Making Japanese Friends – Mission Impossible???

Posted: October 28, 2011 in English, Wanderlust
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

That’s an article I wrote for the website:

(The website is tries to show Japan from the foreigner’s point of view)

Being in Japan can be quite a cultural shock. Everything is so different, so big and crowded and especially in my case it can be very frustrating not being able to communicate properly, because of a lacking knowledge of Japanese. Many foreign students are therefore often sticking together with other foreigners, since it is easier to speak with them and they share the same feelings in the same situation and in some cases the lack of language can even cause a feeling of being completely alone in a city of 30 million people.

I believe that it is often necessary to have friends you can speak with and they actually understand every word, nonetheless I also believe that being in Japan means eventually also making Japanese friends. In the beginning it can be quite difficult, especially if one is shy or does not feel confident with his or her Japanese language skills. What helped me most when I arrived first at the Waseda University was one of the many international Clubs. Waseda International Club (WIC), Waseda International Festival (WIF) or Niji-No-Kai are just some of the many Clubs that were created in order to make it easy for foreign students to get in contact with Japanese people and Japanese culture. Many of the members can understand English very well but they will try to speak with you in Japanese as much as possible, what I think is a very great idea. Beside of the huge variety of international clubs, the University has even its own little event-department for foreign students, the ICC, that is organizing language exchanges, sport and cultural events and many more. I guarantee you that you will make some friends here.

The perfect opportunity however, in order to learn and practice intensively your Japanese, can be found in one of the hundreds regular University-clubs. If you are interested in Opera, Basketball or Politics just join one of the the specific clubs. Often you will be the only foreigner and not many of the members can speak English, but you will make a lot of new friends and your Japanese will improve quickly. Whenever I go to my club meeting once a week the whole environment is so challenging that this experience is way much better for my Japanese skills then every of my Japanese classes at university.

Students from the SILS (School of international liberal science) department have also the great luck to be surrounded by Japanese Students in their everyday classes. It can be quite hard as an exchange students to bump into already existing friend circles and my own experience is that many of the Japanese students in SILS not really engage with new foreigners. So it is up to you to make the first step. Talk to people or if you are to shy start with an Icebreaker. I often ask some random Japanese students in my classes if they could help me quickly with my Japanese homework. This is how you can start a conversation and get to know more people.

Making new friends in Japan is not easy. Often you have to take the first step and sometimes it can be frustrating if you try to talk with someone but your Japanese is just not good enough. But making Japanese friends is crucial in order to practice and improve your own language skills and in order to get a deeper insight into the Japanese culture as a whole. So get yourself out of your room and join as many clubs, events and ceremonies as possible, you will see it is worth it!

  1. Phoebe says:

    Jaja! totally agree! it always be hard and frustrating when you try to speak a new language and no one understand ! especially the time you your best but people still ask you to repeat ( i hope this not happen to you, but always happen to me =.=”

    the expereince won’t be complete when we are not involved with local people ….
    enjoy your time in Japan ! 頑張ってください!
    Viel Glück! Bon courage !!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s