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Pretty much every foreigner who has spent time in Japan will have tales of all the myriad ways they unwittingly did or said the wrong thing before fully acclimatising.But today we’re not here to talk about accidentally stepping on tatami mats while wearing shoes, or talking on the phone while on the train, or any of the other insignificant little social snafus that we’ve all heard of before.The other camp is probably a little more laid-back about their new life in Japan and revels in the chance to make friends with other people from literally all over the world.They forge lifelong friendships with people from far-flung places, learn about those people’s cultures, and generally have an amazing time, apart from the fact that they find making Japanese friends to be a bit too much effort, and so they don’t bother.Instead, we’re going to talk about the serious, potentially life-altering mistakes that many foreigners make when living in Japan, and which many people don’t even realise they’re making until months or even years pass.We’re talking about the kind of mistakes that foster distance between oneself and others, mistakes which hinder their attempts to acclimatise to Japan, and mistakes that scupper their own chances of having a happy life in Japan. The “Gaijin Smash”, a phrase allegedly first coined by an American working on the JET Program, means to exert your will over a Japanese person using your foreign-ness as leverage.Japan isn’t responsible for your happiness, and if you’re constantly unhappy here, there’s a good chance you’d be constantly unhappy somewhere else, too. Instead of trying to decide which aspects about each country are better or worse than the other, maybe just embrace the differences.
Not only do you upset other people, you also lower people’s opinions of other foreigners living in that area, and if that weren’t bad enough, you also smash your own chances of fitting in.
Some don’t even want to make Japanese friends — they’re happy being Bubble Dwellers. There’s little point in moving to another country unless you’re willing to acclimate at least a little bit, and hanging with the locals is the best way to do that.
It’s also kind of sad when foreigners see each other as rivals instead of potential friends with so much in common (a shared interest in Japan, for one! Our advice is to make friends with whomever you want to, but don’t intentionally seek to cut people out of your life. You never know when you might miss out on meeting someone awesome.
Foreigners in Japan can tend to fall into two camps when it comes to socialising.
The first camp wants to get stuck in to Japan life, learn as much Japanese as possible, and make as many Japanese friends as possible.