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Sunday, March 24, 2002

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

Some gaijin pitfalls into which few have not plunged


I heard once that art is 2 percent creativity and the rest "derivativity."

Well, what follows is not exactly art, but it does owe a friendly tip of the hat to American comedian Jeff Foxworthy and his renowned "redneck" schtick, a comic form that -- in turn -- must be as old as "knock-knock" jokes.

Only in this case, it is not rednecks that get picked apart. Instead, the good-natured target is us, the foreign residents of Japan -- especially those who reached these shores as adults.

Any connection of the following descriptions to real, living gaijin is not a coincidence. We just happen to be like this. Does this mean "you"? Read the sentences below and see.

If you secure a nice teaching job when your only real qualification is that you sort of/kind of speak your own native tongue, you could well be a gaijin.

If after butchering your self-introduction and pronouncing Japanese as if it were owl hoots, everyone claps and screams "Jozu!" then you might just be a gaijin.

If in a waiting room, the receptionist coughs and you wonder aloud if she has called your name, odds are you're a gaijin.

If when the cleaning lady walks in the john, you jump and paint a "swoosh" on the urinal wall, you might be a gaijin guy.

If you show the waitress your drink and yell, "Hey! I didn't want a small, I wanted a large!" you could well be a gaijin.

If you can't help referring to natto as "sneeze beans," chances are you might be a gaijin.

If the Japanese word you use a million times more than any other is desho, then you might be a gaijin . . . desho.

If your favorite way to peel apples is with your teeth, you could just be a gaijin.

If you walk four city blocks, building by building, in a deliberate search for a Western toilet, you might very well be a gaijin.

If you can't eat a plate of plain rice without copious help from a bottle of soy sauce, you just might be a gaijin.

If you have been in Japan one month, can't speak the language, can't cook and keep house like a blind lumberjack but have already been proposed to twice, then you could well be a gaijin girl.

If when the phone or doorbell rings, you immediately go corral your kids for help, then you might be a gaijin parent.

If you ride the train for two hours in the wrong direction, just because a town in the next prefecture has the gall to use a kanji that looks somewhat similar to the one for your station, you might be a gaijin.

If you try to eat curry rice with chopsticks and, in fact, demand to do so -- no matter how much your host begs you to use a spoon -- odds are you might be a gaijin.

If you've rented so many English videos from the local shop that the shop owner has been able to build a second home in Karuizawa, you could well be a gaijin.

If every drunk on the train platform yearns to practice English with only you, chances are high you might be a gaijin.

If you mistakenly buy ear cleaners instead of yakitori skewers but figure "Hey! Who's gonna notice?" then you just might be a gaijin.

If little kids line up to touch the hair on your forearms, you could well be a hairy gaijin.

If you beg the guy on the telephone to please speak a bit slower only to later find it was an obscene phone call, you might be a gaijin.

If your favorite food at the sushi shop is egg, followed closely by ground radish dipped in soy sauce, then you might indeed be a gaijin.

If the tax assistant at the city office not only remembers you but weeps at your appearance, you could well be a gaijin.

If you don't know anything about a Japanese supermarket except the places where they hand out free samples, odds are you might be a gaijin.

If the kitchen counter in your apartment barely reaches your thighs, you could indeed be a gaijin.

If you wear ear plugs in the noodle shop, chances are you could be a gaijin.

If you identify Japanese celebrities by "the one who sells J-Phone" or "the one with the bad eye," then you might well be a gaijin.

If at karaoke, you stand up to perform "Sakura" but instead sing "Sakana . . . Sakana . . . " you just might be a gaijin.

If you relate the story of how you chased after a roach which then zipped safely into your closet, yet confuse the word for "closet" with the word for "buttocks," you could well be a gaijin.

If the only Japanese phrases you know to express bodily functions are kiddie words, then you might be a gaijin parent.

If you can get from your house to the pizza delivery place by following the tire ruts worn in the ground, you could be a gaijin.

If you plop in an ofuro and the water pushed outside the tub ends up deeper than what's left inside, odds are you might be a big gaijin.

Last -- if the fellow you're speaking with shakes his head and says he wished he'd studied English harder in school, when all the while you were speaking his language, then you are very likely that most baffled and befuddled of all Japan residents -- a gaijin.



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