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Sunday, Nov. 12, 2000
How to pick a foreigner out of the crowd
By AMY CHAVEZ
The longer I live in Japan the more I realize how strange people of my own planet look. Compared to the lean, congruent Japanese, foreigners seem like gigantic globs of cellulite.
When I was growing up in the later '70s and early '80s, there was a popular series of posters depicting stereotypes of different people, such as "The Nerd" or "The Golfer." The essence of each type of person was captured in a large cartoon drawing with their features labeled and identified. The nerd wore thick, black glasses. The golfer wore plaid pants.
To my knowledge, there has never been a poster for "The Gaijin." If there had been, I think the following parts, along with their explanations, would have been ideal.
* Nose: Long and svelte compared to the Japanese pug nose, the protruding Western nose is often hit, banged and broken. Often a target of ridicule, some foreigners are compelled to have their noses resculpted. Foreigners, known for their frugality, use their noses to sniff out bargains. The Western nose can also be used for wind-chill readings.
* Eyes: Assorted colors, make big round eyes one of the most captivating qualities of Westerners. Those with blue eyes see the world tinted blue and those with green eyes see the world tinted green.
* Mouth: Opened wide to expel large belly laughs and foreign-language sounds such as "r" and "th." Mouths are also be used for shouting to friends and kissing in public. Many foreigners unknowingly put their foot in their mouths.
* Hair: Permed, colored, greased and pruned in more ways than a Japanese person could ever imagine, hair maintenance takes up a good deal of time in the mornings and is responsible for making people late to work.
* Baseball cap: Worn on bad hair days or when one doesn't have the time to do hair maintenance in the morning.
* Sunglasses: Sunglasses make almost any foreigner look cool.
* Massive shoulders and chest: For foreign men, the shoulders and chest are a showcase of his manliness. Forming mass is a great preoccupation as men go to the gym and lift weights in a constant effort to boost their mass of manliness. There is no arranged marriage to fall back on in the United States, so men go to extraordinary lengths to make themselves attractive to women.
* Outdoor clothes: Foreigners like to look like they might climb a mountain, camp overnight and cook eggs over a Bunsen burner at any moment.
* Backpack: Foreigners like to be prepared. Inside their backpacks can usually be found a 5-kg Japanese dictionary, a bottle of water, their cellphone manual, breath mints, reading material and a Bunsen burner.
* Mountain bike: Foreigners must have cool-looking, environmentally-friendly transportation that matches their clothes.
* Girth: Foreigners are not born with girth, rather it is proudly acquired through luxury sports such as eating at fine restaurants and indulging in alcoholic beverages. The belly can be used for winter food-storage and provides insulation in the wintertime. The girth is a true indication of a foreigner's social life.
* Shorts: These are gaijin body-temperature controllers. Wearing shorts reflects the foreigner's desire to keep cool. However, some foreigners who have large upper bodies and skinny, spindly legs may be mistaken for ostriches. Clothes are decided according to one's comfort level rather than by the event one is attending.
* Legs: Exposed by shorts, foreigners' legs are hairy reminders that Homo Sapiens are descendents of apes.
* Feet: Foreigners have feet the size of a yeti's to support their towering height. Sturdy shoes with a good tread are necessary for dodging low-flying aircraft. Sneakers may be worn for fear of being struck by lightening.
Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org