Sorry, I’m a foreigner

Corine in Japan


In two of my newly started courses, I am the only non-Japanese student. Luckily the teachers stick to English, but despite this, I can’t help but feeling I’m the odd one out. When a question is asked and I have an opinion or an answer, I speak up (PBL has trained me for this). But, for Japanese students the strategy seems to be nodding very visibly, in the hope that the professor will ask them directly.

I think this is an example of the many cultural habits and rules for appropriateness the Japanese have. Another example is eating on the street. When I’m hungry and buy something at the convenience store, I often get weird looks when I unwrap the food on the spot and start eating it. Apparently Japanese people wait with this kind of thing until they can sit down somewhere. 

All these little habits and particularities mean that as a foreigner, you are bound to mess up multiple times a day. Chances that you’ll be told that you’re being rude or inappropriate are small, people are much too polite for that. While it’s nice not constantly being told off, in the meantime there is no knowing how bad the image you are giving off is. This sometimes leaves me uncertain what to do. I suppose the best things I can do for now are keeping a check on my Dutch directness and making sure to eat while sitting. 

Corine Schuuring


Hi, I am Corine (20), a third year UCM student. This semester, from September until the start of February, I’ll be on exchange to Waseda University, Tokyo. I’ve never significantly been out of Europe before, so it will be quite a Big Deal. About me: I like food (in general), Saturday mornings and online TV-shows. I hope I’ll also like traveling.


Author: Redactie

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