Sunday, September 17, 2006

Japanese Manners & the Local Gaijin

I've often been told that the Japanese don't expect foreigners to understand or display Japanese manners while they in Japan. For instance, they will forgive you if you move in to your new apartment and don't go around introducing yourself to your neighbors with little gifts because they realize you are unaware that this is traditional. Today, it occurred to me that this understanding is not entirely one-sided in the benefits department.

I was parking my bike in a narrow alley next to the market and two women were passing in the narrow area behind me. It was an area wide enough for two people to comfortably pass by but one was pushing a bicycle. I was probably occupying about 1/4 of the available space as I eased the bike into a gap, and I certainly was the first one there. One woman, before she had a chance to even bump into the other, asked to be excused and then proceeded to knock into me without a word. It was pretty clear that she didn't feel obliged to exercise any courtesy toward me because I was a foreigner.

I know that a lot of foreigners feel persecuted and that bad behavior is often directed at them as a form of prejudice. I'm not actually saying this was the case though I do know that there are people who treat foreigners badly and have had a few obvious experiences myself. However, it was clear that this wasn't just some rude, pushy woman because she had already displayed overly gracious deference to the other woman while blithely pretending I was an inanimate obstacle in her path.

No comments: