Gaijin Smash

Cultural Differences

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on September 26, 2005

I was having lunch at school one day when Noisy Fucker #2 suddenly blurts out – “Am I the fattest one in this school?”
I honestly don’t know how this conversation started, I wasn’t paying attention until it got to this point (don’t you just love coming in on the middle of conversations?). He’s got a bit of a beer gut, but I wouldn’t really call him fat. But as an aside, I would like to take this opportunity to rename him to Noisy Gentleman. Although he is still quite enamored with his own voice, I actually like him. He tries to speak to me in English, which is always a bonus in my book. Noisy Fucker #1 however, will remain now and forevermore, Noisy Fucker.
Anyway, Noisy Gentleman takes a look around, searching for someone who can go toe to toe on the scales with him. He calls out to a female teacher. “Hey, what’s your waist size?” he asks. “It’s 84 centimeters.” she responds simply. “Shit, I won!” Noisy Gentleman exclaims. He is, indeed, the fattest person in this school.
But wait-a-minute, back up that train for a moment. Let’s take a look at what just happened there, cause it blew my socks right off. But just in case you didn’t catch the subtleties, let’s run it through the Japanese Indirectness Translator™
NG (To female teacher): Hey, what’s your waist size? (JIT: Hey, how fat are you?)
Female Teacher: It’s 84 centimeters. (JIT: Not that fat.)
NG: Shit, I won! (JIT: Fuck, you’re not fatter than me.)
See, this conversation would have never happened in America. I can’t imagine the amount of Bounty quicker-picker-upper paper towels it would take to clean up what was left of Noisy Gentleman if he asked a woman in America how fat she was. And then the female teacher, who isn’t even fat, casually answers the question, not feeling at all offended or ready to come down upon him with the Furies of a Thousand Hells or anything like that. That just blew my mind.


In America, it’s very much an eggshell issue. If a girl turns to her boyfriend/male emotional whore friend and asks “Does this outfit make me look fat?”, the question the male deals with isn’t “Hmm. Does that make her look fat?” No, it’s “How can I answer no without getting painfully and brutally killed?” It’s a bastardly question all men avoid getting hit with. Say no too fast, and she accuses you of lying to please her. Look too hard, and she gets pissed off because you actually have to think about it. Scientific studies (conducted by me) state that the male must say no in exactly 2.7 seconds, complete with ONE brief glance before staring her directly in her eyes, then looking down at the ground like the broken shell of a man you are.
But in Japan, no, no, no. “How fat are you?” “Only a little” is perfectly acceptable. No blood or anything. I think I mentioned before that for all the politeness and indirectness Japanese people are believed to observe, they will cut to the quick on certain topics, and weight is one of them. A Japanese person will tell you straight to your face “Whoa, you put on a few pounds there, didn’t you?” They will tell other people about the weight gain/loss of their friends. One of my Japanese female friends said to me the other week “I saw my friend, I hadn’t seen her in a while. She got kinda fat.” This isn’t backstabbing either, I’m sure she said directly to her friend “You got kinda fat, huh?” I had an accident last week and got all scraped up, which had my hands and arms in bandages. Luckily, that was the extent of my injuries. The teachers asked me if I was okay. “Yeah, just scratches, no bones were broken.” I responded. “Well, of course,” the Vice Principal says, “You’ve got some extra meat on you, so that was probably protection.”
What the fuck is that?! That’s the worst condolences I’ve ever heard in my life, ever.
Japanese people are very concerned about their weight. You will meet girls who look like popsicle sticks who say “Oh my God! I’m so fat, I need to go on a diet!” No woman, you need MORE MCDONALDS. I will pay for your first Happy Meal even. It’s amazing. If you are in Japan, and not quite at the target weight for your height, just don’t bother going to the doctor. It’ll probably go something like this…
Patient: Well Doc, I’ve had a headache for the past three days…
Doctor: I see. Have you tried losing some weight?
Patient 2: Doctor, I’m having muscle cramps…
Doctor: Ah yes. Why don’t you go on a diet?
Patient 3: Doctor, doctor! Help, I’ve been shot!
Doctor: Well, you’ve got some extra meat, so you’re probably okay. Now let’s try getting rid of the rest, eh?
On the bright side though, if a Japanese person ever tells you you’ve lost some weight, YOU KNOW they’re not lying about it.
Later during that same lunch, two sannensei girls came to the teachers room. As they were standing at the door, one of the male teachers was walking by, with his lunch in hand – some bakery bread. “Ah, a pastry!” one of the girls said. “Yeah, it’s pretty sad, isn’t it?” The male teacher says. “Everyone else has their nice prepared bento and all I’ve got is this pastry.”
What’s wrong with pastry, you ask? Well, you’re not Japanese, so you’re not reading between the lines as they do. Here, I’ll help you again.
This male teacher is complaining because every other male teacher has bento, prepared lunches that were made for them by the little misses. He however does not, a sentiment he later confirms when he says “The wife’s been busy lately.” God forbid he actually make his own lunch. No, instead he buys convenience store pastries and complains about it to 15-year old girls. Sure, that’s a great solution.
Before he returns to his desk, he has some final wisdom to impart to the two girls. “When you girls get older, make sure to treat your husbands right.” (Note: The word he used in Japanese was “danna” – which means husband but also has a sort of superior/master connotation to it) The girls bow their heads and obediently say “Hai!”
I began to prepare my statement to the media once the Feminist Movement stormed down upon this school and called for this teacher’s resignation, soul, and maybe even testicles on a particularly aggressive day. But wait, this is Japan. There is no Feminist Movement here. Nobody really gave a second thought to a male teacher telling two 15-year-old girls to become good little wives and make their husbands lunches everyday. Lunch continued on completely unabated.
I just don’t see this happening in America. But I dunno, maybe I’ve had some different experiences. I was in the honors track in high school, and for whatever reason, the male female ratio was always badly lopsided. Something like 30 girls and 5 guys in a class. And guys, trust me on this one, this was definitely not a good thing. One of my English teachers, he used to tempt the belly of the beast too. He’d randomly throw out sexist statements like “Because we all know women belong barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Right fellas?” And he’d look to us for approval, and we wouldn’t even need to look up – we could just feel 30 pairs of female eyes boring holes into our skulls, ready to pounce and tear the meat off our skins should we say something they didn’t approve of. “No opinion” one of us would meekly say, and we’d all silently pray that we’d live to at least see 5th period.
Eight years later, I finally realize what he was trying to do. Make men out of us. Cause if you can face 30+ angry, opinionated, honor student teenage girls, and come out of it still alive with the clothes on your back and the equipment still between your legs, then, well, damnit you can do anything. Suddenly, the small stuff isn’t so scary anymore. Like roller coasters. Or wild, untamed lions. Or, zombies.
God bless you, Mr. Souza.

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29 Responses

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  1. Jay said, on November 6, 2006 at 12:45 am

    haha, teachers complaining over a Bento to students… are they really that close over in Japan? xD
    i never really talked to my teacher…

  2. Corey Furzer said, on November 6, 2006 at 1:36 am

    Well hopefully this pops this chapters comment cherry.
    Anyways, yep, women should be feared. But if you can get out of it alive and everything still intact, figure it is either good luck or great skill. A good example, when I was in highschool, there was this one girl I flirted with alot(jokingly just to try and get her to relax or laugh, obviously never worked.) Anyways I’m about 5 foot 4 inches. This chick was 6foot2inch, and did martial arts. I think I got about three ball kicks from her and 2 broken fingers. Funny thing about the fingers though is that I just set them myself and didn’t wear a cast or anything, took them awhile to heal but they are perfectly fine. So I think I got the Love Hina Keitaro immortality thing.
    Yeah, I did hear once that Japanese people are blunt. Heck, a friend whose mom is from Japan stated point blank to me “Oh, you seem short for a guy.” I didn’t know what to do so I just tucked the tail in between my legs and nodded.
    Suggestion, get the noisy guys some of those dog collars that shock the dog when they bark, and see if you can set it’s sensitivity to high. You may get some piece and quiet.
    Oh by the way, any updates on gaijn powers? I have to say mine would be money repellent and girl attractant. Since I don’t have money, live in US California, and have a 40 year old and 17 year old girls in Japan liking me.

  3. Jake said, on November 6, 2006 at 1:42 am

    Haha, i love english teachers. They’re always entertaining in one way or another.

  4. Danutsu said, on November 6, 2006 at 2:27 am

    XD for the Love Hina comment – exactly what I had I mind.
    You know, when I was in high school I had this great math teacher who was everybody’s favorite because of the little jokes and stories he would always have for us. One day, he came and told us something like “Girls, you need to remember something, for when you get married. When you wash dishes, wash them on BOTH sides”… Well, the story was a little bigger and more complex but I don’t remember the details. Remarkably the girls in the class just laughed with everyone else…
    But keep in mind, I live in Romania and Political Correctness ™ isn’t the most powerful thing yet… thankfully.

  5. Zen Gentleman Lifeguard said, on November 6, 2006 at 11:36 am

    Yeah, I have a friend who’s Okinawan. I’d gained some weight because of some medication side effects, and she hadn’t seen me for a while. When I popped in to visit her where she works the first thing she said was “Whoa! You’ve gotten fat!” I was a little irked, but then I figured out what was going on.
    T_T
    I’m still crying on the inside, however…

  6. Jake said, on November 6, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    All of this is so true, it’s scary. xD When I lost some weight, people would say ‘woooow, you look a lot thinner’, but lately it’s just ‘hmmm, you’re getting chubby, go work out’.
    Those wacky Nihonjin.

  7. Belthasar2 said, on November 6, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    I’ve read all these things already on Outpost nine, but they still make me laugh. Especially the great style of writing. (Feminist Movement stormed … comedy gold!)
    And Danutsu: this will change when you be a member of the European Union.

  8. Kerii-chan said, on November 6, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Hmm, doesn’t “danna” mean just “master” or something along those lines as well, or is it only “husband”? Because I’ve known that word sinceit was used in Naruto (by a male character, Deidara, on his parter, another male, i.e. “Sasori no danna”). Because of Deidara’s girliness and unconfirmed gender at the time, some people translated it as “husband” while others who knew he was male just used “master” or didn’t translate it at all. Now, was there some odd confusion here, or are we yaoi fangirls right in saying that they’re gay? XDD

  9. Camander Bun Bun said, on November 6, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Hmm..my math teacher used to work for Nasa on the Apollo missions but he is awsome =D Comes from mafia backgrounds, anyways yea he was telling us a story on how he was camping with his family and there was this huge bear and the first thing he did was turn around and ran into his wife who responded with “Don’t run he’ll chase you” His response? “Get the fuck outta my way before I knock you on your ass”….there was more but apparently this didn’t even phase his wife o.0

  10. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    If I remember correctly, “Danna” comes from Sanskrit word having the same root as dona-tor. It was Buddhism word imported to Japan.
    At present I think it is a colloquial form for male and husband you feel sort of superior.

  11. Anonymous said, on November 6, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    If I remember correctly, “Danna” comes from Sanskrit word having the same root as dona-tor. It was Buddhism word imported to Japan.
    At present I think it is a colloquial form for male and husband you feel sort of superior.

  12. Gabe said, on November 6, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    Ah, yet another word in Japanese that means too many things. Just like Dommo, which means (and this is from 3 Japanese-English dictionaries) Thanks, Hello, Goodbye, yes, no, 42, and Butter is tasty.
    Ok, I made some of that up but it is the one word that will get you anywhere in Japan and can be used for almost any situation.
    Danna means just what Az said, Husband/master/pants wearer.
    Just another fun day at Japanese culture class with Az.

  13. Completely unimportant said, on November 6, 2006 at 9:48 pm

    Danna can be translated both ways, I’m pretty sure. I dunno, since I’ve only recently started studying Japanese seriously, but I’ve seen stuff like that in footnotes and such…

  14. cutepiku said, on November 6, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    In response to Kerii-chan:
    I am no authority figure in this, but a lot of the words in Japan have multiple meanings. It probably can mean master, and husband. But depending on the way you use it (like, the sentence it is in), it can have different meanings.
    So in Naruto, it probably meant ‘master’, but when this teacher was telling his students, the sentence he used it in meant a stronger term for husband.
    There is also another word for husband, I believe, so using ‘danna’ makes it sound almost like… you’re your husbands little happy slave. 😀
    Wow, I make no sense, but I hope that helped somewhat. Az may want to explain that further, or correct me.

  15. Ben said, on November 7, 2006 at 12:58 am

    Ahhh the lack of feminism in Japan..
    I know where i’m going to go shopping for a wench 😉

  16. Tad Griggs said, on November 7, 2006 at 3:20 am

    It’s probably due to the fact that Americians are, by society, molded to be super-retardedly image conscious, while the Japanese, probably not quite as much. At least, physical image anyway. For every Japanese Orthodontist, I’ll show you an In and Out burger east of the Rockies.

  17. James A. Calwell III said, on November 7, 2006 at 7:16 am

    Isn’t it possible to modify the timestamps of your post? Good initiative posting the original times anyway.
    (Az’s Note: Yes. And then the post jumps to the back of the archives without ever appearing on the front page. As I’ve said before, this system is automated. Once the post drops off the main page I’ll modify the date in the archive.)

  18. Jody said, on November 7, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    I love reading your entries 🙂 My boyfriend is in Japan for a year for an exchange, and I’ve heard many stories similar to yours that take place within the “school” environment. One of his first days he was asked, “Do you like to play sex?” Keep it up; it’s very entertaining!

  19. Anonymous said, on November 7, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    PROTIP: Trying to learn Japanese from anime is misleading at best, and will make you look like a complete moron at worst.

  20. Zach said, on November 8, 2006 at 12:46 am

    Don’t get too hung up on seemingly sexist words that appear in the Japanese lexicon. In fact, it was only as recent as 20 years ago that more “politically correct” vocabulary began showing up in the Japanese language.
    For example, there are a number of Japanese words which express the meaning ‘wife’ in English. The word which was used exclusively until only recently is ‘kanai’. Kanai, if translated literally, means “the one inside the home”. Recent generations have replaced this with more PC versions like ‘tsuma’ and ‘fujin’ etc…
    To many people kanai sounds very sexist, and to an extent it is, but on the other hand adult Japanese people (+40 years old) will often still use this word and most don’t really even think of its connotations.
    For more “sexist” fun in Japanese, try and figure out the literal translation of ‘daijoubu’ which is a very common word all Japanese people use…(It means ‘safe’ or ‘all right’, ‘OK’, etc.)

  21. saiyanid said, on November 8, 2006 at 2:45 am

    Yea that kind of reminds me of when I was in Mexico. They don’t have political correctness over there either. People will come out and ask you things you would never hear in the US. They are brutally honest over there too.

  22. Autumnfire said, on November 8, 2006 at 10:02 am

    How odd that they are absolutely blunt when it comes to one’s appearance, but if you ask them (or comment) on other personal issues (dating, married, troubles at home, etc.), you are considered rude. Go figure.

  23. Kerii-chan said, on November 12, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    To all the lovely people who gave me input about the “danna” thing:
    Thankies XD Gotta love friendly commenters ^^

  24. julia said, on April 28, 2007 at 4:44 am

    so how’d I know that was Souza before I even read the name?
    (Az’s Note: It would appear that we had the same (or VERy similar) HS English teacher, at least.)

  25. Persephone said, on May 4, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    On the weight thing, I think Indonesian people are the same. I took a Javanese dance class in college and the Javanese teacher and her sister, who did makeup for our performances, were NOT shy about telling a student “you look good! You were big before, now, not so big.” This to a girl who I’d say was a size six to start with? The poor thing just stood there stammering.

  26. Ceri Cat said, on September 26, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Directness can be quite insulting regardless of culture. The Japanese prefer being oblique for a variety of reasons, one major one is saving face. If you ask something directly it’s hard to give what is essentially a sanitized answer. You being direct is rude because you’re not giving them room to give an answer they’re comfortable with, or even evading answering an uncomfortable answer. I think in the case of weight because they are usually health conscious in their way they’re showing concern for your wellbeing without embarrassing either of you, and letting you make would you will of the observation, this I can’t vouch for because I’ve never encountered this situation with my Japanese friends or ex because while I’m heavy weight wise I don’t visibly change whether I’m 5 kilos lighter or heavier.
    And ducking feminists time, being a good wife is something any woman who wants to get married should strive for. Preserving the harmony of the home. Japanese aren’t all old fashioned here, nor are all western households swapping husband/master for mantoy. Japanese do tend to like having clearly defined roles though, and master of the household is one of those things that shouldn’t be in contest between husband and wife. In Japanese culture traditionally the man had little say in the day to day affairs of the house leaving it’s management to his wife who also acted as his advisor. He might rule, but she still had clout with him, and a smart man respected his wife even if he was danna. Don’t confuse obedient wife with inconsequential or meek.
    Yep sounds pretty sexist I’m sure, but feminists have no idea of how things were always meant to be even in the days where the man had all the power the wife usually could still manipulate her husband or guide him. Nor do the men who think that they have all the rights over his wife, “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen”? Yeah but only because that’s the way she likes it, not because you decided that was how it would be.

  27. Jesse said, on October 9, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Holy Shit, Mr.Souza, thats almost exactly the same as my last name except it has a s instead of a z, crazy shit yo

  28. HaphazardPeach said, on February 21, 2009 at 2:17 am

    (I realise this is ages after it’s been posted, but I lost track of it after I got caught up when it was on outpostnine, and I’m still catching up on here)
    A few months ago, some friends and I were in a car crash (sudden lane stop on a highway, we didn’t have time to stop and rear-ended the SUV in front of us and actually got it to a 6-car chain because we were THAT close together.) Out of the six of us that were in the our van, two had to go to the hospital. One with a pulled neck muscle, and one who’d been sleeping and caught her seatbelt across her stomach.
    In the hospital, the doctor told the seatbelt girl that if she’d been ten pounds lighter, she would have ruptured her spleen. One of our friends who was in the room with her when the doctor told her this went “yaaaay for being overweight!” (both of them are) and the doctor Glared at her. My friend looks straight back at him and says “oh, no, you started it!”
    .. I can only imagine what that would have been like if this had happened in Japan.

  29. yakinuki said, on August 18, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Goshujin (husband) means honourable master.
    But if you go back into ye olde english, so does “husband”.
    I used to think it fascinating that gohan means both “cooked rice” and “meal”. Then I thought about where the word “meal” comes from…


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