Remember me? Sorry it has been a while since I posted. I don't have a good reason. Maybe facebook is taking over my computer.
Not to get too girly-girly on you all, but I wanted to share some funny things I have learned about dating in Japan. I feel like I have been here long enough that the brainwashing is starting to take effect and I have to remind myself that "I am not like this." and "This is not how I like to live my life." But, in the strife to fit in I have fallen into some funny habits myself.
My first year in Japan I felt utterly at a loss when trying to meet guys. I felt that Japanese men found me too aggressive and outspoken so they probably would never approach me. And they didn't. One Canadian girl told me to not even bother with Japanese men and just go for the Latinos. I also figured that every foreign guy was too busy being worshipped by Japanese women to give a try to a girl like me who will make them prove themselves before I fall all over them. I was (partially) wrong and have found that I just didn't understand the culture.
It started last winter. I decided that I didn't want to wait around anymore so I was just going to be outgoing and try. I call it the "I don't know how to play dating games so I won't" approach. Its a long name. Maybe I could shorten it to IDKHTPDGSIW. Eh...still too long.
Since then I have met and dated quite a few Japanese and foreign men.
From what I can gather from female Japanese friends of mine a typical date in this country goes something like this:
The girl asks the guy out.
She probably met him through a friend.
They have dinner at some swanky place.
Conversation is modest and polite but can include topics of salary, blood type, and what prefecture they are each from.
A short walk around someplace nice is typical. He might walk in front of her. They don't hold hands.
A bow and small wave at the train station ends the night.
He may not call or email her again until the next Friday when they arrange for another meeting.
This can carry on for weeks and months. He is working overtime nearly every day of the week. He can't really meet her afterwork. Many weekends they can't meet because one or the other has to attend a mandatory drinking party with their coworkers.
Learning this I was very hesitant to even try dating Japanese men. Some of my friends have had success and met great Japanese guys. So I don't want to make a sweeping statement saying that all Japanese men are the same. Of course they aren't. But the guys I have met have fallen into two categories: 1. They think I am super cool because I am American and want to show me off around town and have loud conversations with me in English in public places. 2. They think I am easy because American girls in TV shows and movies are. They try to take me to a hotel on the first date.
I did find that Japanese guys need a lot more encouraging than foreign men. Its not enough to smile at them, or wave, or motion towards your empty glass, or hold up your left hand and gesture wildly at your bare ring finger. No, you have to talk to them and somewhere in the conversation clearly state that you like them and want to hang out with them. Clearly. Just use those exact words if nothing else. Otherwise you will be playing a long game of trying to figure each other out that will fizzle into frustration and confusion.
The Japanese dates I have been on haven't ALL been bad. (But those stories are less interesting so I won't share them.)
I had one date with a man who really liked Jazz and Blues but didn't understand all of the lyrics. His English wasn't so great. So he took me to a jazz/blues bar and asked me what each song was saying. I had to really simplify everything so basically I spent the whole night saying, "His girlfriend left him. He is sad. Really sad. Sometimes when he is sad he feels bad..."
Once a guy asked me if I had ever seen a cactus and are they really dangerous. He probably also wondered if I could get him John Wayne's autograph.
One guy I was dating for a couple of months said I seemed to be moving too fast because I called him on his birthday. We had been out that Saturday and he usually called me to make plans on Thursday, but I jumped the gun by calling him on a Monday. I think I missed something in the translation there.
I was shocked once when a man walked in front of me during our post-dinner stroll. I asked if he was in a hurry to get somewhere. He just said no. I see this all the time with other couples but I was still blown away when it happened to ME.
In a club one night a man walked up to me and said point blank, "I like big busts." (I am not busty at all by western standards BTW) But he really thought that this was an appropriate pick up line.
What really bothers me is the lack of affection and also not treating me like a "lady." It feels really cold. But then there is the other extreme where a guy is all hands-y. ugh. There is not much hand holding here. Also, in Japan it is not common for people to kiss in public. It bothers me. I don't want a big sloppy one but a nice goodnight kiss would be welcomed. What's a girl gotta do?
Date other guys.
So I have dated other types and nationalities of men with mixed success. There are some good guys out there. After my experience with the Japanese guys I am always really thrilled to have a date pull out my chair, open the door for me, leave me sweet little messages on my phone, and do all the dating stuff that I am used to. I nearly married a man recently who told me over a bottle of wine that he can speak 10 languages, likes cats, talks to his mom every week, and has two degrees in Engineering and Ecology. (I'm seeing him again on Saturday.)
However, being a foreigner makes it complicated. I am not looking for my husband and I am not looking for a fling. I am in this gray area where I would like to date you and hang out with you but eventually...I'm gonna leave. I don't know if I will find someone serious who will fit into my plans or who I would change my plans for. But there are always questions and risks when you start new relationships. You can let them stop you. You can see them as obstacles. Or you can just enjoy your life and all of the challenges and adventures it brings.
If a foreign woman were to ask me for advice I would tell her to be confident and just have fun getting to know new people. Being from another country is also an easy coversation starter. There are a few questions that can break the ice easily like, "Where are you from?" "How long have you been in Japan?" and "Do you like natto?"
Don't lose yourself. I have been guilty of letting a man pay for everything all night even though its not really the western way to do things. I have also been guilty of having whole conversations about blood type. So lame, I know. I am more shy and standoff-ish than I was before and I think this is directly related to being in Japan for this long.
But...the first step is admitting, right?
I think the best way to end this is by quoting the great Smokey Robinson, "My mama told me...you better shop around."