June 24, 2008

Gaijin Can Understand Our Inscrutable Society?!

Found a mildly disappointing, yet not surprising, survey today as translated by Ken at What Japan Thinks. Take a look at this list of things foreigners can do to surprise Japanese people:

1 Writing difficult kanji
2 Bowing on the telephone
3 Using dialect
4 Speaking Japanese fluently
5 Using proverbs, idioms
6 Eating natto
7 Habitually using chopsticks
8 Getting drunk with tie tied around head
9 Using Japanese era dates, not Western calendar
10 Singing enka, folk songs
11 Passing through crowds with a “suimasen” and the one-handed chop
12 Sitting “seiza”
13 Slurping noodles
14 Dancing a bon dance
15 Using a toothpick
16 After a bath drinking fruity milk with one hand on hip
17 Sleeping on a futon on the floor
18 Taking off shoes before going indoors
19 Wearing a kimono, yukata
20 Queueing properly
Let's analyze. Numbers 1-5 I can kind of understand. After that a lot of them are either quaint or severely underestimating foreigners. We do our homework before we come, Japan. And I could swear America invented #8. #16 is not something I ever thought of as cultural. #15 makes no sense.
One of the things I liked about our new textbooks was the chapter with the foreigner complaining about being asked if she uses chopsticks all the time. I used that as a spring board for a lesson about what is rude in both countries and what isn't and the difference. It's hard to explain why the chopstick and language compliments are "rude" though.
Number 10 is one of my favorite activities.