Just read that piece on Gaijinpot about questions we get asked all the time, and I decided to compile my own list. There are a few questions that are bound to come up when I meet someone for the first time, such as…
- Where are you from?
- Is English the official language there?
- What is your language like?
- What is your country famous for?
- How long have you been in Japan?
- Why did you come to Japan?
At least some of these are bound to come up in every starter conversation, and that’s all right. I’m very apparently a foreigner, and that provides a certain point to talk about.
Not many people know where Hungary is, and even less have any idea about the Hungarian language. It takes some creativity to weave my answers in a way that the conversation won’t die in half a minute.
Personally I tend to prefer those questions, because talking about why or how long I!m in Japan is much harder. Mostly because I didn’t have a well-defined reason for coming here, and the number of years doesn’t really mean anything.
However, these are all questions that people only ask me when we meet for the first time. There are two absolute winners though that keep popping up even when talking with people I know.
- Can you eat (insert Japanese food here)?
- Do you have (arbitrary thing) in Hungary?
As for the former, natto (stinking, gooey, rotten beans) and raw stuff (mostly fish and meat) are the most popular options. “Have you ever had (food)?” and “Do you like (food)?” are variations on the same thing too.
Since I don’t consider natto food and I’m not a huge fan of wasabi, I can at least have a few answers that satisfy the Japanese need for a confirmation of uniqueness. “Sadly” I have no issues with raw stuff and I’ve been in Japan long enough to have tried most stuff at least once.
Talking about the differences between Hungary and Japan can actually lead to interesting conversations, although sometimes they ask me quite surprising stuff (such as “do you have fish in Hungary?”).
In general even if I’m somewhat fed up with these questions, I realize that they’re perfectly natural and reasonable ways to start conversations. Well, most of them at least.