Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bhim Boyer (Holland)
(He came to Japan in fall 2006 *Now he’s in his country)
A Happy New Year 2007! The first interview of this year… with a nice guy from Holland.
“I came to Japan because I’ve already learned some Japanese. I thought that I would test my Japanese skill here.” Boyer said strongly. His attitude toward the language and his life in a differnt cultural environment were totally cosmopolitan. The talk with him was really significant. We felt we could learn from his experiences.
I would not be just a foreigner in other countries
When I graduated from college in 2002, I wanted to keep on learning something. I decided to learn language. And I was interested in Japan. So I decided to go to a night class of Japanese language. When I was younger, I read Japanese manga (comic books). I still read them sometimes because I like drawing by myself.
And I like learning Japanese through the movies. I like Japanese modern movies and old movies like Akira Kurosawa “Seven Samurai”. Japanese language sounds interesting and is easier than Chinese or Cantonese. Tones are important in such languages. That was the reason I started to learn Japanese.
I was able to be open to things I was not used to. I enjoy being in other countries and living their culture. So I would not be just a foreigner in other countries. I would try to be a part of their culture.
Japanese class was not enough for me
I learned Japanese once a week in Holland. And I had a “stupid job” because it was half a year after 9/11 and the economical situation was not good even in Holland. I decided to quit everything and go somewhere. I have learned some Japanese so I came to Japan and stayed here for three months.
I started learning basic things maybe more than four years ago. And I began to go to the evening class in Holland three and a half or four years ago. I thought it was a little bit slow but I could ask the way and ask something in Japanese after I came to Japan. I could learn a sort of basic Japanese in that class. But it was not enough for me.
When I came to Japan for the first time (spring 2004), I didn’t know any Japanese people. So I stayed at a guesthouse and mostly I spoke English with other foreigners, except for with my Korean neighbors. They couldn’t speak English so I spoke Japanese to them.
People don’t tell the truth
Mostly I had a fun time here. I think Japanese people are more polite than Dutch people. And people line up neatly in front of the stores. Also clerks in stores are polite.
But sometimes I had a difficult time. There are quite a few people who don’t really say what they think. I remember that I bought sunglasses with a friend of mine and her friend. My friend always say something directly to the point. And other friend was polite.
I wanted to buy sunglasses and I asked my friend’s friend if it looked good. She said yes. But I asked my friend and she said no. Maybe my friend’s friend did really like those sunglasses. But even if I picked the most ridiculous sunglasses in the world, she said it would be good because she didn’t want to embarrass me. People say “No good” more directly in Holland. It is sometimes annoying. People don’t tell the truth sometimes in Japan, but it’s a small thing for me.
“I’m your customer. So please talk to me!”
Also when I go to the stores with my girlfriend or another Japanese person and buy something, clerks say something only to Japanese persons. For example… when I was in Sapporo and bought a tripod, I used a wrong pointcard. But the clerk said to my girl friend that it was a wrong one. I have studied Japanese for a few years and I was his customer. So, “Please talk to me, not to her!” She is Japanese and I’m not, which means he thought I don’t speak Japanese – That’s sometimes annoying.
I didn’t come to Japan to learn the Japanese language
Now I know a lot more Japanese people and basically I speak Japanese, I write E-mails in Japanese and read their mails in Japanese.
I didn’t come to Japan to learn the Japanese language. I came to Japan because I’ve already learned some Japanese and I thought that I would test my Japanese skills here. I would go to Japan and see if I could speak or not. Because outside of the classroom I didn’t have any chance to practice Japanese in Holland. If you leave the classroom, you have no chance to practice there.
I think the most important way of learning Japanese is to speak Japanese to Japanese people. And to read and write e-mails in Japanese. Getting e-mails back and trying to figure out what kanji (Chinese characters) written in them mean.
And learning grammar. When I talk to my girlfriend, I speak only Japanese. It’s really hard but I got used to Japanese and I can use words that I want to use.
If you come to Japan, experience Japanese culture and do real Japanese things! Do not eat Mcdonalds or drink at Starbucks often! Try to experience Japanese as much as possible. Talk to Japanese about Japanese things. But don’t forget your heritage. I am not trying to be a Japanese. I just try to adjust to Japanese culture.
What is Tokyo to you?
Tokyo is my home which is away from “home”.