Just a few quick thoughts on socializing in Japan that i have been thinking about lately.
Something i have mentioned previously in this blog is that in Japan people don’t self disclose meaningful personal information so easily or quickly. Initial conversations with a person are in fact very light in terms of content rarely involve really getting to know someone. Some Japanese acquaintances have told me that they need to wait at least year after initially meeting someone to disclose their personal ideas and feelings. I once read a story, somewhere on the interwebs but unfortunately was unable to find to link to, about a French guy who worked at a company in Japan for nearly a decade. During that time he felt he really loved his job, and he felt his co-workers really respected and liked him too. One day, after work a Japanese co-worker told him that actually, “nobody likes you.” He of course felt very upset to be told this, and at the same time deceived because that entire time everyone had treated him so nicely. But those polite niceties we find so easy to endure in Japanese social interactions are a mere facade to hide us from the embarrassment if people knew what we were really thinking. If you feel like you have a great friendship and would like someone to listen to you with genuine interest, you can always try to disclose some personal information or stories and see if they reciprocate as all people are different and not everyone will fit in to every generalization i mention.
The Japanese co-worker in that story, after many years of knowing his French co-worker finally felt comfortable enough to reveal a real thought, thus hoping it would have been the beginning of a genuine friendship. So true friendship in Japan is indeed very difficult to achieve.
Another thing about socializing in Japan that differs from my culture based preferences is that people rarely devote time to each other to develop connections and friendships with their fellow human being. Time is usually devoted primarily to school work, or actual work, and any free time is often time devotable to some other group activity. So because of this, cultivating genuine friendships is even more challenging, though of course possible. So be considerate of time constraints and the fact that just because someone says they are busy, they aren’t just blowing you off.
Which brings me to the prevalence of hilariously obvious excuses Japanese people will tell you when they don’t wanna accept your invitation to hang out. I’m ok with tactful honesty if someone doesn’t want to meet me for whatever reason, but there is a vast difference between people i have met who give me an excuse and then never interact with me again, and people who make an effort to spend time with me after they know they have missed a chance to because of some obligation.
Also don’t be negative at all. I think having a fun positive attitude is great for social interaction with anyone, but even casually mentioning you don’t like something that someone else likes can give them a reason to never want to interact with you again. So this might be part of the reason, or at least related to the reason for Japanese not disclosing much of their real identity to one another at first as they are afraid to offend people with their real opinions.
another point is to be excessively grateful when someone does something nice for you and be willing to apologize for anything even if you feel you have done no wrong. Remember apologizing is not necessarily mean you are wrong and the other person in the right. It just means you value human relationships more than your own ego.