Why We Avoid Each Other

I'm a green-eyed freckled blonde girl from Texas. I think it’s fair to say that I kind of stand out in Japan. A lot.

It’s true that foreigners are frequently stared at by Japanese people, and as much as us gaijin like to roll our eyes when this happens, most of us are in fact guilty of the same crime. I will attest that whenever I see a face that doesn’t quite blend well with the rest of the hustle and bustle, I too can’t help but gawk. And what many foreigners don’t want to admit is that really, deep down, we all want to wave at each other.

Of course if we were ever to do this, we would indeed look like idiots. “I’m only greeting you because you have a funny face too!” Because it can be annoying when Japanese people stare at us, we can’t go encouraging this behavior to the general public. So what often happens is most of us just ignore each other on the street. We don’t even meet eyes, even though we both know that we both want to acknowledge each other. Salutations are not exchanged, and we move on with our lives.

I can admit that when another foreigner approaches me on the street and asks if I need any help, I can get a bit irked. I want to say, “Dude, I live here. Do I look like a tourist?” But the truth is that actually, yeah, I do look like a tourist. I’m white. And even after living in Japan for a year, there’s still so much that I don’t understand. So I’m learning to embrace my ignorance and tear down some walls.

The foreign community in Japan is expanding these days, and as my love for Japan grows, so does my appreciation for the gaijin that live here. I want to be a part of this budding, if very very small, community of foreigners that live in Japan. Our voices aren’t very loud (except for on trains), and we’re few and far between, but we’re here. So I’ve decided to ditch the avoiding-eye-contact game. I’ll stare at you on the street, and if you stare back, I’ll give you a smile, and hell, I might even wave. After all, we’re gaijin. The least we can do for each other is be weird together.