”Japanese are shy” Foreign people often say this.But when I hear it, I feel something’s not quite right.We Japanese love going drinking with friends, being crazy at festivals,and smiling and making the peace sign when we take photos.
Even we don’t know why we do it – we do it automatically.If we were shy, we’d never give the peace sign in public.So today, I’ll talk about 3 reasons why Japanese are not shy!!
1. The Word ‘Shy’
I looked up the word ‘shy’ in English, and the Cambridge Dictionary said“Nervous and uncomfortable with other people”Now I finally understand why foreigners all think Japanese are shy.
Because we are not nervous and shy with other Japanese.But we are nervous and uncomfortable with foreigners. Seriously, foreigners regard us as “shy”, but I’m not convinced.I understand our Japanese behavior looks like we are not good around people, but the reason is not only our shyness.
We Japanese usually think of others first and don’t push ourselves forward. Then foreigners misunderstand and think that behavior comes from shyness. So they labeled us as shy folk. For the same reason, we Japanese see Americans as noisy, Even though they are just assertive.
We always just try to act mature and adult-like. But to foreigners, all our actions seem to stem from shyness. For example, we think the spirit of giving way to each other is very important.
So we think it’s rude to express our opinion too directly in public. And if someone praises our work, we’re never proud, we just reply,“No, I can’t take the credit. Everyone else helped me a lot, so it was a group effort.”
We think acting humbly is the most beautiful thing. And we always try to avoid arguing or expressing conflicting opinions. In our society, sympathizing with others is the most important skill. Some call it peer pressure.
From my Japanese point of view, we just try to act like grown ups, But foreigners think it’s all because we’re shy. I think foreigners, especially white people, seem to think they are the center of the world and
the standard to compare against, and if they find people who act differently, they think it’s weird.But to us, we are not shy – foreigners are just forward.
In Japan, ‘foreigners’ means ‘Americans’.
2. Ethnic Consciousness
Japan is an island and immigrants make up just 2%, so 98% of the residents in Japan are Japanese. So Japan is basically a monoracial country. Therefore, Japanese people have a strong ethnic consciousness.
We call foreigners ‘gaijin’. In Japanese, ‘gaijin’ literally means ‘people who come from outside’, and we consider gaijin to be a different species. I know, foreigners seem to perceive Japanese as weird folk. But to be honest, we think of foreigners as life from another planet. They can’t speak our language and don’t know about etiquette.
We can’t understand their behavior. It’s super weird. They hug people upon first meeting them, and they talk loudly in public places, They suddenly talk to strangers, and greet waiters with a “Hi” and a smile. What is so surprising is they never wash their ass after shitting. We can’t understand their behavior at all.
And European have a very strange custom. It’s called holidays. Apparently it’s when you take time off work. In Japan, we only take time off work when we have been fired.
Imagine if you were living in a monoracial village. Suddenly a white alien appeared and complained about your traditions, customs and lifestyle. Then they try to force you to accept an alien’s lifestyle. It’s difficult for us to open our minds to white aliens. Even if we try to explain our thoughts, they would just say it’s weird. As a result, we Japanese make a wall of tatemae for foreigners.
Foreigners who come from abroad think Japanese are shy.But to be honest, we are not shy. We are just introverted, modest, and xenophobic.
3. Language Barrier
The third reason is the language barrier. We can’t speak English and we can’t communicate with foreigners.
As you already know, in Japan, 98% of the residents are Japanese and we have a big domestic market. So we don’t need to speak English to live. As a result, we don’t study English seriously. For us, English is not a language – it’s a subject.
We just study it before we have a test. Then after the test, we forget everything. The same as history.
Some Japanese people try to learn English after graduating. They spend a lot of money and go to language school. But they are so busy and don’t have enough time to go to class.
Eventually they just go to a language school once a week and attend a 1 hour conversation class. Every lesson is mostly spent reviewing their last class. So they never improve and quit. As a result, they can speak one sentence in perfect English. That is “Sorry, I can’t speak English”.
I want to ask foreigners who stereotype Japanese as shy, If you joined a group of Japanese people in the pub and you couldn’t speak Japanese, What would you do? You definitely wouldn’t say anything, and would just smile weirdly while others are speaking. Like we Japanese normally do.
We are not shy – we just can’t speak English.