Gaijin Panic!

So we get into the taxi  and say “Edo – Tokyo Museum” – being careful to pronounce it “ed – oh”, not “eed oh” and being sure to say Tokyo more like two syllables than three (Toh – kyo vs. Toh – kee – yo).   The taxi driver gives us a blank look.   So we try again – to no avail.  The aggitation starts.   Then we try our BAD pronounciation – no go.   Finally, we find our map.   We desperately try to locate the site on the map and finally succeed – showing the taxi driver exactly where we want to go.  “Oh, Ed-o, To-kyo Museum” he exclaims – exactly as we originally pronounced it!   So the next day we ask our guide what that was about – and he explains a phenomenon he calls “gaijin panic” – where a Japanese person is so concerned about not understanding a westerner, figuring that you will be speaking English, that they don’t understand you when you’re speaking Japanese!   He gets it all the time, he said, since he’s fluent.  Our little incident was amusing – his must be hilarious.

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