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A story from Quora in italics followed by some comments by me.
My American cousin moved to Japan in 1969 after being posted there with the Peace Corps (Japan was still developing at that time).
He was enthusiastic, a "Japanophile", falling in love with many of the positive aspects of the country.
(I am a long term expat myself, though not in Japan. Much of what I will write below is true for many countries, not just Japan, as an expat. Some is unique to Japan. Also, do not misinterpret what I write as dislike of Japan. It is, perhaps, one of my favorite destinations for work or holiday.... but I would never live there)
He became fluent in Japanese, married a Japanese girl, and had a son, who is half Japanese and a citizen. His language skill after nearly 50 years means that most Japanese people cannot tell that he is an American when speaking over the telephone.
And.... he is often very, very unhappy.I will note that he has been very successful financially. He owns aeveral houses and has done very well for himself.
Japanese society is incredibly closed to outsiders. There are also huge racial divides and predjudices. His son, who was born there and is half Japanese will NEVER be fully accepted there as Japanese. His wife effectively lost her entire family because she married a gaijin. The few remaining family members are just beginning to accept him after 45 years. His son was teased and bullied mercilessly in school because he was not really Japanese. The culture is unforgiving, punishes failure, and does not reward individualism. If you are the type who "sticks out" or likes to march to your own drummer, life in Japan may not be for you and may be very, very difficult.
This is truth.
This was very hard for him to accept. He did everything an expat is "supposed" to do in order to assimilate. He did everything "right". He later became very much disillusioned, and then angry, and finally accepting of his place in Japanese society. Note: This was a very difficult journey for him. He has become they "man without a country". He has been in Japan so long that he no longer "fits in" when he returns to the USA. But he will never be fully Japanese, either. That is simply the way it is.
I live in the Philippines. My wife is Filipina. My son is Filipino. The Philippines is far more open socially. Yet, I also know that I will never, EVER, be considered Filipino.
This is of particular reference to those who don't want to bring their wives back home.
1:Yes things have improved a bit over time but it is still something I read about quite often.
2: WRT China and Japan and I assume Korea, most people split after a year or two, some having liked the experience and some not. If you stay, the next point is the 5 to 7 year mark. Very few people last much beyond that point, the only ones who do stay only because they have family who doesn't want to leave or they are stuck because of employment. The isolation of Japan, the feeling that the Chinese only want to use you for connections and English lessons to the point where some long timers hermit up. It seems to take 5 to 7 years for reality to set it.
3: Obviously there are exceptions. Duh. I am not sure, but I think Yohan seems to be one.
4: I suspect it would be much like that in most of Asia. You can gain acceptance if you have wealth by local standards of course but you will always be an outsider. Maybe the Philippines is a bit different but buddy doesn't seem to think so and that wealth effect would hide a lot. Thailand gets lot of claims of being a land of fake smiles and being pretty racist. India might be an exception because it, much like the Americas are pretty multicultural in a way most places are not, just don't speak Hindi to a Tamil .
5: There is a huge difference between living in a place for a year or two and living there forever. There is also a huge difference knowing the language well and not knowing it at all. A lot of folks in Japan seem to say that learning Japanese beyond a survival basis is a bad idea because 1: They don't want you to and 2: the blinders come off and you realize what is actually going on.
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Mostly true, but things have improved a lot since 1969. Still, here's an idea: Don't try to fit in!
Why would you want to?Be the foreigner! That is where the advantage lies. If you're going to move overseas, as a foreigner, then be the foreigner!. It makes about as much sense going to Japan and trying to be Japanese as moving to a poverty ridden black neighbourhood and trying to be one of them. No one ever considers doing that.
Guys who do well in places like China, for example that guy Dashan, they don't try to be Chinese. His whole advantage is that he is a white foreigner who speaks near perfect Chinese. Trying to be Chinese would defeat the purpose of what he is doing and kill his success.
That black actor who is doing well in Japan is the same. You don't see him trying to be Japanese. He makes advantage of the fact that he is not. Thus, he is very successful.
I can't imagine why I would never want to Chinese or Japanese, or be just another face in a crowd of billions. I could stay home for that.
"Marriage in the modern world is like paying $500 for a good pizza. It's a good pizza but..." -- The Adventurer
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You nailed it.
"So I figured, what the Hell?"
--Great Armenian Philosopher
I have heard that also. However I'd guess that not many people could deal with decades of not fitting in. Trust me, it isn't pleasant.
Also being a freak is much easier when you get paid quite a bit to do it.
One could just stay in the foreigner bubble, but if that is the case, you might as well stay home.
I am glad you guys raised that point though.
You can also settle down in a looser multi-ethnic society. Indonesia has lots of cultures and customs. So they don't expect everyone to be exactly the same like they do in Japan or Korea.
I was talking to an expat at Hardee's in South Korea. He said his daughter didn't like mayonaise on her chicken sandwich, but they gave her one with mayo anyway. When she complained, the person behind the counter said, "But everyone eats it with mayonaise'. He said it's like they think everyone has to be the same. Foreigners really stick out in this environment. I remember waiting at a bus stop and looking at every single person on one side of a bus staring at me as I waited as a red light.
You stick out in Jakarta, but they like foreigners and consider them to be rich and high class. Lots of women like foreigners. Parents don't mind having them as son-in-laws if they are decent men. If you are different, that's cool. They are used to different. There are lots of different people-groups, customs, and languages anyway. If you get married and go hang out at family gatherings, some in-laws will hang out and talk with you.
And the food is great. I don't think anyone every gave me any kind of raw meat to eat. And prices were cheap, at least when I was there.
Customs were different, but it's not like Japan or Korea where there is some intricate code for how they talk ("Let me think about it" means "no.") and for how they behave and you are the only person who doesn't know it. They are used to people doing things different ways and communicating a little different. Some of those north Asian cultures are kind of uptight. Southeast Asians are laid back, and they have an ethic of making people feel comfortable in social interactions. So they try not to offend, but also just try to put you at ease.
Teaching in a classroom, getting Koreans or Chinese to talk or discuss something is like pulling teeth. Get a classroom of Indonesians together and they'll joke around a bit, without being disrespectful. They make more fun students to teach.
If you like Japan and want to live there, good for you. But there are going to be characteristics of the Japan expat experience that aren't the same in other countries.
The more I read and hear, the more I am set on a future among Islanders. Indonesia, Sarawak, Philippines. It seems these are the most tolerant and welcoming people.
"So I figured, what the Hell?"
--Great Armenian Philosopher
I get this. You will never be 'one of them.' Nowhere. East Asian countries get talked about being closed to foreigner, but while the 'open' countries will be more openly accepting, you are still a foreigner at the end of the day.
Ideally, we'd have our own countries to belong to. But think about this: are you treated like 'one of them' in your own country? I know I'm not in the U.S. I've felt more at home in China than in modern American culture. What's more, imagine you got into an argument into with a feminist in your own country. You be excoriated. If you're a man, you're already like a foreigner in your own land: a third class 'citizen' with few to no rights.
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I don't know much about Indonesia. It is a Moslem country and although it doesn't come across as nearly dirka dirka jihad jihad as some other places, I wonder how willing a Moslem women and her family would take to marrying a heathen. Ditto for not wanting kids. I get the impression that the 10% who are in to that jebus fellow are also pretty traditional. As an Atheist who doesn't want kids, I have no problems with a woman who is religious as long as she doesn't expect me to convert and isn't too annoying about it, but I wonder how someone like that would feel about me.
That has so far kept the place of my map, but my mind can be changed.
I am Canadian through and through. I belong here. I am at home here. Sadly the women don't seem to be keen on me and quite frankly I understand why, it isn't a culture thing I was a bit of a weirdo. The friends I've made though the old school roleplaying [pen paper and dice] were solid bros who I relate to. Shared cultural references is something I value. I've gotten better over time but alas I am in a small town where meeting people is very difficult. At least overseas I would stand out like a sore thumb. I am not just another anonymous white guy, I am that Gaijin/Laowei/Frarang or whatever guy.
I don't know the sorts of people who are hanging out with but I don't have a problem with feminists. It seems the man hating female privilege seeking unreasonable types are actually pretty rare. Although I do acknowledge that men are oppressed, to suggest we have few to no rights is a bit of an overstatement. Unfairly treated sure but no rights? Granted I have no kids and don't need to work so most of it doesn't impact me at all.
Once in a while a vaginal-canadian will say something negative about dudes, I counter by pointing out that women are just like men, only lacking reason and accountability. It separates the hypocrites from those who just enjoy taking the piss as they say in the UK.
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