compared the discrimination! Cripes.
posted by zerbinetta at 10:59 PM on March 8, 2010


I'm I the only ex-pat who truly loves the fact that I have no possibility of ever fully "fitting in" to my new home's culture? Because for me that's part of the thrill. And I do try -- I'd never go out of my way to be a jerk (although I'm sure it happens by accident).

To assume I could ever fully assimilate would be highly presumptuous of me anyways. But being an outsider has a number of advantages. On the whole, I'd say it's a net plus.
posted by bardic at 1:15 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I, even
posted by bardic at 1:19 AM on March 9, 2010


Okay, Zerbinetta, I take your point about scare quotes. So, in a spirit of non-jerky argumentation, here's a rebuttal to your own words:

Don't mistake them being welcoming to you for them thinking of you as one of their own. There are distinctly different levels of politeness and language for different circles of familiarity, as I'm sure you're well aware. As a foreign-born-and-raised person, you're still going to be thought of as a bit outside in comparison to other Japanese people.

There are plenty of Japanese people who consider me "one of their own" in every sense that matters--a coworker, a friend, an antagonist, a family member, a reader, a person with an interest in the future of Japan. And it's not because I'm all Sean Connery in Rising Sun-- it's just because we share a stake in certain things, and our interactions are free of meta-friction (no language issues, no me being a jerk about social norms). So who is "they" in the above, and what exactly am I "outside"?

A pernicious idea spread after the war and during the bubble: the idea that Japanese said things among themselves that they wouldn't say to foreigners. If this was ever true, it certainly isn't now. The truth is more mundane: some things are just too much hassle to explain in your second language to a guy who won't meet you halfway. Some things you keep to yourself not because your interlocutor is a foreigner but because she's a business rival, or a GHQ functionary or whatever.

I know you didn't make this claim, but what I am trying to argue is these ideas about "the Japanese" as an exclusive monolith that keeps everyone at polite arm's length are urban legends. The socionormative function they serve is to keep the handy Other image of Japan alive and to keep Old Japan Hands in business.

Yeah, if you're a white man in Japan (I won't even pretend to speak for women, or non-white foreigners) people are obviously going to notice. The thing is that as long as you act normal, they aren't going to care. It's no more isolating than being a redhead. It's just one aspect of your appearance, and not even the one that most affects how people view you--that would be the fact that you are a man.
posted by No-sword at 2:26 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


"He does know how much of a jerk he comes across when he refuses to drink with someone right? I mean if you're allergic then you're allergic, but at least carry around something nonalcoholic to drink with anyone who asks you. Or you can do the same thing that makes you look like a jerk everytime."

For reasons I can't be bothered to go into here, it's better for my health if I don't drink. I work in an office where heavy drinking is very much part of the culture. And, you know, I end up drinking. I can understand him being that firm about it.
posted by mippy at 7:49 AM on March 9, 2010


As far as I can tell he's 31 now

This is the first time I've come across this guy, and I presumed from article alone he was middle-aged.
posted by mippy at 8:25 AM on March 9, 2010


This is the first time I've come across this guy, and I presumed from article alone he was middle-aged.

31 isn't middle aged anymore?

*whew*

/29
posted by delmoi at 11:46 AM on March 9, 2010


Oh, and there are absolutely too damn many islands.

What's 用いる mean?
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on March 9, 2010


What's 用いる mean?

Mochi-iru means "to use" or "to employ (as a tool or example etc)"
posted by KokuRyu at 12:29 PM on March 9, 2010


TEMPLATE CONVERSATIONS CREEP ME OUT
I swear, at every party I've ever been to in Japan, this exact conversation has occurred, word for word:

"Ahh! Beer!"

"This beer is delicious!"

"Yes! This beer is delicious!"

"There's nothing quite so delicious as a cold beer after a hard day of work!"


I love those sorts of conversations.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2010


I have this theory that a major role of American talk radio is to provide the scripts for template conversations. Well talk radio and SNL. If I start hearing some new canned patter all over the place I presume that either Limbaugh's writers came up with something new, or SNL has a new running gag skit.

But really this sort of thing is ubiquitous everywhere, even here on mefi. Calling them memes and running jokes doesn't stop them from being template conversations.
posted by idiopath at 12:38 PM on March 9, 2010


But really this sort of thing is ubiquitous everywhere, even here on mefi. Calling them memes and running jokes doesn't stop them from being template conversations.

Yes, precisely. The same thing goes with re-telling stories your friends have told a hundred times before, etc. It doesn't matter what these rote conversations are "about", because the real conversation is always:

"We are in a group together!"

"Yes! We are together!"

"I love being together!"

"Yes!! I love having togethery-togetherness as if being together with you were my profession! Tell me more about being together!" etc.

It's not about whatever the subject is, it's all about establishing comfort and acceptance with your fellow primates. For example, see what I just did there?

Oh, wait, see what I just did there? Yeah, that's right.
posted by vorfeed at 1:26 PM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


the US or other immigration-friendly countries

I've fixed that for you.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:43 PM on March 9, 2010


If the US isn't immigration-friendly, then it's hard to know which are. (I'm Canadian, before you ask).
posted by smorange at 7:59 PM on March 9, 2010


Well, it would help if the US would stop requiring fingerprints from every foreigner entering the country (something that Canada doesn't do, IIRC, and that Japan does do because they were apparently imitating the US' overreaction to "foreign crime").

That said, though, the US is still quite immigration-friendly, both culturally and legally.
posted by armage at 8:26 PM on March 9, 2010


Speaking as an American who has spent time abroad, I would definitely say that the US is culturally immigration-friendly. I have this weird personal quirk where I only end up in LTRs with foreigners - both my ex-husband and my current partner are European - and they haven't had half of the xenophobic shit that I've experienced elsewhere.

Hell, we're all a bunch of mutts over here. You have a conversation with any American about their ethnic background and no one ever says "Oh, I'm American." It's always "I'm half Scottish, half Martian, and one third Cherokee." Every last one of us came from somewhere else. That's not really true in a place like Iceland, where people can trace their families back to the original landing party in 900AD and if you can't? You're not a real Icelander and they'd rather that you get out before you taint the bloodline.

(Germany was marginally better than Iceland, but there was definitely a sense of "You're foreign? You're strange. I'mma keep my distance.")

I hang out with foreigners in the US as much, if not more than, I do naturalized citizens and I've never heard about any kind of generalized "Go away, filthy foreigner" sentiments. Sure, isolated incidents of stupidity, but mostly of the overly curious variety and I've never heard complaints of finding personally-directed xenophobia. Perhaps I just haven't heard about it, or perhaps the people I hang out with have been lucky, but I'd wager that whatever our political and legal processes, Americans are pretty socially chill with foreigners.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:44 AM on March 10, 2010


grapefruitmoon, a friend of mine spent the first 10 years of her life in Germany. She got lots of "go back to China" comments. She's 50% German and 0% Chinese.
posted by smorange at 5:36 AM on March 10, 2010


An aunt of mine lived in a smallish regional centre in Germany for a number of years.

The people there still referred to fellow Germans - who had moved there from the East in the wake of WWII - as auslander: "foreigners".
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:46 PM on March 10, 2010


This is the problem with constantly comparing a society to some other standard. Culture is an incredibly deep and complex thing. Of course there will be certain aspects of everyday life in any country that rub you the wrong way, but it's a mistake to turn those simple, everyday experiences into an over-generalized reflection on an entire society.

In short, people ranting on like this about an entire country pisses me off.
posted by genericdave at 10:15 PM on March 30, 2010


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