September 20, 2009

Exchange Students

Pete seems peripherally involved in an exchange program with Japanese students coming to visit UNM. He says:

Just as I was afraid they would, Japanese and American students completely segregated themselves and do not talk at all, with one notable exception of American boys who chase Japanese girls.

Which is not exactly unexpected. What I think is interesting is that the converse doesn't seem to be true (or at least not noteworthy): where are the Japanese boys chasing American girls?

It kind of shows some of the deep cultural differences between the countries, doesn't it?

UPDATE: I misunderstood Pete's post. He tells me this is in Japan, not in New Mexico. The visitors are Americans. I think that makes things a lot more clear, and a lot more understandable. The Japanese guys are not chasing American girls because there are lots of Japanese girls around.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Japanese at 10:38 AM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
Post contains 147 words, total size 1 kb.

1 Several years ago we had a Japanese exchange student stay at our house. One day he was looking through one of my USMA yearbooks and stopped at a page with a black cadet on it. He asked if Blacks wee allowed to go to USMA. The question kind of stopped me in my tracks. I explained to him that anyone who meets the qualifications has an opportunity to go. Cultural differences indeed.

Posted by: schaumannk at September 20, 2009 10:46 AM (npu+U)

2 There is a reason for this. About a year ago I read an article about a research which dealt with the dating habits of people. At the end, they concluded that men don't care at all about race and are willing to date anybody who is "acceptable". But women dated differently. Blacks preferred blacks, latinos latinos, whites whites, etc. I other words, they discriminated against races not their own. There was only one exception to this: oriental women didn't discriminate against white men. I believe this is the reason why I see so many white-guy/oriental-girl couples including my own. Vilmos

Posted by: vilmos at September 20, 2009 11:21 AM (9ilg8)


I suspect that a significant reason for the asymmetry (e.g. lots more "American man, Japanese woman" couples than the other way around) has to do with which cultures tend to be male-dominated.

America is a lot more egalitarian in terms of relationships between the sexes than countries such as Japan and China, which are still very male-dominated.  A Japanese man would think nothing of just lifting his cup and saying "Tea!" and expecting the woman to scurry away to fill the order... but try that with an American woman and you do so at your peril.

So, not to put too fine a point on it-- if a Japanese is considering dating an American, then a Japanese woman gets a better deal (from her perspective), but a Japanese man gets a worse one (from his).  The Japanese woman is more likely to get a man who will treat her as an equal... but many attitudes of a Japanese man would stick in an American woman's craw.

Obviously that's a broad generalization, and there are exceptions; certainly there exist considerate, egalitarian, and cosmopolitan Asian men, and there are successful couples who don't follow this pattern.  But in the aggregate, I suspect that such issues go a long way to explaining the disparity.

Posted by: snark at September 20, 2009 12:25 PM (w47od)


SchaumannK, deep down Japan is very racist. Most Americans don't notice it, though, because mostly they're not racist about Americans and Australians. (That being who the Japanese consider to mainly be who defeated them in WWII.) But when it comes to Koreans, or Filipinos, watch out! (And there are lots of stories of Filipina maids and nannies being mistreated.)

There is an awareness of this. We went through 40 years of consciousness raising here to try to eliminate bigotry and it's been pretty successful. The job isn't finished and won't be until there's an entire turn-over of the population, but bigotry is on the run and in decline. Japan has been trying to do the same.

Someone I know told me that when he first went to Japan, he learned a certain word to use to refer to Koreans. Maybe ten years later he went back, and casually used that word (which he thought was normal) and the person he was talking to blanched and told him he should never ever use that word. He didn't tell me what word it was (and I confess I'm curious) but I gather this was something like the word nigger which at one time was usual and common and is now utterly verboten in polite company. So progress is being made.

But they're not as far along as we are.

Snark, I think your point is very well taken. I'm sure that's a factor.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 20, 2009 01:30 PM (+rSRq)

5 After studying this situation close up over the last 25 years, and seeing relationships built both ways, I agree with snark 100%.  I think the point he makes is by far the most significant reason the white male-Japanese female relationships are much more common, and are more often successful.  And I'll take it one step further--it works the other way as well.  Japanese women often have personality characteristics that make them "a better deal" for white males than white females, thus making it a win-win situation for both of them.  And it flips for the Japanese man-white female pairing--probably neither are going to get what they want.
One more issue that has come up when I've talked to people about this is that white men generally find Japanese women attractive, while white women are not so hot on Japanese men.
Basically, the dice are heavily loaded in favor of the white men-Japanese women pairing.  This reality has actually been called "racist" by some people I've met.  One often hears the accusation that the white male simply wants a compliant "geeesha girl" and is taking advantage of the Japanese woman.  Such a statement strikes me as representing real racism.

Koreans in Japan have a tough road.  A friend of mine over there comes from a very wealthy Korean dynasty (heavy industry) and his branch of the family has been in Japan four generations, but they still are not allowed to become citizens or get a Japanese passport.  He had a relationship with a girl from Kyoto, whose family is semi-aristocratic and the two of them fought both their families for almost 15 years to get married.  It was finally allowed only on the condition he be "adopted" into her family line and take their name, completely abandoning his Korean roots.

Every once in a while some pressure group will fight to have certain words declared verboten in Japan.  Not too long ago, "chibi" was on the chopping block.  That campaign doesn't seem to have done very well.

By far the largest and most troublesome form of "racism" in Japan is the continuing mistreatment of the burakumin (decendents of the eta, or "untouchables" of the Edo Period).  It's amazingly well-hidden but once you get a look behind the curtain it's a huge problem.

Posted by: Toren at September 20, 2009 04:20 PM (0LOh+)


About the Burakumin, I was thinking of mentioning them. That's pretty scandalous, and it really runs deep and is wide spread. I gather that a lot of the Burakumin "pass", or at least try to.

I saw a poll which said that the majority of Japanese would divorce their spouses if they learned that they were Burakumin.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 20, 2009 05:35 PM (+rSRq)

7 > white men generally find Japanese women attractive

And possibly all orient women.

When I came to the US in 1990 as a 24 years old guy from Eastern Europe (where the girls are pretty), I was stunned how, how to say it nicely, unfeminine the young American white women were (several non-US females agreed with me). Most of them wore t-shirts and shorts (a university town in Florida) and just let their hair grow with a minimal haircut. After a while whenever I saw a feminine white woman, I always thought "well, a foreigner".

Well, feminism definitely changed the women here in the US. Question is for the better or for the worse... Whenever I think about how many orient-girl/white-guy pairs are, I always think about how much this is due to the natural attraction or to feminism.

No wonder I ended up with an orient girl and haven't looked back since then.

After having lived in Taiwan for around 18 months, I agree with snark with the possible exception that this is not a Japanese-only but probably an orient-wide issue.


Posted by: vilmos at September 20, 2009 08:04 PM (9ilg8)

8 I said as far back as high school, that I'd probably not marry an American girl, because they were too "noisy" and foreign girls were "quieter." (I think that's how I put it) 

Of course, for various reasons, I ended up not marrying at all -- at least I stuck to my guns, eh?

Posted by: ubu at September 20, 2009 08:27 PM (kL7KW)

9 Several years back, a married friend of mine was working in Japan for A Large Company, and he often had female Japanese co-workers ask him if he knew any nice single men in the US. They wanted to get married, just not to Japanese men.

As for the burakumin, my understanding of the current situation is that what makes it difficult to "pass" is the fact that the paperwork you have to present to landlords, employers, etc clearly shows where you were born, and there's an officially-illegal but widely-distributed book identifying burakumin neighborhoods.


Posted by: J Greely at September 20, 2009 09:12 PM (2XtN5)

10 Japan is far from the only place exporting desperate brides. The advantage of a Japanese bride is that, on average, the probablity that she'd dump you the moment she receives her certificate of citizenship is far lower than such of her competitors from Russia, Iran, Poland, or Vietnam. Of course careful vetting and wide net are always advisable, but at certain point you have to rely on luck. You cannot look inside their craniums.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at September 21, 2009 12:20 PM (/ppBw)

11 Well, yes, because the Japanese bride isn't usually economically desperate. She's not marrying to leave Japan, she's leaving Japan to marry.

My Ukrainian sister-in-law wasn't a mail-order bride, but her older sister was, and managed to eventually get the rest of the family into the US.


Posted by: J Greely at September 21, 2009 03:47 PM (9Nz6c)

12 BTW, there's a guy in my anime club who was married to a Japanese woman for 18 years, and a couple of years back she decided that she had enough and went back home, leaving their son in his care.

Oh and also: Christmas Cake.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at September 21, 2009 04:10 PM (/ppBw)

Posted by: cxt217 at September 21, 2009 04:32 PM (QM6Gw)

14 Interesting. My wife is Vietnamese. And awesome.

Posted by: dkallen99 at September 22, 2009 05:51 AM (1PFDl)

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