Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Like A Cultural Tourette's Syndrome


There's something that happens often here in Japan that takes every little bit of self-control I have to ignore / disregard and dismiss. I've called it The Tic in posts past. Basically it's a tendency that many of the natives here have to do something to indicate their discomfort in being in close proximity to me (I want to say foreigners). It varies what this gesture is but it's consistent and predictable, like a cultural / ethnic / societal Tourette's Syndrome.

In one post written back in 2009 I described it this way:


Many Japanese, when walking towards me, have a tendency to (upon noticing me and while at the same time noticing that there is little room or little time to make a run for it) put a hand up to their faces, like one might do if the sun was in one’s eyes. Only, I’m the sun! And, since I’m not above them but ahead of them and oncoming, the hand goes between their eyes and me, as if to block out any hypnotic suggestion I might be trying to transmit  or worse, to blot me out of their world view. This is primarily done by men, but women do it, too. The women do it coyly, however, while the men more aggressively. I call it the tic because it appears to be involuntary. I can walk past ten people in a row and 7 of them will perform this tic. It has other manifestations. Sometimes the arm between us swings up in an “I’m prepared to protect myself from you so don’t even think about trying anything” kind of gesture. The ones aware of this instinct catch themselves and try to make it seem like they suddenly had to know the time or check the sleeve of their suits for moth holes, elbow held high and defensively.  

So, yes, I'm talking the predictable, ubiquitous Tic you see every day here in wholesome Yokohama...at least I see it every day. But, until today, I had no idea that anyone else saw it (and, yes, that was as maddening and paranoia-inducing as it sounds). Many readers have concurred with most of my observations about the behaviors one will encounter here but the tic remained un-cosigned...til now! FINALLY (after years of blogging), in response to the post the above is excerpted from (a post called Rainy Days) a co-foreigner living in these parts responded: 

"I see why you like the rain in some parts now. I have experienced the same sort of "tic" that you have, or still do, from time to time. It does get frustrating. Especially when you know it's about to happen. You count your footsteps, hold your breath until you reach that person, just HOPING that this time will be different, and that this time they will just smile back or keep passing. But the reality hits, and they cover their eyes, or suddenly remember they have to make a sudden and abrupt "180" and stare at something just long enough for you to walk by then finish the "360" as you complete your pass." 

And, this gentleman, made my DECADE cuz I thought I was the only damn gaijin in Japan that sees this foolishness every doggone day. I was this close to resolving that somehow the stress of living here had gotten to me much more than I thought and that at some point I had gone round the bend (even more than my pseudonym suggests). I seriously thought I was alone in this observation and perhaps suffering from daily delusional paranoia episodes. Anyone else out there notice this Tic?? 

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