Saturday, July 23, 2011

The "Gaijin Nod" Controversy

They wear G-strings to war
Now I'm getting myself into a highly inflammatory and heated topic - the Gaijin Nod and how to handle it... For those of you unsure what this means, the "Gaijin Nod" is the occurrence of foreigners living in Japan passing each other on the street (or wherever) to give a nod as to recognize a fellow foreigner in Japan. 

The "Gaijin Nod" does usually not extend to tourists (and it's fairly easy to see who's a tourist and who's a resident foreigner) and does not really exist as a real phenomena in the Tokyo area due to the comparatively large amount of foreigners.

It seems like some foreign residents here in Japan embrace the habit and give the Gaijin Nod enthusiastically, but quite a few people take the opposite stance and deliberately out of their way to look the other way to avoid having to acknowledge the other foreigner. 

Personally, having spent some time in the country side as an exchange student ages ago, initially embraced the concept of the Gaijin Nod, being relatively new in the country and not that great Japanese ability there was something comforting in it. But my ethnically ambiguous appearance quickly made things quite confusing. At times, I would do the nod and only get met with a skeptical frown as the fellow foreigner probably only saw a Japanese person and didn't recognize me as a foreigner. This happened enough times that I completely stopped with it but then I also sometimes got faced with the opposite - a foreigner approaches but I just carried on forward and then I get a Gaijin Nod, but with my brain failing to process this until I had already passed the person, making me look arrogant.

So yeah, conceptually, I'm quite ok with the Gaijin Nod but felt more or less forced to stop with it and now, living in Tokyo it's no longer any issue. A complicated topic indeed...    

9 comments:

mid-Japan-crisis said...

I have to be honest and say I've stopped with the 'nod' because I feel like I don't get a nod in return. I've become jaded.

It depends on the situation, but I usually just keep looking straight ahead.

If I see another gaijin female, I may try a nod or smile, but usually she is doing the same thing as me: looking straight ahead.

Chris said...

I don't nod at anyone and no one talks to me. If you don't have nice tits and a sweet ass just move along.

I wouldn't wan't a nod in Hawaii and I don't want one here.
If someone has a question or needs directions...approach...otherwise get the fuck away from me. I'm not in whatever club they think they are a part of too.

Generic Jen B said...

I will never, ever understand the gaijin nodding thing. Ever. I'm a nice person (most of the time. Maybe. Ok, maybe not) and I don't have a "my Japan" thing going on; thing is, every time someone whines about not getting the gaijin nod because said non-nodder wants to be the "only gaijin in the village", I just think, "how do you know? Maybe they're tired? Maybe it's not all about you?"
I think that people who worry about the nod have never lived in any other foreign country apart from Japan. Maybe. I dunno. I'm going to bed.

Sarahf said...

I usually nod if I'm feeling noddy. If not, I don't bother. I've never really analysed it, but living in a small city means walking past the same people over and over again, so nodding is my way of acknowledging that I've seen them around but that I know we're not friends. Something like that anyway.

Jamie said...

If one does catch another foreigner's eye, it's a little rude not to have some kind of communication... but I don't go out of my way to catch folks eyes and like Sarahf says, you have to be in a nodding mood.
Besides, if a Japanese person catches eyes with you, the only way you can prevent them from having a mild heart attack, wondering what they should do now having made eye contact with a foreigner, is to bow to them.
I don't need to prevent coronary's with most foreigners but I'm not really doing anything much different...

John in Osaka said...

I've always followed the rule of replying to a nod / smile, but not initiating it myself. In the end, I don't know or really have anything in common beyond skin colour with the vast majority of random foreigners I meet on the street, so there's not a lot of point in treating them any different to locals.

Of course, if I'm staggering home from a long day of work, then screw eye contact, I'm too focused on getting to my front door and collapsing.

Mr. Salaryman said...

MJC - Yeah, I can see that, it seems like some people don't like it at all, makes you feel a bit stupid if there's no reaction at all in response...

Chris - Well, can't say that I'm surprised, you don't really seem like the type that's too excited with stuff like this, assuming no tits and ass ;)

Jen B - How about this? Maybe we can try to extend it from a "Gaijin nod" to a general nod? Just nod at everyone in the street and see how much response we'll get?

Saraf - Yep, in a mid- large city I don't think it really serves any purpose, but if you're out in the countryside where foreigners are uncommon, it can be an easy way to at least acknowledge someone

Jamie - I think it's very nice of you to spare all those poor Japanese people those premature coronary infections ;)

JiO - Well, I think that sounds like a quite reasonable approach, but if you're in Osaka then it's not really needed, is it? Considering that there's quite a few foreigners in there?

John in Osaka said...

Actually, Osaka is surprisingly open that way. Maybe its part of the whole, あつかましい関西 thing. Also I live in Minato-ku here, and most of the foreigners are tourists going to / from USJ or Kaiyukan. I know you specifically excepted tourists, but since they keep initiating nods, it feels vaguely rude not to nod or smile back.

Rebecca said...

Having been a tourist in several countries (though not Japan, yet), I usually nod at whoever I happen to catch the eye of, foreigner or not. Do this at home, as well.

I know this is not what you are talking about, but it made me wonder if this is unusual in Japan. I've always done this as a matter of politeness if I've locked eyes with someone, would it be considered odd in Japan?

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