Came across an interesting article titled “Gaijin Elitism in Japan” and thought it was worth posting because I get the same impression that this blogger gets when he observes foreigners living and working in Japan. Although he probably observes it more than I do because I don’t pay much attention to foreigners in Japan for the most part. This blogger also has a podcast which might be worth having a listen to if you are living in Japan and would like to get some good interpretations and insights into living in Japan. I didn’t realize podcasting is still going on and reminds me of a podcast I became involved some years ago that lasted three years and then was abruptly dropped which was disappointing. It’s like three years getting tossed in the bucket when a lot of energy went into the podcast to get it established. Not sure about gaijin living in Japan for long periods of time. Does strange things to their psychology and outlook on life me included.
Source: Just Japan
Gaijin Elitism in Japan
This is a topic that was coming up last year in the jvlog world here in Japan. Basically, a bunch of YouTubers here in Japan made videos talking about how some foreigners in Japan consider themselves better or more valuable than other foreigners. I even waded into the fray with some of my thoughts on the matter (check out my video here).
There is something to be said about gaijin (foreigner) elitism in Japan. I have been here for nearly 8 years and have definitely encountered it more than once.
I’m going to use some broad brushstrokes in this post and have a little fun.
If you are in Japan and find yourself falling into one of these categories I’m surely not talking about you specifically. YOU ARE amazing! I’m talking about all the other foreigners in that category who are not!
This post will of course be from my very “first-world/privileged/Western” perspective.
Let’s take a look at some groups I have encountered over the years who have had members who have at times been more than a little snooty!
Direct hire and government ALTs
Over the years I have met several (more than that) folks who work for some rather large Japanese government sponsored ALT (assistant language teacher) programs who definitely consider themselves higher up the food chain than all other teachers in Japan. They may have their own lingo and jargon that’s often used in public to exclude others, hang out in packs and generally consider those who may even do the exact same job, but for a different organization less than them.
I’ve even seen this with some folks who work for city boards of education thinking that they are somehow better than those who work for 3rd party companies…doing the exact same work.
Not all people in these groups are like this. In fact the vast majority are swell folks, but as they say, “a few bad apples…”
I was a teacher…now I have a “real” job!
There are those who come to Japan unsure of what they want to do in life. They become teachers because it is the only job they can get. Eventually they move out of the education sector into the private business world in Japan. Some start restaurants or shops. Others work for larger Japanese companies.
Many if not most people I have met in this situation are awesome people and several have been featured on my podcast. They are humble, talented and hard-working people with drive and vision.
Some however, are simply jerks. Some think their feces smells of daisies and marigolds and look down upon those who do the same job they once did as lower life forms or something to be joked about.
I know 5 billion Kanji and passed the JLPT Level 1…You?
There are some folks you may meet in Japan who consider themselves far superior to other foreigners because they speak Japanese well.
That’s a pretty shallow measure of a person don’t you think?
Knowing a second or third language, although impressive isn’t a true mark of a person’s value.
I’ve met foreigners here in Japan who have lousy Japanese (I’m one of those people) who volunteer with Japanese community organizations, work with charities and NGOs, work long hours all while raising a families.
I don’t see those people strutting around telling people how awesome they are! They are too busy making the world a better place than bragging about their vast knowledge of language.
(note – – I recommend you do study and learn Japanese to an extent in order to enjoy your Japan experience to its fullest.)
I work at a university…you?
I begin by noting that some of my best friends in Japan are uni instructors…
I’m talking about some of the other folks!
Some members of this crew are similar to those who once suffered as lowly ESL teachers or ALTs and “bettered” themselves by leaving the ranks.
“I was an English teacher, but then I got my Masters degree via correspondence and now I have several part-time jobs at universities and am better than all those folks who do the job I once had. I make more money than them and teach co-eds so I RULE!”
I have met a few with that attitude. Luckily just a few.
I Am More Japanese Than You!
Sometimes you will meet foreigners who come to Japan and throw themselves into EVERYTHING JAPANESE from the get go.
They will learn to speak and read the language very well. They will adopt the cultural norms and even mannerisms of Japanese people. Sometimes, as their Japanese social skills blossom, their ability to socialize and cope with fellow Westerns disappears.
These people may look down upon those who “don’t get Japanese culture” like them as inferior or even unworthy of being in Japan. These folks are often seen as strange and a little creepy by fellow gaijin. Often Japanese people also find them odd and may categorize them as “Henna Gaijin” or “Strange Foreigners.”
I wouldn’t say these people are jerks. I would describe them more as odd anomalies, something to observe with curiosity and confusion.
Please go to Just Japan to read the entire article.