Friday, May 30, 2014

5 More Reasons Why Facebook in Japan is Annoying

A while back I wrote about why using facebook is damn annoying in Japan. 

Today, I'm back with some more reasons. These apply to facebook and apps like LINE and Kakao Talk. Let's start:

1. Do you facebook?
Why do people think that someone they just. met. wants to exchange facebook information? This shit pissed me off in the US before facebook came out. Then it was annoying guys trying to get your phone number like, "Can I get your number?"
If you are a foreigner from a western country the people here KNOW that you use facebook. It's not a question. It is a statement. A statement that says, "You are a foreigner and you use facebook. I know this because I know that foreigners use facebook. Now, you are to "friend" me on facebook, because I am asking you to. To not friend me would cause awkwardness between the both of us and it would amount to you rejecting my friendship. So, despite knowing nothing about you, you need to open up the facebook app on your phone and friend the fuck out of me."

It's like this. But in Japanese.

2. Do you have LINE?
Fucking hell. If you can get out of them getting your facebook, then they ask for your LINE ID. Hell, even if you've given in and given them your facebook, they'll ask for your LINE ID. It's like there's a need to be all up in your business 24/7. Don't have LINE? What about Kakao Talk? No Kakao Talk? Then how about your cell phone email address? Your PC email address? Your social security number, date of birth blood type, mother's maiden name???
Might as well give that away for all the questions you're subjected to.

3. Give up ever having interesting posts
Now that you've friended every other person, you now have to face the reality that none, and I mean NONE of them write anything on their facebook pages. Ever. So, when you're posting some picture of yourself barfing after a night of booze and crack, make sure that all of your new "friends" can't see it. Because, despite having absolutely nothing on their facebook pages, they are constantly checking out yours. Heck, you might think that they've dropped off the face of the earth and forgotten about you, but that's when you go to work and hear, "So, you like drinking? Because I check your facebook every day and I saw those pics of you drinking."
Most people aren't interested in having intellectually stimulating conversations (probably not limited to Japan), but, they read everything you write and take offense to it. Don't like something about Japan? They know it. And god help you if one of your "friends" also posts on 2ch, because you might find your posts translated into Japanese and then you'll have yourself out of a job for saying you like Chinese food better than Japanese food.

4. Guilt trips
If you don't enthusiastically pull out your phone and start friending everyone like your life depended on it, you'll be thought of as "mean" or "cold" or whatever. If this was the US, who cares. But, since relationships are so important here, you've just gone and shot yourself in the foot.

5. Everyone knows it sucks
They know it sucks, but they don't do anything to change it. Your choices are to only friend people who you know well; restrict access to people; whitewash your social media; or, have no facebook, etc at all. The vast majority of people choose to whitewash their online presence. A smaller, but vocal, minority choose to loudly proclaim their opinions. Unfortunately, those opinions are often racist and sexist. 

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to navigate social media with Japanese people. It is definitely an exercise in frustration!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

5 Things That Surprised Me in Japan

"What surprised you about Japan?"

I swear, every other Japanese person I meet asks me this question. No. Wait. That was a lie.

Every. Single. Person.

I usually answer that I was surprised about the heat and humidity (I came in August). Or, that all the people in uniforms and suits surprised me. I mean, I rarely saw people in suits when I was back in the U.S.

But, I've decided to make a list of things that surprised me or were new to me...a little different from the typical "culture shock" thing. Here goes (in no particular order):

1. My Japanese Sucks
I studied Japanese for five fucking years at university and arrived here with the hope that I would at least be able to communicate with people only to have those hopes dashed. The speed that people spoke with, their accents, their word usage...everything was different from what I learned in the U.S. And why wouldn't it be? But, that didn't make that first year frustrating.

2. Everyone Knows English Better Than You
...but they still want you to teach them. Makes no damn sense. The person going on about how "bad" their English is, is the first person to ask you some snotty question like, "What's the difference between 'Can I' and 'May I'? 'May I' is more polite, isn't it?" On the surface it seems like an innocent question, but fuck if I want to be grilled on English usage by someone who wants to stroke their ego. I should have used a better example, but some of the questions are so damn stupid, I just try to forget them.

3. You Should Must Be Happy...Always
In the U.S. you are allowed "bad days" to an extent. I mean, no matter how bad of a day you're having, you don't go into work stabbing people. But, no one is going to hold it against you if you say you're tired or having a bad day or whatever.
The amount of times I'm allowed to mention that I'm having a bad day has fallen to 0 within the past few years. I wake up feeling like death, pull myself to work..."How's it going?" I want to tell them that I feel like I might die or that I am actually dead, but I smile feebly and mumble a "I'm OK." 
It's even worse when you have to meet outside people or teach English on the side, like I do. Up late drinking? "I'm great. I love life." (OK, maybe all that drinking is my bad...)
Let's change that to pounding migraine. As much as you want to just cancel all of your plans, roll into a ball and never leave your apartment, you drag yourself out and put on a good face. All so that your client/eikaiwa lady doesn't complain that the foreigner seemed unhappy or something. So, smile.

4. Other Foreigners Ruin Everything
The reason we can't have nice things? It's the fault of that fucker. Whether it's a mysterious foreigner who used to work at your workplace years before you were ever born and left a bad impression, or a current coworker who Just Doesn't Care, other foreigners can make or break your experience. A majority of the Western foreigners here in Japan are minorities for the first time in their lives. The idea of doing better than the locals so as not to bring unwanted disgrace to your race/culture/ethnicity is just not something someone who is a part of the majority is used to. 
"What I do effects only me" is fine when you're back home. It doesn't fly here. People that don't think before they act literally screw things up for everyone else.

5.  Friendship is Like a Second Job
Oh god. Friendships are just not easy. Well, actually, sometimes they are too easy. Too easy in the sense that asking someone you've just met to be your friend and having them reply in the affirmative means that you are now "friends." When that happens, you've got a creepy, stalker "friend." Congrats.
In other circumstances, you're in constant limbo. "Are we friends? I think we are...but we only talk about the weather..." Once you feel like you've become closer friends, a whole crop of obligations springs up: "Come to this concert I've's only 3,000 yen!," "Teach me English. We are friends after all,, right?," and more. And if you stumble one too many times, you're in danger of being kicked off the "friend" list. Friendship in general has some give and take, but it shouldn't be an obligation. Unfortunately, while it's not limited to Japan, the cultural differences can make it seem like a second job.

So. Those are my five things for now. Will add to the list if and when I think of more! How about anyone reading? Anything to add?