As much as I love chatting with strangers in Japan, the first couple minutes of nearly every “conversation” tends to follow a particular pattern. And yes, I intentionally put “conversation” in parenthesis because sometimes talking with a stranger seems more like a scripted Q & A than an actual, free-flowing dialogue. But that’s another post altogether.
I’m sure everyone’s experience is different, but the most common questions I get as a young, white female in Tokyo are:
1. Where are you from?
2. Do you speak Japanese?
3. How long have you been studying Japanese? At school? On your own?
4. Why did you come to Japan?
5. How long have you been in Japan?
6. What is your favorite Japanese food?
7. Can you eat sushi/raw fish?
8. Do you like natto (fermented soy beans)?
9. Can you eat using chopsticks?
10. Does [insert stereotype about your country/state/city] really happen in [insert country/state/city]? (example: “Does everyone in Texas have a gun?”)
11. Do [insert nationality/religion/ethnicity/etc] like [insert generalization/vague thing]? (example: “Do Americans like ninjas?”)
12. Is your family okay with you living in Japan?
And other such questions. It’s fun answering these questions every once and a while – especially when I feel like I’m doing my part to change stereotypes of both Americans and Texans in one swoop. I have no idea if any of it actually sticks, though.
I’m sure your experience is different. What kinds of questions do you get?