Gaijin Teachers

by Stefan Chiarantano, Jan 31, 2006 | Destinations: Japan / Tokyo

I read with interest an article by Robert Fulford titled "A Canadian Journalist in Japan". He said that "certain Westerners visiting Japan develop an attitude that's unlike anything I've seen elsewhere in the world: against all reason, against all common sense, foreigners rather resent the presence of other foreigners. To a Westerner walking the streets of Tokyo, other Westerners look like alien intruders - in a dimly understood way, they spoil the picture."

It got me thinking. There was something annoying about many of the gaijin teachers I met in Japan. Let me explain. I knew this fellow who was always telling me how much better things were in Japan in the late 80s when he had come over. He had been wined and dined by his students, was paid handsomely just for being a native speaker, and could set his own hours. Now, he was making 1,500 yen an hour, having to really teach, and had to abide by a working schedule. He was bitter and in a way, he seemed a tragic figure. He had missed out on opportunities and had nothing substantial to show for his years in the country. Although he would have qualified for permanent residence, he didn't even bother applying for it nor was he working on a three-year work visa.

There are the gaijin teachers who because they have been in the country for a few years consider themselves experts on things Japanese. They lord their knowledge over you with a holier than thou attitude. "I have been here for 3 years." "I have been here for 7." "I know better." When in reality they know nothing! They act elitist and are a pain in the butt. Living and working in another country doesn't make one an expert on it laws, customs and its people. It does give you though some insight and understanding. I have learned that the Japanese are complex and cannot be easily pigeonholed.

Then there are the gaijin teachers who continue to work in the country but don't want to be there. I have met them in bars. They complain about the country yet continue to stay. What a pity! They don't know how good they have it. If they can't stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen. Let someone else have the opportunity of teaching in Japan.

Then there are the JETS. They are brought over by the Japanese government at great government expense to work in the school system and are given deferential treatment. They are put on a pedestal. What they need is a good kick in the derriere to put them in their proper place. They go around telling everyone they meet "I'm a JET." It's their mantra. It's their pronouncement to the world that they are special and a cut above all other English teachers.

Finally, I have come across English teachers who overstate their qualifications and experience. Once, I listened with astonishment when an English teacher informed a student that Greece consisted only of islands. I corrected him, and told him and the student that Greece has a mainland. I have seen this type of behaviour before, gaijin teachers feeding the Japanese misinformation.

Mind you, I have come across many wonderful gaijin teachers. However, they tend to be hard to find!

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