However, I thought this topic is probably more interesting to non-Japanese people, so decided to publish it in English.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I was talking with a new American friend in a park in Tokyo. We were having a great conversation over coffee. I was really enjoying listening his stories and sharing mine.
If you are a traveler, you probably know the feeling – when you meet someone at a random place and time, and somehow it turns into best friends for the next few days, or even lifetime friends. (In case you don’t know what I mean, you can read one of my stories in Myanmar. It’s in Japanese, but you can read it with Google Translate.)
I had that feeling between the new friend and myself, and probably he did, too. We got along well, and kept talking hours until a stranger interrupted our conversation..
An old Asian man passed by and stopped in front of us. Then the man asked my friend a question in English.
“Do you think her English is good enough?”
My friend answered,
“Yes, I think her English is pretty good!”
Then the man asked my friend again,
“Is her English really good enough?”
My friend and I looked at each other, and he answered
“Yes, we are having a great conversation.”
Then the old guy stared at us and said,
“I don’t think you two understand each other at all. She’s from East and you are from West. Completely different cultures. You will never understand each other. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.”
And the man left..
My friend and I were speechless.. We both needed a moment to process what had just happened. I tried to understand his point, and the reason he felt the need to say something like that to two people who were just enjoying their conversation as friends.. But I couldn’t find the answer and there’s no chance to ask the man because he had already left..
I felt sad, really sad.. because I felt the man had completely destroyed our positive energy and connection.. It’s like someone cut the flower which is just started blooming..
After a few moments of silence, my friend said “He’s just a racist..”
I was very shocked and angry when I thought about whether it was really meant to be racist. Especially considering that my friend was visiting Japan for the first time, only for a week.. It broke my heart.
Luckily, our friendship wasn’t destroyed by the random old man’s words. Yet, this incident stuck in my head for a couple of days.
I tried to understand why I was so shocked by it, and kept thinking “what if..” a lot, but it didn’t solve anything and seemed like going down the rabbit hole..
I may find other perspective later, but here’s my conclusion at this point:
- I was shocked because we were judge by a total stranger.
- I was shocked by the fact that someone actually thinks people from different cultures never understand each other.
As a person who has some great friends outside of Japan and often feels much closer to them, I strongly disagree with the man’s opinion.
Sure, Eastern and Western cultures are different, and we may have different standers. However, I believe that if you are willing to learn and understand other cultures, it’s not true that Eastern and Western people will never understand each other.
Whether you are from the East or the West, leaning from the other culture expands your world and it makes your life much exciting and valuable.
I think that’s the beauty of international and diverse friendship.
Any thoughts? I would love to hear your opinion whether you can relate or disagree with me.
Thank you for reading!