22 May 2011

Why Dogs Bark at Other Dogs

Aimee and I were in Osu with our friends Chris and Caitlin, and their friend Anne, this afternoon. The girls wanted to go shopping and Chris and I opted to go wandering rather than suffer being strung along to various shops. We're both horrible to go shopping with, we've been told, and that wasn't about to change in a single afternoon.

We were wandering around aimlessly when I noticed a tall white guy walking in the opposite direction with his Japanese girlfriend. I raised my eyebrows in a male "I acknowledge your existence" sort of way, as I usually do when I make eye contact with men, and he laughed. I realized that I had looked at his Japanese girlfriend before I made eye contact with him, and he must have seen me do it, and when I raised my eyebrows he must have thought I was somehow complimenting him. I would have laughed in the same derisive way had our situations been reversed.

I laughed and told Chris what had happened and he laughed and said, "After living in Japan I now understand why dogs bark at other dogs."

I laughed again because I instantly understood what he meant. We're all foreigners in Nagoya but we're not tourists: we live here, we work here, we have lives here. We've got our social circles, our local bars, our grocery stores, our neighbourhoods; we have the same things that are "ours" that we all had back in North America. So when we see a foreigner we all instantly wonder what they're doing in "our" city.

The phenomenon is probably more strongly felt where we live than if we lived in a tourist city, like Kyoto or Tokyo. No one comes to Nagoya for tourism. There are a couple of huge office towers here and a single castle - nothing too interesting. It'd be like going to Canada to see Hamilton. So any foreigners we see here almost certainly work here. They're not just some dog who happens to be passing through our park; they've moved in and we want to know why.

This feeling isn't malicious, but it's definitely stronger than the feeling of curiousity when we see foreigners in our home towns. I think it stems from the experiences with douchebags that we've all had since living here. The obnoxious foreigners who get angry when waitresses don't speak their language; the obnoxious foreigners get upset when they can't pay with credit cards; the obnoxious foreigners who lose their minds when they see a sign without English on it. You get my point.

We all love that we have the opportunity to live and travel abroad, and we think that everyone should live in a foreign country for part of their lives. It's a life changing experience and everyone, douchebag or otherwise, should try to experience it. Nevertheless, we still all feel like barking a little when we see someone we don't know.

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