What happens if you put “gaikokujin” into English? | English Column 065


There’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since I first came to New Zealand and finally remembered after talking with a neighbor the other day. 

Today’s column is, as the title suggests, about the word “gaikokujin”.

I live in New Zealand, so naturally to New Zealanders I’m considered a gaikokujin. In English, “gaikokujin” means foreigner, right? Even so, I haven’t been called “foreigner” even once in New Zealand.

Is “gaijin” rude?

In Japan, it’s been said that calling someone who isn’t Japanese “gaijin” to be rude. Even with the realization that the word “gaijin” is rude, I used the words “gaijin-san” and “gaikoku no hito”.

I don’t know how it is in other countries, but you never see or hear the word “foreigner” used in everyday life in New Zealand. Even though there are many immigrants, no one uses the word “foreigner”.

So, exactly what meaning does the word “foreigner” hold? Here is what was written in an English dictionary.

a person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own. 《informal》a person not belonging to a particular place or group; a stranger or outsider.

The “someone who was born outside the country they are in” part has the same meaning as “gaikoku no hito” in Japanese, right? Still, the nuance of “bugaisha, yosomono” (outsider, stranger) is still there.

So, I’ve come to think that, to a person not from Japan, words like “gaikoku no hito” and “gaijin” probably have the nuance of “bugaisha” (outsider) and must sound rude. I can’t think of anyone who would feel good being called an “outsider”.

If so, how do you say “gaikoku no hito” in English?

The other day when I talked with a couple in the neighborhood, they expressed it as “she is from ___”. I recognized again at that time, “Yeah, they really don’t say ‘foreigner’”.

And it’s not just this particular couple. Even when talking about acquaintances or people from other countries in conversation, “foreigner” isn’t used as a adjective to describe them. When trying to express someone wasn’t born in New Zealand, people won’t say “He is a foreigner”, but things like “He is Chinese.” or “She is from Australia.”, specifically referring to which country they are from.

If someone isn’t sure which country the person is from, words like “immigrant” or “from another country” are used. The expression “He’s a foreigner” isn’t used even toward people you are unfamiliar with.

In Japan, even exchange students from overseas are called “gaikokujin ryuugakusei” (foreign exchange students), but in English, “international students” is pretty standard. “Gaikokujin ryokousha” (foreign tourists) are referred to as “International tourists/visitors” and the word “tourist” is used when there is no real need to specify someone is foreign.

Are Japanese living in foreign countries treated as foreigners?

As a Japanese person, if a person from overseas in Japan were to talk to you, what would you do? I bet you would think “I have to reply in English…” and feel a strange sense of nervousness and unfamiliarity toward that person. Even without actually saying “gaijin-san”, the way you treat that person will differ.

I’m Japanese, so it’s pretty obvious that I am foreign compared to other people in New Zealand.

I can only say this from my experience of living in New Zealand, but I get the feeling (in a good way) that people think “so what if you’re foreign?” People don’t try to speak to me in English more slowly just because I don’t look like a white person, and no one has ever asked me “do you speak English?” People interact with me so normally that when I first came to New Zealand I wished they would have spoken a little more slowly.

"Gaikokujin" doesn’t equate to "Foreigner"

I feel that in Japan, even though we say “the saying ‘gaijin’ is rude”, we continue to say things like “your Japanese is good for a foreigner” and “you can use chopsticks well for being a foreigner”. It’s like an unconscious barrier in our minds that says “that person isn’t Japanese”.

I feel that in society in New Zealand, importance isn’t placed on whether your a New Zealander or not, but who you are as a person yourself. That’s why, unless in a specific situation where it’s necessary, there’s no reason to actually say your nationality and in the case you need to express you aren’t a New Zealander, you wouldn’t use the word “foreigner”, but specify where you are from.

This difference of course changes greatly depending on the history and ways of each different country, but I certainly feel uncomfortable referring to people from overseas as “gaijin” (foreigners). The nuance of “stranger” unconsciously comes to mind. To sum things up, instead of using the word “gaikokujin”, why not try using a phrase like “He’s from New Zealand.” when you need to specify where someone is from?

(Original article in Japanese: ”外国人”を英語にすると?|英語コラム065)


A Handy Guide to What Is and Isn’t Cultural Appropriation


What isn’t cultural appropration:

• Trying/eating/making a culture’s food
• Listening to that culture’s music
• Watching that culture’s movies
• Reading that culture’s books
• Appreciating that culture’s art
• Wearing that culture’s clothing IF in a setting where that culture is prevalent and IF people are okay with it and/or it is necessary to fit in and not stand out weirdly (i.e. If you visit Pakistan, you can wear a shalwar kameez so you don’t stand out as an American tourist. Or if you visit a specific temple or religious setting, you may need to/want to adhere to specific dress forms. Or if you’re invited to a wedding and they allow/invite you to wear their cultural dress to participate in the festivities).
• Using that culture’s dance/physical traditions in specific settings (i.e. taking belly-dancing classes, or going to an Indian wedding and trying to dance with them).

What is cultural appropriation:

• Wearing specific items of clothing that may (and probably do) have deeper meaning as a costume. Like on Halloween.
• Wearing specific items of clothing to be trendy or fashionable.
• Trying to imitate their natural beauty standards and possible makeup/markings (i.e dreadlocks and bindis and mehndi/henna).
• Taking their rituals, old-as-hell traditions, and dances and turning them into cheap, tacky everyday garbage for you to have “fun” with (i.e. smoking sheesha. Y’all turned it into this janky nonsense that looks so trashy and stupid).
• Taking spiritual/religious ideas and traditions and subscribing to them to be trendy or unique
• Trying to act like you’re an expert in their food, music, or art, and that you can do it BETTER than them
• Basically trying to WEAR that culture’s skin, clothing, & beauty traditions as a costume/trend and turn old traditions into cheap garbage

And WHY is this wrong? Because, in our society, white people or non-POC can get away with wearing another culture’s clothes and identities and it will be “cute”, “indie”, “bohemian”, “trendy”, and “exotic.” BUT when a POC who actually belongs to that culture wears their own culture’s clothing, styles of beauty, or does things that are specific to their culture, they’re looked down upon, made fun of, sneered at, told to “Go home, get out of this country, we don’t do that here,” and laughed at. The few times I wore a shalwar kameez in public—and I’m Pakistani—people gave me weird looks, like I had a disease. And yet if a white person (or, heck, even a different POC, because POC don’t have the right to appropriate other cultures either) wears a shalwar kameez, people will call her exotic and cute. Seriously? Do you see a problem? I do. Want some proof? When Selena Gomez and Katy Perry use other cultures as costumes in their music videos and stuff, they were thought to be creative and fun. But when an Indian American woman with brown skin won Miss America, there was a huge racist backlash and people said, “We don’t look like that here, we don’t need a curry muncher here, get out of this country.” So I guess Indian culture is only okay if Selena Gomez is stealing it, right? But not if an actual Indian woman is displaying it? Another example: white people with dreadlocks are seen as “soft grunge” and “hippie”, but black people with dreadlocks are looked down upon and seen as dirty and lazy for having them, even though they know how to take care of their dreadlocks way better. 

Respect the fact that we are different. You don’t need to be culturally BLIND because that is just as ignorant. Trying to ignore cultures means you’re trying to erase peoples’ identities. You can appreciate/like/admire other cultures without trying to steal them, use them, cheapen them, and wear them as costumes. You weren’t born into it, so know your limits. And YES. There will ALWAYS be those people who say, “But my Chinese friends don’t care if ____!” and “I’m Mexican and I don’t care if people ____,” but they do not speak for all people of that culture and just because THEY don’t mind doesn’t mean other people don’t. Plenty of POC get harassed/taunted/degraded/fetishized over their own cultures WHILE people not of that culture are called “free-spirited”, “bohemian”, “quirky” and “trendy” for imitating the SAME culture—so yes, the people who oppose cultural appropriation do it based on actual microaggressions and bigotry they may have faced and it is NOT your job to try and convince then that they don’t have a right to their own culture or that the oppression against them should mean nothing.

Think about this. There are some women okay with sexism. Some POC okay with racist jokes. Some Jewish people don’t care about anti-Semitic jokes. And your friend might be one of these people. But suddenly that makes it okay for you to behave foolishly, immaturely, and ignorantly? 

Wise up. It’s 2014. There is no excuse to be ignorant.

And if you ever need to explain to someone what cultural appropriation is, show them this post (credit me if you post it elsewhere). It’s a good starter and I think it encompasses the basics of what cultural appropriation is and isn’t. 






The best thing is that these people are complaining that white people ruin everything and are the devil and only steal everything from PoC while 99% of them sits in a country that wouldn’t be in the modern state it is now if not for white people, while using a machine made by white people running a operating system made by white people blogging on a website made by white people .


I’m sorry but who built America nigga? LMAO YO GETCHA HISTORY TOGETHER BABY!!

lol at the bolded. hooray for oppression and capitalism!  good job guys.

I’m going to keep this brief and undetailed since I’m out of time and on my mobile phone, but first things first—I am an engineer. I’m going to assume you don’t know much about engineering at all, because I otherwise can’t imagine why you would write what you have. A working machine is not built by one person, its mechanisms not drawn from thin air. Development is a long process—occasionally punctuated by strokes of genius and happy accidents—undertaken by multiethnic (and usually multinational) teams, and the final product is a synthesis of theory and ideas that form something new (and hopefully useful). So it’s very odd to me that you would attribute things like “operating systems” and “computers” to “white ingenuity” as if that is logical by any measure. Do you know the history of microcomputing at all? The teams behind the ISA systems bus or the one gig processing chip? How about MCM or the development of modern RAM? Modern PC display? The development of the colour computer? Does Wang Laboratories sound familiar to you? Perhaps doctors An Wang or G.Y. Chu? Surely Mark Dean and IBM do. I know they do, because I know that you are well-informed about the development of modern computing and the countless engineering teams that put all their time, sweat, effort, and research into it.

I’m also curious to this “modern state” you attribute to white people. Is it this Western civilisation built by five hundred years of violent exploitation set to end, within the century, in global ecological catastrophe? Because even then, you at least surely recognise that it was built on the ruins of civilisations far more complex, and in many ways, more advanced. You at least surely realise that technological catalysts like the Textile and Industrial Revolutions would have been literally impossible without black African labour; that Western infrastructure was built both literally and physically, by black and Asian individuals, sustained by Native American agricultural practices (yes, including Europe, which accrued wealth by establishing colonies), was created financially by both riches stolen from the continents of Asia and Africa, and an economic system that relied entirely on the fabulously lucrative trade of human bodies, subjugation, barbarism, and slaughter.

Or did you mean before that—the European Renaissance that was only made possible by Moorish intervention in Europe?

Or did you mean before that, when Europe was experiencing its “Dark Ages”—a time of unprecedented death and disaster marked by violent superstition, sectarianism, and lack of hygiene—when, meanwhile, empires of the rest of the world—the Sahelian kingdoms; the caliphates of North Africa; the empires of Mali, Ghana, and the Songhai; the sultanates of Sudan, the Ethiopian and Somali city-states; the polities of the Americas; the universities of West Asia and Africa; the Song, the Mongols (and countless many more) were all in top form?

Or did you mean before that, during much-lauded Greco-Roman era…whose academic achievements were far outmatched by their West and South Asian counterparts, and whose greatest thinkers were educated by Africans?

I mean, seriously. Please show me this elusive age of white nobility and white achievement, because I’m keen to know where in history it ever existed. You won’t be able to. Do you know why?

Because that simply isn’t how civilisation works.

If you really think the world was built brick by brick by whiteness, or that the humans were pulled out of the primordial ooze by white men, you just aren’t as clever as you think you are. Like the process of engineering, the development of humankind has been one long synthesis of cultures, and the (not always peaceful) trade of languages, knowledge, and ideas. At no point in history did humans sit on their laurels with hands over their ears and eyes, ignorant of the world around them and entirely isolated from one another. It’s why you can find ancient Chinese coins in East Africa, West African bones in the Americas, Polynesian chickens in South America, Arab accounts of Asia and Africa, Central Asia vestiges in Eastern Europe, black Africans all throughout European history. The world is not stagnant. It never was. Human evolution was only possible because of the sharing and propogation of ideas. Your entire argument is facile.

Do you know why people on this website are angry?

Because it’s about the only place where you can express that anger and be (relatively) safe.

Do you know why we are angry in real life?

Because these last five hundred years have seen unprecedented cultural destruction, murder, ethnic cleansing, and subjugation in the name of greed, all sustained and justified by the construction of race. And nothing has changed.


You can write legislation to “guarantee” rights. Lands can be rewon in litigation. A few languages can be relearnt by handfuls of individuals. But you can never repair a culture. You can never repair a metaphysical holocaust, revive those lost to genocide, retrieve forgotten languages, customs, modes of thought, identities. Not only have they been destroyed, they have been actively and systematically been written out of history.  How much of human development has been lost? How many lives do you think this earth has forgotten? How many ghosts wailing beneath cotton fields and rail ties do you think had wisdoms passed down by countless generations or held intellectual properties cultivated by thousands of years?  A concept in its purest form may be as immutable as mass and energy, but like all Forms they are meaningless if there is no one to access them. Not even ideas are infinite; they disappear when no one is there to think them into existence. Gods die like everybody else. Whole perspectives destroyed. Thoughts, feelings, concepts, entire ways of viewing the world, all wiped out through magical feats of destruction. All this, by writing a few words in a book. Like magic.

Do you understand that? Is isn’t us who constructed this system, but we are still the ones dying because of it, erased because of it, dehumanised. And that’s worth owning. You should be as angry as we are, that anyone should have to endure centuries of and current suffering for arbitrary reasons that were installed by terrible legacies left by people who committed horrific acts of evil…whether those people were your forebears or not. Unless you don’t recognise those actions and the actions of the present as evil at all, and you genuinely don’t care about the welfare of your fellow human beings, you should be as angry as we are.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if you really don’t care or not. This five-hundred year system that’s been in place is unsustainable. And honestly? It will probably ultimately destroy itself and take all of us—and you—with it.

I don’t know where this motivation is coming from. Is my new job doing this?? Even though I’m exhausted ever day after work?? 

Anyway here’s another VEWIM, yes Vlog Every Week in March. Talk about my hair, Jpn study, and me being hazed in by a 1 year old. Mr. Upchuck-all-over-the-classroom-on-ya-first-day kid. Poor kid. Hope he feels better.

VEWIM 1 - Life Update

[Vlog Every Week in March] is a series I just made to get me back into the vlogging game. Every week at least one vlog uploaded. And to make it easier on myself I’m just going to use my webcam and upload straight from YT’s recording section. Record. Review. Upload. Done! Simple right? That’s what I need cuz I keep saying I want to vlog again but don’t.

Today I had more motivation to record something but knew I didn’t want to edit so I remembered I can just upload directly. One shot and all. Lol I look a mess cuz today was my first full day with the kiddies at my school. I’m hella tired but for some reason motivated. Let’s get let’s go!

1st Month at New Job

It’s almost a month already!? 

Oh right…February is a short month. I am kinda glad though, because this month was a hell month for my work schedule. 

Concerning my new preschool…LOVE the kids already. There’s one (there’s always one) big cry baby (literally) who is a bit hard to handle but has been absent for a couple of days due to being sick. His mom coddles him so much and we can all tell he’s spoiled especially after seeing how the mom reacts when we give him back to her. She cried as well! It’s interesting seeing parents and children interactions. 

I already have my favorites. My manager’s sons (1 and 4) and one of my girls who is just the cutest. I love that her mom who is also cute, dresses her in red (my favorite color). 

One of my coworkers said that she can see me as a good mother. O_O! I have mixed feelings with that but I took it as a compliment. ^_^ At least I know if (a BIG if) I have a child, I know I will have experience already and don’t have to panic on what to do to take care of him/her. For now I’m happy just being a temporary mommy to the babies at my school. *^_^*

I’d love to write about my week at my preschool tonight but I just finished responding and helping mr. anon his question and I’m already exhausted from work haha. Will write again later then. I hope I was able to help you and anyone else interested in coming to Japan.

Do lots and lots of research online if you are really interested. Including YT vids of foreigners who are already living in Japan. May see a lot of Canadian white girls when you search though lol. Probably can find me easily. OP! (look who has a YT ch that they barely update bahaha)

Anonymous asked:

Ok, finally have the courage to write :) As an African-American male working in corporate America, you've truly inspired me to pursue a dream of living in Japan...but I'm not sure where to start. I've been studying Japanese on my own, I work in the tech field and have for years, but I don't have a degree. Any advice?

Hmmm that’s a toughie because I only know of jobs here that ask for degrees but since you have work experience for years it may not matter but I’m not sure. Some corporate jobs (non-English teaching jobs) in Japan require you have a high level of fluency in Japanese. I mean you can still get some type of job without a degree but if you are thinking of getting English conversation jobs or a corporate/tech job (that sponsors your visa) then that may be an issue. But fret not, you can always do home stays or go to Japanese conversation school where you can also work part time if you are willing.

Many foreigners go through the ‘teach English’ route as a means to get to Japan and get a working visa (which tend to be 3 or more years). If that is something you want to do you can come here through that for starters then make friends and contacts to find a job in your current field. Might be a big dip in salary at first but I think if you save a lot, come and take that time to find something better while enjoying your Japan life it can be journey worth taking.

Anyway, keep researching as much as you can and asking around if you are really interested. It took me a year to figure it out before I left (plus saving enough money and studying a bit of the language). I’ll always recommend living in Osaka but another good place is Fukuoka because of the people and the great location. Tokyo is of course common but I’m happy I got an opportunity in Osaka. More my cup of tea. Tokyo for me is just a great place to visit not to live. 

Sites you can go to for starters are: <—- Jpn school in Osaka 

Good luck!