I’m The Invisible Man

Two examples yesterday of the frustration at times of being a foreigner in Japan. Of course there are many times when being an ‘alien’ works in my favour but its annoying when you’re trying to just go about simple things and you have to endure problems. First of all I went in to the post office (a place which has p*ssed me off before with its anal rules although I guess in some way that is what makes this country operate smoothly) and gave the clerk two cards and said I wanted to send them to Igirisu (England) but moments later I see him pointing at England and asking his colleague which country that is in Japanese. “Excuse me, but I just told you in Japanese what it is” I think to myself.

Next, I meet my friend Shinji and after some ramen we go to ‘Dennys’ to just sit and relax over a dessert and a few soft drinks. Ready to order another drink I call over the waiter. “Excuse me, one of these please” I say to him in Japanese and he replies “chotto matei kudasai” (just a moment please) which I thought just meant he was busy and would take my order soon but then seconds later a waitress comes to the table and asks for my order which Shinji gives this time.

It seems that as often happens the Japanese get flustered when someone obviously foreign speaks to them and right from the start they are not gonna even try and understand anything I say even though it’s in their language. Sure, my pronunciation is terrible at times but they switch off as soon as I open my mouth and panic and don’t listen to anything I say. Shinji said he thought that the waiter probably just assumed I was speaking in English and didn’t listen to me at all.

A couple of years ago I was out with my ex-girlfriend and as always the waiter goes over to her when it comes to ordering which is fair enough and maybe the same would happen in England but it did irk me somewhat when they always wanted confirmation and reassurance from her for the order. I guess most of the time everything goes well and of course they don’t mean anything intentionally bad but every now and again things like this happen and make me feel like I am invisible and don’t exist.

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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2 Responses to I’m The Invisible Man

  1. Ethan says:

    Oh yes…what a topic! Angry memories are flooding back to me now. Anyhow this happens to all of us I think. They just switch off and ignore what I say. If I could throw in an ancedote…One time at Yoshinoya, I ordered the usual that I always order, suddenly the waiter was questioning me about my order. "what size?" he says in English. Of course then I assumed I said the wrong thing, but my friend knew I didn’t and just yelled my order back to the guy. He went into the bathroom and came out wiping his eyes!!! I salute you Mr. Yoshinoya man I hope you quit the same day!

  2. Gideon says:

    Glenster, I truly know the feeling, I think it is universal as they are petrified of bringing the wrong thing. I know people who really do have excellent Japanese, even level one and people still assume that they can’t speak it. It makes me wonder why I study Japanese for five hours every day, rain or shine… what’s it all for?! Hang on a minute… I don’t! Having said all that, it does seem to be better these days, especially in good old Kashiwa, which is getting to be a pretty international place.

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