A while back, we dissected a list from blogger and internationalist Madame Riri about three things Japanese women do that scare off foreign guys. Love is a two-way street though, which means the romantic roadblocks run in both directions.
Today, we’re taking a peek at Madame Riri’s latest batch of bullet-pointed suggestions, which focuses on her top four tips for Japanese women looking for a successful relationship with a man from overseas.
1. Communicate as much as possible
Due to the popularity of her website, Madame Riri says she gets emails daily from women with international romance concerns. The two most common are, “What is he thinking?” and “What did he really mean when he said that?”
Madame Riri’s built a name for herself with her combination of outspoken opinions and worldly experience, and in this case she draws from the latter for her response. “Honestly, there’s no way for me to answer that question. Rather than asking me, someone who’s never met your boyfriend, why not ask him?”
▼ Asking a blogger “How does my guy feel about me?” is about as effective as posting “What does it mean when my motor goes wrrr-hrrr-hrrr-wrrryyy?” on a car forum. They’re both things that really should be diagnosed in person.
Still, there’s a reason why so many Japanese women turn to the Internet for help with this subject. When a couple has different native languages, someone is always going to be at a disadvantage, whether in expressing themselves or deciphering what their partner is saying. Still, even though Madame Riri acknowledges the difficulty, she still holds that there’s no substitute for, or shortcut to, good communication. “Especially when you’re still getting a feel for the kind of person your boyfriend is, both you and he have to keep asking each other questions until you find out what you each really mean.”
Any reasonable guy should appreciate the effort, but speaking as a foreign dude who’s neither clever nor eloquent enough to talk in riddles, I’m generally a lot happier having a girl I’m dating take my words at face value than question me about unspoken subtext and hidden meanings. Of course, doing that means speaking clearly enough to not leave room for doubt, so brushing up on your partner’s native language (or helping him or her learn yours) seems like a worthy addition to Madame Riri’s advice.
▼ Cheaper than the dozen roses you’ll have to buy because you couldn’t figure out the grammar to say, “If I had known that you weren’t going to have to work overtime and were waiting for me to call you, I wouldn’t have gone out drinking all night with my friends.”
2. Don’t think too much about the fact that he’s a foreigner
The second most common question Madame Riri gets is, “Is it normal for a foreigner to do this?” Japanese society is keenly aware of the fact that Japan is an island nation, with several unique aspects and customs. This concept sometimes gets so hammered into the heads of some people that they arrive at the conclusion that things must be totally different in other countries, therein losing the ability to evaluate a dating partner’s behavior objectively.
So while it’s important to make some allowances for cultural differences, Madame Riri cautions against going too far in doing so.
▼ “My boyfriend starts every day by soaking in a bathtub of cow’s blood for an hour. Do all guys from Texas do that?”
“Usually, what they’re doing is not normal,” she asserts. “It’s almost always a peculiarity of that individual guy they’re dating.” If something about your partner seems odd or hard to accept, the blogger once again suggests talking through it and confronting the problem directly, warning that failing to do so can result in big problems down the road, especially if the couple starts sharing a home.
This all makes sense, but while we’re on the subject, whether or not the behavior is culturally-induced or nationally-specific is not even the primary issue that needs to be addressed. Unless you’ve got vast financial resources and a partner who’s very accepting of open relationships, you’re not going to be dating a whole country, but rather just one person from it, so what’s really important is whether or not their specific attitudes and behaviors mesh with yours.
For example, if I told my wife I refused to walk anywhere farther than 10 minutes away, it’d be totally in keeping with the social norms of my hometown of L.A., but would still wreck our social life in Japan, and probably our marriage as well.
Likewise, I find it impossible to get through the summer without a constant supply of watermelon in the fridge. This has nothing to do with my growing up in Southern California or Lebanese ancestry, and absolutely everything to do with the fact that watermelon is awesome.
▼ You have no idea how close I am to chowing down on my monitor right now.
Watermelon is a little on the expensive side in Japan, and as such our household fruit budget is higher because it just happens to be my personal crimson ambrosia. My wife is cool with this not in deference to my cultural background, but because she also likes having fresh fruit in the apartment, so individual peculiarity or not, it’s not a problem.
3. If you’re going over to your boyfriend’s house, be mentally prepared for him to be expecting sex
This rather specific bit of advice is an extension of the “overthinking your boyfriend being a foreigner” fallacy above. Madame Riri points out that even though entertaining guests in the home isn’t common in Japan, most young Japanese are familiar with the fact that in many Western countries people often have friends over for parties or to hang out. As a matter of fact, to a lot of Japanese the idea of having a foreign-style “home party” (as they’re called in Japanese) sounds fashionable and fun.
▼ Although oddly enough, no one here seems to remember House Party.
In Madame Riri’s opinion, though, buying too much into this image can lead to misunderstandings. The blogger asserts that if a woman goes over to a foreign man’s house alone, he’s obviously going to think she’s OK with doing the deed.
That seems a bit dramatic, but it does touch on something. If you’ve grown up in, say, the U.S., distinguishing between these three scenarios isn’t so tough:
1. “A bunch of people are coming over for a barbeque next Sunday. You should come too!”
2. “Are you busy Saturday? A couple friends and I are going to crack open this nice bottle of wine I’ve been saving.”
3. “Why don’t you stop by after work, and I’ll cook diner for you?”
It’s pretty easy to see that while the feelings behind the first two might be totally platonic, the impetus for the third probably isn’t. That’s not to say Guy #3 is going to answer the door buck naked, but we can probably deduce that he’s interested in being more than just good friends. Without experience with these kinds of social cues, though, some Japanese women might treat all three of these invitations the same way, which can lead to some awkward moments.
▼ Such as getting the candles all lit and the make out music playlist started just as she goes into a description of her handsome coworker she has the hots for.
4. Be expressive about your thoughts and feelings
Madame Riri’s final piece of advice isn’t in response to a question she’s received, but rather an overall suggestion. “Many women don’t want to be thought of as downers or pestering, so they hide their feelings. But it’s better to put your energy into helping your guy understand you.”
You can’t argue with that, and it is true that Japanese society’s emphasis on avoiding conflict can make it hard for many foreigners to gauge their Japanese dating partner’s stance on issues in their relationship. Like with singing in the shower when your partner’s in earshot, though, moderation and tone are key, and some of what Madame Riri suggests seems a little overboard.
“If you’re bored, get angry. If you don’t agree, then protest. If you’re uneasy, ask for an explanation.”
As far as I know, the words “angry” and “protest” aren’t commonly associated with “successful romance,” especially when the emotions are triggered by things as simple as being bored.
▼ “That movie’s romantic subplot was unengaging!”
The blogger’s justification seems a little suspect, too. “He won’t mind at all, since he’s used to dating self-assertive foreign women,” Madame Riri claims, but with more and more foreigners moving to Japan at younger and younger ages, it’s hard to say how much experience with non-Japanese women any particular guy will have. There’s also the fact that there’re plenty of reserved women who aren’t Japanese, so even foreign guys with extensive dating experience before coming to Japan might not appreciate their date opening up with both barrels at the slightest provocation.
Taking Madame Riri’s advice in broad strokes, though, we can really distill Madame Riri’s advice into two simple pointers:
1. Be open and honest.
2. Focus on whether or not the relationship is providing you with the things you need to be happy.
And those are good strategies to follow regardless of where you and your partner are from.