I’ve been going to Japanese class for about 4 weeks now. It is a struggle to get myself to go; it’s never fun to feel stupid, and this is inevitably part of a sharp learning curve. However, I feel like I’ve been getting a lot out of class, and it’s at a good pace for me. In addition, the class is full of kids who come with their families, and there is a real sense of camaraderie that you don’t get with the usual college student foreign language class. We’re all there learning Japanese because we have to make our way through this confusing country day after day.
Several of the other English teachers in town make a regular appearance, and we’ve taken to going out to dinner afterwards. This is a great time to hang out, because we are all busy with our different schedules and don’t always get a chance to see each other. Plus there’s the bonding experience of just having survived Japanese class together.
So imagine my surprise when my Japanese teacher pulled me and Frank (British ALT) aside last class and basically forbade us from going out after class. “Promise me you will go straight home on Tuesday nights after class,” she said. Before any of you get too mentally creative, let me stress that drinking is not the main focus of our excursions. I never have more than 1 glass of beer, and I am always home by 11pm to prepare for teaching the next day.
This is a totally perplexing situation to me. The complaint’s premise was that the Japanese class is a family environment, and we may upset others, they may get the “wrong idea”… what idea, you ask? That we are in class only to play around afterward, and will not study hard. We give the class a bad name by being social after our studies. There was also something about how Japanese women must not carouse after 9pm (which is ridiculous, because I see my students out all the time). We tried to get a little more info with some Q&A:
What if we go straight home and go out again half an hour later? (no)
What if I want to go out with someone who wasn’t in Japanese class? (no)
What if we remove the female equation, and only the guys go out? (no)
What about cultural exchange? We can teach others that this is common social behavior in America/Brittain! (no)
What if we don’t drink, we just go out and eat? (no)
What if I go out by myself to eat alone and have absolutely no fun whatsoever? (no)
What if I have come straight from school and haven’t eaten and there is no food in my house? (no)
I am so upset, more upset than I should be. Especially because our Japanese friend Reiko has been out with us twice already. If this was such a universal social faux pas in Japan, why would she have come with us? The message I am getting is… if you want to socialize after class on Tuesday nights, don’t come to Japanese class. I feel like there is no respect for the fact that I am foreign and do things differently, that is it not good enough to study Japanese and take an interest in the culture and try to communicate… I must act Japanese. Which is ridiculous. I’M HERE FOR CULTURAL EXCHANGE, DAMMIT! Plus I just hate to be told I can’t do something, especially something that is fun and is so harmless. I live in a small town. Let me socialize. It’s one of the few diversions we have here.
So, what to do? I can say screw it, and do what I want, and openly defy my Japanese teacher. But I have to live here in this community, and I don’t want that kind of reputation. Do I suck it up and do what I’m told? That doesn’t go down too well either, and results in me resenting class and my teacher. Perhaps we’re going to have to work on some Underground solution.