Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Why People Get Disillusioned With Japan (Some Theories)

It seems like among the people who came to Japan to study with me, a very high proportion of them become cynical/disillusioned about Japan. A minority end up leaving (although homesickness plays a big part in this too), a few end up complaining about Japan all the time, some find themselves swearing more/being more negative in general.

Normally, I'm the 'rah-rah new experiences' type that doesn't really look at the downside, but after this fairly disastrous trip (it wasn't a complete disaster, but compared to last year, I did not enjoy it as much), I sort of understand how the other side feels. By the way, I'm still trying to figure out how I'm supposed to blog about this year's ICPC! I want to share about it, but I'm afraid of turning it into a rant ><

So, why would people not be contented/end up disliking Japan, especially since tourists seem to love it so much?

Theory One: It is frustrating to work with people who have a totally different set of assumptions from you.

Follow up: and since you think your way is right, compromise is difficult (even if you give in), and the mindset of "why can't they just be smart [hidden assumption: like me]" sets in.

My friend told me about this before, and how she 'hates working with Japanese people' now, but I didn't understand what she meant until ICPC Youth. I don't hate it (like she does), but I do find it extremely frustrating. It's fine if everyone is on a similar wavelength, but when the assumptions are different...

I didn't really recognise it myself until after the fact, when I was Dayreing about the whole thing. Now, I'm not saying that one way is superior to the other, but... It's easy to think so.

But then I guess that this is all part and parcel of cross-cultural communications, so I'll have to keep that in mind in the future (especially when I start working).

Theory Two: The Stereotyping of Gaijin Gets Too Much

The main "gaijin" stereotype on the net goes like this: If you're a gaijin, you will get lots of attention and people will praise you for everything but you will never fit in.

That is probably true, and probably tiring.

There is also the "Asian Gaijin problem", which isn't mentioned as much. My teacher summed it up as "you HAVE to fit in because you look similar".

This is also tiring.

Either way, it can be tiring and apt to lead to stress. I have a friend who is trying to get people to replace "gaijin" with "gaijikokujin", and I had a Senpai from Switzerland tell me that keigo (polite Japanese) was not necessary at all for foreigners (which is probably true unless you look Japanese, otherwise be prepared to find a way to announce that YOU ARE NOT JAPANESE OR HALF as soon as you meet someone)

Funnily enough, this doesn't really apply to me. But when I was thinking about the topic, it came up, because a quick internet search/talking to other people makes this a very common complaint.

(By the way, Japanese-looking Asians tend to complain that no one approaches them at the Japanese-foreigner interaction parties. I don't go to those, so I don't really experience that problem. Be my friend because of me, not my nationality please)

Theory Three: You Came With Unrealistic Expectations

Maybe you're a huge anime/manga fan, and you think Japan is the promised land, where everyone will understand you. Then you come and realise that not everyone likes anime/Murakami Haruko/Endo Shusaku (for the record, I have found only one person my age who loves Endo Shusaku as much as I do).

Broken expectations hurt, and it's no wonder people get disillusioned. Especially if you dislike your current country and want to find a new "home".

Then again, I do have one friend who loves anime/manga, and ended up with a group of friends similar to him, so he seems to be doing really well right now. But you really shouldn't count of that.

Theory Four: Culture Shock

Image from Millersville University
Sometimes, disillusionment happens when you get stuck in the anxiety stage of culture shock and don't quite move on to adjusting and acceptance. The only thing you can focus on is how different Japan is from home and that that is not good.

I think this is especially prevalent when you settle into a routine and the amount of "tourist things" you do reduces.

Where do I fall under?

These four theories are the ones that I could think of, but if anyone can think of other reasons, let me know in the comments.

As for me, I think my main reason for the bout of cynical-ness is Theory One. 10 years in MG and 2 years in AC, while awesome, did not do much to prepare me for "people do not all think the same (and not everyone knows what are the First Principles or Schrodinger's Cat because ToK is not universal)" Hence my frustration when people do not see the way I do.

Luckily, most of these can be solved by knowledge and understanding. Recognise that there is no perfect country, that Japan has its problems (among them, the pension system and low voting rates), that people do think differently here, and try not to have unrealistic expectations as to how you will be treated.

Japan is a wonderful country to live in. However, it is not a perfect country. But it is possible to live more or less happily here - just apply understanding.