Making friends in Japan: Dekiru kana?

Por Eddy Montilla

The other day, some foreigners were talking about how difficult was for them to make Japanese friends here. Rather than language barriers, they said that Japanese people are laconic, are not usually in a very convivial mood and the worst expression was that they live under a cloak of hypocrisy. Since my table was near theirs, I heard their conversation and was thinking about it. In my opinion, these guys were getting things out of proportion. Making friends in Japan may take more time than other places, but it is not as difficult as the Labors of Hercules either. So, today I want to share with you some tips that can help you to make friends in Japan.


     Don’t look at Japanese people through the window of your own culture: This is the biggest problem when foreigners come to Japan: They want Japanese people to think and behave the same way as they do. But, shouldn’t be the opposite idea since the visitors are they?

     Forget about a chance encounter or coffee shops to make friends: The broad smile and friendly greetings (“Irashaimase!”= Welcome) you receive at a coffee shop are illusions of friendship. You can visit the same place for years, but once you leave this place, if you bump into an employee in the street, don’t expect greetings or something similar. He or she will most probably never talk to you or in order to avoid eye contact, this employee could look at other side.

     Forget about co-workers or bars too: In a bar, you can chat for a while or find a person for a date, perhaps, but not a friend. As for co-workers, it is hard to have them as friends because when they go out to “socialize”, they spend all night talking about problems at office or venting their anger or frustration.

     Clubs and groups are the key:
Japanese people cling to group mentality. Most things are done in groups in Japan, so they feel more at ease when they are among people who share THE SAME likes or ideas. So, a gym, school or club where you go regularly can be better places to find a Japanese friend, in my opinion.

     Finally, remember that the idea of friendship Japanese people have could be different from yours or your country. In Latin America, for example, a friend is not only a person to chat and have a good laugh, but a shoulder for you to cry on or a person who will get you off the hook by lending you money if you are in economic problems, which is difficult to believe in Japan. What I am trying to say is that you should not expect barbecue parties, frequent visits to his or her house, etc. Friendships here turn around a dinner at a restaurant or gift exchange. However, a friend is a friend in any circumstance, and that’s why I wish you the best trying to make a Japanese friend.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved.


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