Some of my perkier students posed the question to me last week, "Do you want japanese friends?"
My knee jerk reaction was, "Of course I do, don't be rididculous." But I really had to think about it for a while afterwards. I would like to think that I'm a really open, cultually sensitive and accepting guy, but as it turns out, i have relatively few Japanese friends here. Of people who are not my students or co-workers, I can count probably 3 or 4 people on my "Japanese Friend" list. I started thinking about the reasons for this and here is what i came up with as excuses:
1. I am shy. I tend not to make many new friends outside of my daily activities even back home. I'm not particularly gregarious by nature and that's accentuated by being in a foreign country.
2. I don't smoke. Smoking is always a social refuge for people, and particularly in Japan where so many people smoke all the time. Plus, my desire not to smell like smoke often prevents me from going to places like bars where one can more readily meet local people.
3. I have a girlfriend. This gives me an incentive to go home at night rather than prowling around looking for girls at night after work. Also, I tend to eat at home a lot and I turn down some plans because they're inconvenient to do with Jennifer.
4. I work. My hours are constantly chainging week by week. My only sure thing is that I'll be at work no later than 9:30 pm. This kind of kills many of the social things that I might engage in otherwise, such as classes, japanese lessons or evening plans with the normally employed workforce, japanese or otherwise.
That said, i honestly consider some of my students and co-workers to be friends. When you meet someone weekly or more frequently and shoot the shit over various topics, you tend to develop some sort of friendship that to me is more than just that of a student/teacher sort. I would be happy to spend time with many of my students outside of the classroom setting, however, my contract specifically bars such meetings. Well shit. I guess I'll probably end up a lonely, isolated foreigner in a sea of japanese faces.