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Working In Japanese Game Development: The Other Side Of The Rainbow
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Working In Japanese Game Development: The Other Side Of The Rainbow


August 20, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next
 

Sexual harassment could be a problem though -- as there is a law against it but no real way to enforce it, as is the case with racism. There is no epidemic, and reports of actual sexual harassment aren’t prevalent. Nevertheless, for any women making the move, a certain sense of assertiveness would be massively helpful.

Gaigymnastics

Discrimination based on not being Japanese does occur but strangely it is almost exclusively the kind of positive enforcement of the idea foreigners are somehow better. If you are the sole foreigner at a company you may get a certain celebrity status and people will think you much cooler than you actually are. This is probably why people who return home after a prolonged stay in Japan are such insufferable bores. It must be hard to climb down from this pedestal and return to a life of everyday mediocrity.

It’s very difficult not to get a little big-headed when you live in Japan, with people commenting on how foreigners are so much more handsome or beautiful, comparing you to all manner of movie stars to whom you bear very little resemblance and being invited to wedding parties as the token “foreign ‘friend’” of the groom or bride. That said, don’t expect a lot of special treatment when it comes to work. Apart from being outside the culture of obligation you can get away with more if you try, in general you are still expected to do your work and do it well. I have in my time here only once experienced outright aggressive xenophobia, but never ever at work. Being foreign, or not being able to communicate well enough in Japanese, may be used against you at some point, but more in a way of controlling staff or denying over exuberant demands; it won’t ever be a true discriminatory factor in the sense that you’re seen as a lesser human for not being Japanese. And your language skills may actually not be adequate, either; this is something you’ll constantly have to work on, but it’s your responsibility, not your employer’s.

I cannot comment on the status of Asian foreigners in Japan. I know from personal observation there is a particular animosity between the Chinese and Japanese and I can only surmise Chinese nationals working in Japan may have a harder time of it. Western foreigners though, which includes African-Americans, won’t have much trouble in their everyday lives, in private or at work, apart from the occasional stares or empty seats next to you in busy trains, which has more to do with the fear of possibly having to speak English than any disgust at foreigners.

But all things considered it is the culture of Japan where foreigners may stumble most. In the West you’re assertive and confident but in Japan you’re arrogant. In the West you are focused and driven, in Japan you’re difficult and unmovable. There are many little differences that can make life in Japan a bewildering experience. Many of the things I discussed above may not even occur to you; they may not be the case in your specific situation or you simply cannot see them because the Japanese avoid the direct approach and deal with everything in a roundabout way -- insinuating, relying on context and mutual understanding or delegating. You will never be told your work is not good enough, nor will you ever be told you’re leaving the office too early. After a long meeting you may feel nothing has been decided yet everyone else seems to know what is expected of them. Certain types of boss may sometimes flip out and scream at employees but generally you’ll have to interpret carefully what is desired or expected of you.

You’ll pick this up soon enough though; it’s not something to be very worried about, but especially if you’re new to Japan you will need to know things are done differently here. Carry yourself with confidence but be careful not to be seen as arrogant. Be open to the flows of change that are never directly communicated, only insinuated. Try not to be too direct in your dealings with your superiors as it can put them on the defensive. And if you ask an employer if you really need to come in over the weekend and he replies “no”, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook quite yet.


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