By: Lauren DeCosta
As summer settles into warm days with cool nights, and we’re all beginning to get back into the swing of things at our respective schools, I’m sure all the new comers are beginning to settle in nicely. By this point you will have all had various meetings and encounters with all sorts of people. Sometimes you hit it off with someone right away, and you fall into an easy comradery. Sometimes you’ll notice people who seem like they actively try to avoid having to directly interact with you. This is frustrating beyond belief, believe me, I know plenty about this situation, but I’m here to tell y’all not to give up hope!
Sometimes your Japanese coworkers, or people you meet in your day to day life might try to limit the necessity of talking to you. Most of the time it’s not because they’re actually an antisocial asshat (though let’s not write off the possibility that some of them are). Sometimes they’re just socially awkward, or worried that with the language barrier they won’t be able to properly communicate with you, or sometimes they even just don’t know what to say. BUT, if you give them time, don’t accept defeat right away, and remain positive and friendly, they might just get over whatever issue they have and actually talk to you!
I’m part of a taiko group in my town, and with the warmth of summer and the excitement of festivals we’ve had a fair few performances, and subsequently extra practices. Within this group there are a few people who always seemed uncomfortable with having to interact with me. Over the course of the extra involved summer however some of them have seemed to be opening up to the idea of actual conversation. One of them has started cracking sci-fi jokes periodically, or talking about work and/or life related things with me when I step outside for a cigarette at drinking parties. One has slowly begun to offer the occasional help and/or advice at practices, and at our most recent non-practice gathering engaged me in a conversation about language learning, followed up with lots of jokes being cracked and a decent conversation about baseball. This seems small, but anyone who knows me probably knows that this is a pretty good step toward actual friendship.
So, I’m telling you guys, keep persevering, even when at first something seems nearly impossible. And hey, when all else fails just ply them with a little bit of liquid courage to break the ice. Nothing eases the nervousness of bi-lingual communication like a cold beer.