Saturday, October 9, 2010

You've been in Korea too long when...

"M" (who is from Japan) sent me this list (circa 1995) and wondered if gaijin in Korea would connect with the sentiments. I think quite a few of them would apply to Korea as well. It's long so I'll list it after the jump.


You know you've been in Japan too long when... notice you've forgotten how to tie shoelaces. rush onto an escalator, and just stand there. find yourself bowing while you talk on the phone. think US$17 isn't such a bad price for a new paperback. don't hesitate to put a $10 note into a vending machine. are talking on the telephone to your parents and your father says, "Why are you interrupting my explanation with grunts?" see a gaijin get on the train and think "Wow, it's a gaijin!" start thinking can coffee tastes good. have trouble figuring out how many syllables there really are in words like 'building'.
... you wait for the first day of summer to wear short sleeve dress shirts.
... the first option you buy for your car is a TV set. don't think it unusual for a truck to play "It's a Small World" when backing up. really enjoy corn soup with your Big Mac. think the opposite of red is white. leave your expensive bottle of Royal Salute with a sleazy barkeeper and don't worry. can listen to the ads in FEN without falling around the floor laughing. pore over the jikokuhyo looking for ways to avoid riding the Shinkansen. appear for your first skiing lesson with brand new Rossignol high performance racing skis and an aerodynamic racing suit with color matched goggles. And then snowplow down. buy a potato-and-strawberry sandwich for lunch without cringing.
...when you squat waiting for a bus to come. phone an English-speaking gaijin friend and somehow can't bring yourself to get to the point for the first 3 minutes of the conversation. stop enjoying telling newcomers to Japan 'all about Japan'. remember non-wanman buses in the Tokyo area. think 360 yen per dollar is a reasonable exchange rate. automatically remember all of your important year dates in Showa numbers. think every foreign movie title contains the word 'love.'
...people stop complementing you on your Japanese, and start asking you where you had your nose and eyes done. still remember your first drive in your brand new Toyopet. wonder why Prince Akihito is already getting gray hair, and why you don't see much of the Emperor these days. think Masako is beautiful and Hillary is cute. spend all your time trying to think of reasons why you've been Too Long in Japan. noticed 7-11 changed its onigiri wrapping houshiki for the 3rd time. find a beautiful way to eat natto. are not worried about speeding in the rain, because you know the cops are only out there in good weather. think birds cry. think "English literature major" is a polite way to say peanut brained bimbo. are not surprised to wake up in the morning and find that the woman who stayed over last night has completely cleaned your apartment, even though you'll probably never ever meet her again. get blasted by a political speaker truck and think "sho ga nai.." think its cool to stand in the "Japanese only" queue at Narita Immigration. go to New Zealand and consider traveling around by train. develop a liking for green tea flavored ice cream.'re talking to your mother on the phone, and she asks you what "genki" means. think the best part of TV are the commercials. think wet umbrellas need condoms.
...your mother talks about "you foreigners."
...your children call you Otosan/Okasan.
...matter of fact, you've never even been skiing, but the rack looks great on the car... have mastered the art of simultaneous bowing and hand-shaking.
...when you think it's all right to stick your head into a stranger's apartment to see if anybody's home.
...your top is thinning and you consider it "barcode style".
...when you find nothing unusual in a television commercial for candy in which a model dressed in a high school girl's uniform comes up behind another model dressed in a high school girl's uniform, grabs her left breast, gives a devilish grin, and skips away. think the natural location for a beer garden is on a roof. think that you can impress foreigners by drinking Budweiser. ride a Honda Cub with a sidecar. think nothing about seeing 20 ads for women's' sanitary napkins during one movie. have run out of snappy comebacks to compliments about your chopstick skills. think "white pills, blue pills, and pink powder" is an adequate answer to the question "What are you giving me, doctor?". remember when Yamamoto Linda came on at the very end of the show (NHK's Yume de aimashou) and kept her mouth shut. have discovered the sexual attraction of high school navy uniforms.
...when you no longer find anything unusual in the concept of "Vermont curry". think 4 layers of wrapping is reasonable for a simple piece of merchandise. don't find anything strange about a city that puts a life sized, red-and-white painted Eiffel tower imitation in its center, as well as a scale model of the Versailles Palace for its Crown Prince. are only slightly puzzled by "Melty Kiss."
...a new Gaijin moves to your neighborhood and you know immediately you will get his mail for a while. think the meaning of a red traffic light is: "Hurry up! 10 cars now in quick succession, and then we'll think about slowing down."
...when you get on a train with a number of gaijin on it and you feel uneasy because the harmony is broken. ask fellow foreigners the all-important question "How long have you been here?" in order to be able to properly categorize them.
...when looking out the window of your office, you think "Wow, so many trees!" instead of "Wow, so much concrete!"
...when you find yourself thinking "great it's almost time for Paul Harvey, have to turn on the radio." think NHK is "the Japanese BBC". think curry rice is food.
...the Yakult lady knows you by name. think it is quite OK to play volleyball with 12 people per team.
...when in the middle of nowhere, totally surrounded by rice fields and abundant nature, you aren't surprised to find a drink vending machine with no visible means of a power supply...
...and when you think nothing of it when that lonely vending machine says 'thank you' after you buy a coke. stand before a sign on a bridge and ponder the possible meanings of "Bridge Freezes Before Road." takes fifteen seconds of deep thought to recall the first name of the President of the United States. have a favorite bush to pee behind.
...the TV commercials make sense to you.
...a non-Japanese sits down next to you on the train and you get up and move. You're not prejudiced, but who knows what they might do? are outwardly appalled to see someone pour miso shiru over rice, but do it in private yourself (neko meshi).
...when having gaijin around you is a source of stress. only have 73 transparent, plastic umbrellas in your entrance because you have donated 27 to the JR and various taxi companies in the past few months. have over 100 small, transparent plastic umbrellas in your entrance even *after* donating 27 of them to taxis and JR recently. realize it's perfectly reasonable for the Post Office to designate you as the local redistribution agent for all letters addressed in yokomoji.
...when you absolutely do not possess the ability to mispronounce Japanese words "like a non-Japanese would."
...when you pay over 6000 yen for a lipstick and realize a few days later how much you really spent. (Or yen 7000 for a Captain Santa T-shirt)
...when you're arguing with someone about the color of the traffic light being blue or green...and you think it's blue. think that, in a crowd of Japanese, the presence of another foreigner breaks the "wa," although for some reason your presence doesn't. are proud of yourself for beating the system by buying a case of Labbatt's Blue for 160 yen a can. can't have your picture taken without your fingers forming the peace sign. think rice imports should be prohibited, because Japanese consumers would never buy imported rice.
...when you forget how to spell simple words like "wear"
...when you think one kind of rice tastes better than another kind.
...when you rush home from work to catch the last few minutes of sumo. get a "Nihongo ga joozu" and feel really insulted. see a road with two lanes going in the same direction and assume the one on the left is meant for parking.
...when you think Japan actually has only four seasons
...when you pull out your ruler to underline words.
...when getting ready for a trip you automatically calculate for omiyage and you leave just the right amount of space in your suitcase for them. manage *yankii-zuwari* without anything propping up your heels.
...not only do you overcome your childhood training and spit out the mikan membranes, but you discover the knack of peeling the mikan so that the peel forms a neat receptacle for you to spit the membranes into. watch the grocer's with interest to see when the price of mikans will break.
...on a cold autumn night, the only thing you want for dinner is nabe and nihonshu. return the bow from the cash machine. can't find the "open" and "close" buttons in the elevator because they're in English.
...when you think children should have to walk around in the freezing cold with only short sleeves and shorts up to their butt (to make them strong!).
...when you think that coffee goes perfectly well with squid pizza.
...when the Christmas music in the stores does not make you feel at all sentimental like it used to. can do arithmetic using man, oku, cho, and kei. [kushibo: man, ŏk, cho, and kye, I think] sympathize with your Japanese student because her daughter is baka because she wears spring tops with winter skirts and you sit down to try and see what can be done about this wild child. count things with chuu chuu tako kai na. can't read your kids the Three Little Pigs without giggling when you get the part about "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin." bow to other drivers who give you the right of way. mention "Japan Times" and "objective" in one sentence... fully understand the concept of "cuteness" look forward to the porno reviews at midnight on Fuji TV.
...when you believe that the perfect side dish to eat with a juicy, deep-fried pork chop is a pile of raw, tasteless, shredded cabbage. doesn't surprise you that a case of beer has the same per unit price as a single can. think cod roe spaghetti with chilled red wine is a typical Italian dish.
..."natsukashii" comes out of your mouth instead of "what you're saying makes me so nostalgic that I must look like one of those wide-eyed manga characters with a tear rolling out of my eye." start to recognize BGM as a meaningful genre of music.
...walking into a crowded bar full of non-Japanese makes you nervous, because they "look dangerous." (This was passed on to me second-hand, I'm not that far gone, yet.) buy a Christmas cake on Christmas eve. walk to the local seven eleven in your wife's shoes. run for the Yamanote line pushing people left and right, jump on the train holding the doors open to let your bag follow you on. Because you know there will not be another one for at least a minute. no longer pay any attention to what anyone does when you sit down beside them on a train.
...when you accompany your "no" by the famous waving hand-in-front-of-nose.
...when you're impressed with a girl with a 94 cm bust (work it out!).
...when you write or phone home and say things like "In Japan we..." find yourself apologizing at least three times per conversation.
...when you let your car idle for half an hour while you go shopping. find yourself asking all your foreign acquaintances what their blood types are. find yourself practicing golf swings with your umbrella on the train platform. take practice golf swings on the train platform *without* an umbrella in your hand. buy an individually wrapped potato in the supermarket. think that "Lets SPORTS yOUNG gAY CluB" is a perfectly normal T shirt logo for a middle aged lady. have to pause and translate your phone number into English before telling it to someone. order a "bottle of draft" in a pub. are speaking in English but all references to money come out in Japanese. go to a book shop with the full intention to read all the interesting magazines and put them back on the shelf.'re careful to specify a nonsmoking seat on the flight from Denver to St. Louis.
...when you ignore other gaijin in trains like they're plague carriers.
...when you forget to hit the bilingual switch while watching Clinton on the TV. schedule your commute around the availability of seats on the train. think Bosozoku are dangerous. think sushi at a baseball game is perfectly normal (also applies to "too long in California").
...your idea of a larger home is an extra 10 square meters. leave your office mid-morning and go to a coffee shop in order to get some work done. go for a drink with friends back home and start pouring everybody's beer.
...your sister starts making pointed comments about your American spelling.
...when you vow to gambaru before every little activity you engage in. pull up at a gas station and wait for a bunch of Norman Rockwell type attendants to jump out and clean your windshield.
...when you say that one of your hobbies is "doraibu."
...when you stupidly wait for a kampai at a gaijin party think no car is complete without a tissue box on the rear shelf and a feather duster in the trunk. ask a gaijin colleague who wears short sleeves in October, "Aren't you cold?"
...lunch is yesterday's leftovers out of a Hello Kitty bento box.
...when you draw a sharp distinction between "English" and "English conversation." use the "slasher hand" and continuous bowing to make your way through a crowd.
...all of your December Sundays is reserved for Bonenkai hangover recovery. are disappointed when Dominoes doesn't have corn pizza, and the driver is disappointed when you forget the tip. glance at the clock and accurately predict the next line of dialog in the TV dorama. feel an irresistible urge to point your windshield wipers outwards when you park your car in a ski resort. go to a coffee shop in your home country and order "American coffee." put eleven 10 yen coins in the vending machine before you notice it's sold out. see some real cleavage and think WOW! buy tickets to a Tigers' game and spend time practicing the cheers. forget about July 4th, but get all worked up over Tanabata. takes you three attempts to fill in a check correctly. have to think about it to remember what a 'check' is.
...when you develop the fine sense of Japanese manners that prevents you from facing traffic when you take a leak outside (sorry ladies!). enjoy drinking until you vomit (hey we have those over here !). start shunning foreigners you meet far away from your metropolitan abode in Tokyo (they're probably not worth talking to). remember when shouchu was not a chic drink drunk by high school girls, but rather one drunk under the railroad tracks by construction workers who never take off their haramaki. remember when the average Japanese person under about 30 did not have a telephone. remember when telephones were almost always placed near the front door and next to them was placed a little box or jar to receive 10 yen coins from people who stopped by to 'borrow' your phone. remember when public telephones had just been put out on the street that could be used for out-of-city calls as well as inside the city, and had a sign on them to indicate this new high-tech function.
...back in the States for a short visit you patiently wait outside your taxi for its door to spring open for you. pour shoyu (soy sauce) all over a steak believe that Australians say "to die" instead of "today" think that north and south change direction below the equator think that baseball is the national religion, and that Shinto is just a pastime find nothing perverse about having the results of a Dragons vs. Giants game as news headlines, and half a million people being wiped out in a cyclone in Bangladesh as just a minor story are relieved that there were no Japanese among the dead in Bangladesh after the cyclone hit (chances are this is how you found out in the first place) think all a Japanese person has to do to fit in anywhere in the world is wear a blond wig
...someone says they're from Australia and you ask what part of the USA that is lament that Princess Princess split up (happens to me!)
...your Japanese workmates ask your advice on kanji (happened to me!)
...when it all seems normal.

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