Monday, 29 September 2008

Dumb Foreigner

As a white foreigner in Japan I stand out. When I do something stupid (which happens often) I stand out even more.

Sometimes this is a good thing, for example getting directions when lost (which happens embarrassingly often) or getting out of minor troubles - a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card. When done on purpose it is called "playing the gaijin (foreigner) card" and can come in handy sometimes.

On the flip side, however, is the fact that if I make a mistake it is because I'm a foreigner. It may be actually due to the fact that I wasn't listening, or because I'm exhausted, or because I had a brain fart, or - wonder of wonders - I'm just plain dumb, but whatever the situation it will be chalked up to me being a foreigner.

I'm always trying to get rid of change in my wallet. Quite often I'll count out coins and give then to the cashier only to have them smile at me patronizingly as they assume I've just stepped off the plane and haven't figured out the currency - when in actual fact I just can't count!

Tonight, is another good example. I showed up for a class the time of which I had been warned might change. When I checked last week, however, no announcement had been posted in the *terribly technologically advanced* announcement system - aka a cork board on the 19th floor. I was running a bit late tonight and decided just to go right to the class. When I cracked open the door of the room, however, 4 stunned faces greeted me. They looked... well they looked like some half-mad white girl had just barged in on them! (the profs and students of my own department are all used to me and treat me completely normally, but others around the university, especially up on the grad floors, tend to freak out upon seeing me).


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