It’s said that ignorance is bliss. Whoever said that clearly never lived in a foreign country because ignorance as an expat is a downright, infuriating, maddening and frustrating thing.
I don’t even mean my own ignorance (which is itself, sizable), I mean the ridiculous stuff you are often asked as a foreigner in Japan.
I should make this a touch more polite really. Let’s say, daft questions and comments. As while these inquiries are never ill intentioned, they are rather silly to ask nonetheless. For a while I thought this to be something only the Japanese really did in any great measure:
“Wow, you’re really good at using chopsticks!”
I live here, did you envisage me skewering sushi with a fork? Perhaps a spear? Gobbling it down, nose on the plate, one deep breath away from a head full of wasabi?
“Are you a foreigner?”
No, no, I’m just a remarkably pasty Japanese person who happens to be half a foot taller than everyone in this supermarket.
“Can you read katakana?”
Noooo, not at all. You caught me, I was merely pretending to read the menu. I just guessed that this place would have coffee and being the improv star I am, I just figured I’d make use of the prop to hand. Ta da…
The first and third comments are pretty common and I don’t take offence, mostly they just result in a slightly confused look across my brow, a raised eyebrow here or there. The second was from a rather rude old man in a supermarket car park. However, with my grandfather having come from Barnsley, that question would be considered to be the height of subtlety back in my house.
I honestly felt before that no one could really top this kind of foolish questioning.
Oh Europe, how you have let me down…
The Guardian’s Paolo Bandini offered this gem from Italy’s Serie A as his personal award for Worst Investigative Journalism in his round-up of the season, when Yuto Nagatomo, who after moving to Italy last summer to join Cesena and then swiftly transferring to Inter Milan in January, was asked by one particularly dumb journalist, “Do you like football?”
One stupid football journalist I can forgive, lord knows we tolerate more than that anyway.
Then I read the end of season Bundesliga round up courtesy of one Raphael Honigstein. When Shinji Kagawa has been one of the stars of the season, despite only playing half of it due to a broken foot, I don’t expect to read that he is deemed a problem by the tabloid Bild because of the following dilemma,
“How the hell are we supposed to tell him apart from [Schalke's Japanese player] Atsuto Uchida?”
I await the British tabloid response when Ryo Miyaichi makes his debut for Arsenal.
I should probably just apologise to my students now…