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Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Re: 'The good, the bad and the meaningful'

Following are some readers' responses to Paul de Vries' May 26 Zeit Gist article "Expat life in Japan: the good, the bad and the meaningful":

Nail on the head

I think you hit the nail on the head with your analysis. As a 45-year-old Caucasian who has visited my wife's family in Japan annually for 18 years (and lived there for eight months in 2005), I've often been puzzled by the complaints so often leveled by gaijin about their treatment in Japan.

My own experience has been remarkably similar to yours, in that I've benefited tremendously from being a perpetual guest in a land of hospitality. It has been wonderful for the most part, exasperating and lonely on occasion, but the tradeoffs have been tilted most definitely toward the positive. No complaints here!

On the contrary, I continue to have deep respect for this incredible culture and its people. Perhaps it really does come down to stance and attitude. I completely identify with your statement about coming to Japan to learn, not to preach.

Kudos to you for an excellent essay.

Palo Alto, Calif.

Try going blue-collar

As a Caucasian with an Aussie passport, it might be easy for de Vries to overlook the plight of Third World foreigners in Japan.

I'm sick of the discrimination I suffer due to my Mexican passport. When looking for employment, despite the fact I am a native English speaker, naturalized Americans originally from Central and South America who can't even pronounce the word "vegetable" seem to get the teaching jobs.

And it doesn't stop there.

I went looking for a welding job after getting certified by the Japan Welding Association with three licenses, but companies left, right and center wouldn't even give me an interview because I was a foreigner.

When I finally got hired by one (through a temp agency), the same company later hired another welder (this time Japanese) to work at the same factory for ¥1,200 an hour — more than the ¥1,000 they were paying me — and he wasn't even certified. I even had to help train him!

So do me a favor and stop advocating blindly.

I have 10 years' teaching experience in Japan, and I didn't quite realize the discrimination Third World gaijin face here until I decided to go blue-collar.

A more "investigative reporter" undercover approach could bring about a great scoop.

Akashi, Hyogo

Giving foreigners a bad name

What a ridiculous article. Whether he is joking or not, complaining about not being able to go an underage prostitute is the sort of thing that gives all foreigners in Japan a bad name.

As a foreign woman in Japan, I would say that my experience has been very different. I don't get treated in a way that blows my ego out of proportion, but then again, as someone with no interest in seeing an underage schoolgirl prostitute, I don't get much negative discrimination either.

Western men in Japan do not speak for me.


Japan a paradise for gaijin

Great story about life in Japan for a foreigner. You are absolutely right: Japan is a paradise for a gaijin who acts reasonably nice and tries to understand the Japanese culture. We spent four of our best years living in Tokyo.


Same true for Taiwan

Just read your May 26 column. A lot of what you say is absolutely true for Taiwan, which is where I live. I look forward to reading your book.

Sinhua, Taiwan

Good take on assimilation

One of the best articles I have ever read on the topic of assimilation. Very well done.

Asago, Hyogo

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