“Gaijin da!” (It’s a foreigner!) It was far from the first time I had heard that phrase, but it had been a very long time since it was delivered in the style of “I’ve spotted a wild animal.” Yes, it caught me on a bad day and I found myself saying in Japanese – in as close as I could get to the same volume that my accuser had used – “rude child.” I now hang my head in shame because, yes, I was retaliating to a nine-year-old.
It appeared that my comment fell on deaf ears. I dearly hope that it did. Although probably not intended to offend, her comment was discriminatory. At the very least, it defined me as separate from the Japanese people around me. I’ve lived in this country for over 20 years and have been well liked and connected in my community. As a friend visiting from Australia remarked recently, “You’re embedded!” It’s pretty easy to see that if one looks at more than just the white of my skin. But many people don’t. So after a few tears and much introspection, I’ve come up with some thoughts to help you, and me, handle foreigner shock, because as long as we live here, we are set to have it thrust upon us again, and again, and again.
Put it in perspective
Some readers will no doubt say, “What’s your problem? You ARE foreign.” Yes, we get the point. But for many of us, that’s the reason we don’t need it pointed out. In my experience, the …continue reading