Thursday, November 21, 2013

Will You Be My Friend?

I'm gonna start with this sunset picture, because sunsets rock!

Now, when I came to Japan, way back in the day, I hoped to quickly start meeting people and make friends. By my second year, I had given up on that. And in my third year, I was actively trying to avoid certain types of people. Fast forward to this past Sunday. I was at the Costco food court with my friend, having some pizza and chatting.

Suddenly, a wild kid appears. Like he materialized out of thin air, standing between myself and my friend and blurts out, "Excuse me? My name is Taro, nice to meet you." OK. He has been pushed by his mom to come talk to us in English. My friend and I humor the boy, we humor his mom and grandma? aunt? mom's friend??? with small talk.

The mom and us exchange information to tutor her son(s) in English. The mom says to me, "I want to be your friend." Cool. (not) My friend and I head home.

After emailing her to let her know that I'm too busy to tutor her son, she says that she still wants to meet me and again, "Can we be friends?"
This is one thing I can never wrap my head around. Japanese people love asking people to be friends. They ask strangers. They ask random foreigners. They have their kindergarten-age kids ask each other. 

I've never thought of friendship as something that needs verbal confirmation. Well, maybe if you're a 12 year old girl in seventh grade, I guess I can understand. But a grown-ass women?? Now, I've been roped into meeting this women at a cafe tomorrow. Saying, "no," should be simple enough, but as a representative of America, I feel a great deal of pressure to be friendly. This pressure's put me in situations that wear me out. 

Casually transitioning into a friendship is not something that a large number of people here seem particularly adept at. The types of "friends" you want to avoid in Japan:
- Anyone who brags about their large number of foreign friends
- Anyone who is too happy to meet you (because you are from a western country)
- Anyone who aggressively sends you emails
- Anyone who is "really interested in learning English!!11"

These people will wear you down. They are not interested in helping you when you are down. And in the event that they do try to help you, they want your life and your first born child in return.

Just like back home, look to make friends with people with shared interests. It might take longer, and if you don't speak Japanese, it'll be a lot harder. But, you'll make some good friends that way!

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