Disclaimer: I am yet again 1 foriegn girl in a place that has a lot of foriegners with totally different experiences. Please take what I say as such and not as law.
This is a topic I’ve been meaning to discuss but it’s sort of a hard subject to breech.
First of all among my foreigner friends I’ve talked to who have moved to Japan, they automatically thought they would be the lone white/Korean/black girl in a circle of Japanese friends, whether they were gal, into j-rock, or just a regular girl. While I am sure that happens occasionally, that has not been the case for any of my friends or me.
Why? A few reasons…
Most foriegners are in Japan to do either a job or school, and while those places are intermixed with Japanese and foriegners, for the most part you’re working as the lone foreigner or in a group of foriegners (such as at a Japanese language school). So during the day you don’t have much ability to make friends with many Japanese girls gals or not.
Japanese are extremely cliqueish, often I’ll say a lot of comments on living in Japan like “some” or “most”, all Japanese consider cliques are extremely important. A friend of mine was dating this Japanese guy and he would always bring his friends out with us, they were all from mostly his junior high baseball team. Most of them went to high school and college together as well.
Compare with your possible experiences post graduating college how many junior high friends do you think you still have and hang out with?
Many Japanese friends may have their work circle, their college circle and their old classmate circle. Often these people do not intermix.
Unlike many on-line places catering to gal social networks in English which can be downright bitchy sometimes. In Japan it’s not considered proper or even just done to be rude or bitchy. Don’t get me wrong 2chan is full of vile stuff, but not about gal culture usually.
Many people will be kind without being genuinely kind because there is no other considerable alternative to them. This is more evident when girls and guys flirt, a guy may hit on a girl and a girl may exchange phone information with him only to delete it instantly. It’s not rude per se, it was just the best way they considered of dealing with the situation.
So often you’ll hear people say “isshouni asobi masho ne” meaning let’s hang out, without really meaning it or having too many time constraints to actually be able to hang out.
Okay so I’ve put up a few problematic areas, which for me as an outgoing American were hard to accept.
In Japan I have both foreigner friends (like me) and Japanese friends. For the most part they stay separate unless they are part of the same friend group. The majority of my friends are foreigners (60/40) since I spend most of my day with them. Most Japanese girls who are my friends I’ve usually met at clubs, but some at school. Of my galish friends: a few have English skills, but the rest we talk only in Japanese.
Now here are my tips on making friends in Japan, gal or not / foriegn or not.
Work on your Japanese
At least feel comfortable making conversation. It doesn’t have to be good or fast, most people are perfectly happy to accept the gist of what you’re saying and enjoy you saying it.
Go to places with gals
Clubbing, exte salons, izakaya’s etc… Places were alcohol is available always helps to get past first person meeting into friendships. Join clubs online via mixi or such.
If you mean it. Bags, nails, hairstyle, rings etc… everyone loves a compliment and you might find it opens up into a conversation. Like take for example someone’s nails, because as a nail freak I always notice others great nails. So ask where they got them done, if they were expensive, if they have a recommended nailist etc…
Having common interests
Like me, I bet you have some friends that you might not have much in common but their personality is so fun you enjoy hanging out with them. However, it’s great to have things in common, and those things don’t have to be gal things. If you both love traveling to Las Vegas (like me and a Japanese friend of mine) or if you have the same taste in boys or love the same music grounp. You’ll find a conversation can fly with things in common. A japanese gal friend of mine and me are practically neighbors so we hit it off instantly. It doesn’t hurt that both of us love exte, nails, brand goods, and the same deco shop.
Putting yourself out there
Of course there are always great outgoing gals that will come up to you and talk to you, and some of my Japanese friends are that way. But others I had to be the outgoing one, there’s nothing wrong with putting yourself out there and making the first comment. Not only that, if you want gal friends specifically you need to go to the gal places to find them. If you’re not in the spots, then how do you expect to make more friends?
Make a mixi or ask about their facebook
More and more Japanese are getting facebook, but mixi still rules. I am lazy about using mine, but asking friends if they have one is an easy way to keep up with them.
There’s no getting around it, some girls will consider foriegners doing gal style as a threat to their own status and will be impolite. Or they can have already biased views about foriegners in general. That’s okay, for every person like that there’s a lot of gals out there happily to applaud your style and hard work and possibly become your friend. However, it’s useful to grow a thick skin in any foreign country.