Sunday, 21 June 2015

Making Friends in Japan

So last month, I asked for blog ideas, and Elvira Yunitan (sorry, I can't seem to tag you!), came up with a really interesting topic.


Text: "Hi eustacia, i would like to blog but i am not an undergraduate student, just a D2 college student. But I wanted to share my experience so that people know the life of a D2 college life as well. Anyway, i want to know your story of making friends with the Japanese people, maybe at the start of your university till today? Is it hard to blend in and what makes it hard to blend in? I would love to hear more of your friendship stories :)"

I couldn't reply to Elvira's comment directly (I commented as a separate comment, but I don't know if he/she saw it), so:

a. I have no idea what a D2 student is, but sure! MEXT isn't the only way to come to Japan to study, so feel free to email me using the widget on the right, and we can talk more about your guest post.

b. That is a great idea!

So, here goes the "making friends in Japan" post. Of course, all this is purely my own experience, and I'm sure everyone has a different tale to tell (if you want to share it, let me know!). Oh, and in case you're wondering, I did get permission from my friends to upload a photo with them(:

Part 1: Friendship History (from Kyudai Year 1 to now)

So, this can be divided into two sections: Kyudai Year 1 & 2 and Kyudai Year 3 (this year). Unlike my TUFS years, I don't actually have that many friends from bukatsu (club). It's probably because after the first year, I decided to practice at Hakozaki, where almost no one practices. And not attend any club events. More my fault than anything.

Kyudai Year 1 & 2

My first two years, I basically hung out with the same group of people - my (female) classmates! I actually met 2 of them before school started thanks to Tamahiyo, which apparently I didn't blog about >< Anyway, it's like a pre-orientation, and it's optional. But it was fun, and it helped in the making-friends part.

Another one of my friends, I met at the setting up your computer thing. We were the only two girls with MacBooks, and I uh, forgot to bring the MacBook (I thought just my iPad was enough), so we got to talking). She seriously helped me a lot that first year, and it's thanks to her that I wasn't completely alone for the first few weeks (or during orientation).

Then, we have the official class meeting. I would like to say that you should be careful what you blurt out. I have a friend who's name sounds like "Alyssa", and upon hearing that, I said something to the effect of "Oh, that's like an English name, it's easy to remember." For some reason, it came up a year later. But yeah, it was at the first day of orientation that I met everyone, and I was nervous. Way, way nervous, although two and a half years later, I'm like "why?"

It could be that I got exceptionally lucky, but my classmates are all really awesome people, and we've managed to become friends. From the first year onwards, they've been helping me - sharing information about classes, going for lunch together, studying together, we've even gone on trips together. I couldn't be more blessed when it came to friends :3

Last year, four of them even visited Singapore! *happy dance*

Us at Gardens by the Bay
I was like yay, I get to bring them around! And feed them food ahaha, I think they enjoyed it. Hopefully.
MERLION
Two of them actually came for my 21st birthday~ They were the judges, and for that, I'm really grateful!

Also, Google+ made me this funny GIF combining all three of them.



I may not post much or talk much about my friends, but it's not because they don't exist (see above photos for proof that I have at least 4 friends [I have more. I promise!]). I don't blog about them because I have no idea about how much of our friendship they want on the net, and to continually ask "do you mind if I blog about this" makes me feel like I'm just using them for the blog. Which is most definitely not the truth, so I prefer to keep stuff about them private.

I'll just say that two of them are currently studying overseas, and their absence is really noticeable. I can't wait for them to come back :D

Kyudai Year 3

You might notice that up to know, all the friends I've mentioned have been girls. Well... there's a reason for that. Actually, I have one guy friend I consider a pretty good friend, but he's in a different faculty and campus so... (Wait, there's another, but he's not Japanese)

And for some reason, it seems like they don't really talk to me much? It might be because I don't go to the kurakon's (class party), or that I'm scary (true story. I was called "scary" during an English class). Or maybe during that one kurakon I went to, well... it was awkward for reasons.

The bottom line is, I didn't have many guy friends until this year, ok. But all this changed because I entered zemi's that are mostly guys. And no pictures here, cause none of them know about this blog, so I didn't even ask.

I thought that this was going to be really tough and awkward and lonely, but so far, I've been proven wrong. While I'm not like, best friends buddy-buddy let's-have-lunch-together with the guys, the fact that I can chat freely in the LINE group, and in class, is good enough.

One time, I asked one zemi for help renting a video to watch (and write a report on) for the other zemi. While no one had the movie, one of them offered to go borrow it for me. And it wasn't an empty offer, he really borrowed the DVD for me. SAVED.

So yeah, that's about the level of friendship I have. And since we're going to be in the same class for two years (or for one year, for one of them), well, it's either going to get better, or just stay the same. Either way, I think we're off to a good start.

Part 2: Blending in (or not)

So, blending in. I'm not even sure if I blend in - it depends on how I feel each day. There are basically two levels: appearance and then there's actually blending in.

Appearance, well, as a Singaporean, I look sort of similar. At least, I thought so. Apparently, there's someone from my level living near my place, and we were at the station at the same time on a few occasions. I had thought that the guy was a year younger, but according to my zemi friend, the guy was from my year. And how did my zemi friend know? His friend asked him to check where the foreign student was staying, because he thought he saw her. OTL

So while I'm don't stand out as much as say, Simone or Mira or others, apparently, most people sort of know who I am. Even appearance-wise, I don't blend in as much as I hoped I did.

Speaking-wise, uh, any extended conversation is going to have me going "wait, there's this word. Uh, uh uh....". So yup, not blending in.

Conversation, well, I don't have the experience of growing up in Japan. Quite a few of my friends knew each other from high-school. I have no such history. There's not much I can say when they talk about their childhood, although comparing the differences between the two countries is always a good conversation topic. This term, we have a class about employment in Japan, and the teacher is basically talking about how females are very disadvantaged in the job-field. It basically makes me very demotivated to find a job in Japan, every single week for every single lesson. One day, I mentioned it to my friends, and was quite surprised when they told me not to take it too seriously. But then we talked about how it may be that because they grew up in Japan, they're used to it, and since I'm not, I react strongly.

So yeah, to answer the question, I'd say it's hard to blend in. And what makes it hard is that I have no shared history with them, and that Japanese is not my native language. But sometimes, I think it's good that I don't blend in.

Elvira, I hope I managed to answer your questions. Everyone else, I hope you enjoyed reading this. If there are any topics you want me to talk about, let me know, and I'd be happy to share my experience/thoughts (I'm not an expert, but I do have an opinion).

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