Follow-up on Japanese language meet-up

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Follow-up on Japanese language meet-up Empty Re: Follow-up on Japanese language meet-up

Post by litterature on Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:19 pm

Again, I'm not sure this is the best thread for this question, but I don't think it deserves a topic of its own because it's a very basic question, or rather a few very basic ones:

Last week I went to a meet-up with some Japanese people from campus and like 30% of my classmates. It didn't go terribly well because the guy who set the whole thing up behaved in an embarrassingly otakkii way while everyone else just stared in silence and wanted to die, except for two people who tried to teach our Japanese mates some curse words and random catchphrases and even attempted to have them sing "Sakura Sakura" (thankfully they pretended they didn't know the lyrics), so it was extremely awkward but in the end I managed to talk to one of them one-to-one. After a while she said there were too many mosquitoes so we went and sat like 30 feet away from the group. We did some extremely awkward little talk, and when everyone left we went "ok whatever", stayed there and spent maybe 1 hour or so teaching each other some words. Then she posted a selfie of us and other mates she had taken before on Facebook, so when I got home I added her and we've since exchanged a few comments.

Of course, she says that my Japanese is very good and that we should meet soon, but since I'm certain my Japanese is in fact rather pants I don't know if I'd scare her if I actually proposed hanging out. I think she is genuinely interested in doing language exchange, which would be really valuable, but I think she's attractive and I'd like to try and see if I want to ask her out. Since I barely know her, do you think it's better if I wait for the next meet-up (which I'm pretty sure will be awful) before asking if she wants to hang out? Should I propose a group meet-up on my own, maybe with a few of her friends on the Japanese side and this common acquaintance I sorta trust on the local side? I think that'd upset a lot of people if they found out, though, plus I'm also slightly attracted to that acquaintance...

I have done some dating before and even was in a long-term relationship, but I don't really know how to avoid being unclear without scaring her away, and since there are significant cultural differences between Japan and Europe, notably in what constitutes a soft no, I'm feeling a bit lost. Also, she's been here for just 3 weeks, so I guess she's looking for friends, which might make her look more interested than she actually is.

By the way, do you have any advice on keeping a conversation going when both interlocutors speak a bit of each other's language, but not really too fluently at all? I understand you can't avoid some awkwardness, but last time was too much...

Also, I originally dropped out when I started my degree, and I only could get my second chance last year, so I'm 27 and she's (I think) ~20. I think I'm pretty much at the same point in life as anyone else on campus, but I know there are legitimate concerns about age gaps, so what do you think?

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Post by Werel on Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:36 pm

litterature wrote:By the way, do you have any advice on keeping a conversation going when both interlocutors speak a bit of each other's language, but not really too fluently at all? I understand you can't avoid some awkwardness, but last time was too much...
Talking about family members and their characteristics/jobs usually only takes basic vocabulary, and it's usually something everybody's interested in. Favorite animals is another good one if you get somebody who's willing to mime hilarious YouTube videos or noises. "Favorite/least favorite slang" usually gets people going, and you learn a lot. Aaaand all this is applicable if you do actually do a language exchange with her, since you'll need to be talking about something. Razz

As for whether you should ask her out... hm. She's in an especially vulnerable position as a new arrival in your country with few friends, and somebody much younger than you, so you're probably right to worry about how comfortable she might be giving a "no." If I were you I'd ask any Japanese women you're close to what the usual/preferred way and timeline of expressing interest is in Japan, and try and factor that into your course of action-- if you get feedback that it's weird to a Japanese woman to ask someone out after a single meeting, maybe go to a couple more group meetups? And if it's not weird at all to just straight up ask out a new acquaintance (and/or this girl seems to be super gung-ho about European social norms), I'd go for it while making super clear that if she says no, you're still interested in being friends/language partners.
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Post by Enail on Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:45 pm

I would go with caution and try to show that you're there because genuinely interested in language practice, cultural exchange and/or meeting people in general, not just for dating. I've heard from more than one language partner that they get a lot of kind of skeevy guys who are more interested in getting a Japanese girlfriend than in language exchange, so you don't want to accidentally give off that vibe.
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Post by sky on Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:49 pm

Litterature, I think a good option would be inviting her and a few of her Japanese friends to come to an activity with you and a couple of your other friends. In particular an activity that does not especially rely on language in order to be fun, like going to a zoo or aquarium, or tossing a frisbee at the park. That will allow you guys to substitute some smiling and pointing or other sign language for actual words, and should take some of the pressure off of having to hold up a conversation. Having multiple people along who fluently speak each language will also ensure that everybody has someone available that they can definitely communicate with easily. I'm curious why you think that sort of meetup outside of the officially scheduled one might upset people? From what you've written here I don't see a reason I think there would be a problem, and from what I have experienced with cultural exchange programs, I would expect it to be encouraged.

Conversation-wise, things you can do are bring along a pencil and pad of paper for spelling out words or drawing pictures, buy a pocket sized Japanese/your-language dictionary and keep it handy, and try speaking in both languages when there are points you're having trouble getting across. Many people can understand a language they're learning much better than they can speak it, so if you each speak your own language slowly and using basic words, you'll probably be able to understand quite a lot.

On how much she likes you, I'd guess that your supposition that having been there for three weeks she's probably still trying to make friends is likely accurate. I would say she definitely likes you some amount, or she would not have stayed an extra hour talking to you. Differences in soft nos or not, Japanese women are capable of explaining that there's somewhere else they need to be if they want to leave.
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Post by litterature on Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:10 pm

(I posted all this stuff here because I didn't really think it deserved its own topic and didn't want to call that much attention upon myself, but at this point I'm probably sort of derailing this thread. do you think it'd be better to move the posts elsewhere?)

Thanks a lot! Everything you said sounds like really good advice!

I think I'll try proposing a few group activities and wait a little bit so I can see if she feels comfortable with me, and if she is then I'll ask her out (I'm still a bit lost as to how to know if she feels comfortable. Maybe it'll become clearer once she's settled in a bit? Does 3 more weeks sound reasonable?) As for being worried about upsetting people, it's just that I don't want to make anyone get the impression I'm trying to kick them out by setting my own parallel group up... but I guess it's no big deal?

I'll also follow your advice to ask a Japanese person about the usual way of doing things!

By the way, I did bring a notepad and it was really useful! I also know about 1500 kanji so I tried air calligraphy and it also helped, the problem is my vocabulary is extremely limited so I don't know many compounds at all and that makes it more difficult to express more abstract concepts. I'll bring a dictionary along next time! Family members, animals and slang sound like good topics - I can talk a lot about my family, I love animals, my speech is sort of slangy in a... traditional? way, and she told me about regional accents last time, so I think it can work well!

Enail: yeah, I'm a bit worried about that. I really am sincerely interested in language exchange, and the fact that all the locals in the meet-up came from the Japanese/translation studies degree should sort of dispel the potential dodginess a little bit, but I have to be super careful.

I've attempted to translate my latest interaction with her. It's long, so maybe it's asking too much of you, but maybe it can help see if the vibe is right (as in not creepy and adequately language exchange-y, but also free of niceguy-isms).
The exchange itself is on Facebook and is publicly available if you know our real names, but if you think it's not really ethical to post it here I'll delete it as fast as I can.
Also, I didn't put much effort into the translation itself so it probably reads awkwardly, but occasionally her sentences are a little broken - I translated them "as is" to convey the way we communicate. There are some Japanese bits from me that are probably equally as broken, and my English isn't the most natural anyway, so I hope it doesn't come across as racist.

Spoiler:
[she posted a pic of herself and a friend in a famous football stadium]
Me:
Oh, I worked there last year! But since I had to pay attention to the public, I wasn’t allowed to watch the game, so it was a bit of a drag. Well, I guess I’ll know what watching a match feels like someday…
I hope you had fun!

あ!去年は、[stadium]でアルバイトしてた!でもお客さんに気をつけなきゃし、試合を見るのがいけなくて、ちょっとめんどくさかったよ(笑)。まあ、いつか試合を見る気持ちを知るなぁ・・・
楽しかった?


Her:
Sorry for the late reply. I want to correct your comment a little bit:

あ!去年、[stadium]でアルバイトしてた!でもお客さんに気をつけなきゃならないし、試合を見てはいけなくて、ちょっとめんどくさかったよ(笑)

Well, I guess I’ll know what watching a match feels like someday…

This wrote I can’t understand well. Please teach me!


Me:
No worries! I’m also really late, I’m sorry!

Thanks a lot for the correction! All the stuff you’ve taught me is super useful, I’m learning a lot. I’ve begun a notebook so I can take note of all the words you taught me last time and of your last correction, I’ll show you when we meet! :>

What I wanted to say with that sentence was I’ve never attended [stadium] as part of the audience so I don’t know what kind of feeling you get when watching a game (I don’t know if my absolutely horrible Japanese will be of any use to clarify, but I’ll try: [stadium]に客として行ったことがないから、試合を見るときどんな感じ分からない), but since I want to go some day, in the future I’ll come to know that feeling at some point (again, I don’t know if my poorly constructed Japanese sentences will be of any use: 行きたいから、いつかその感じが分かるようになる).

I hope it’s clearer like that! Please tell me if you have any doubts!

Her:
Now I understand! Thanks [my name]

[stadium]に客として行ったことがないから、試合を見るときどんな感じかわからない it’s perfect! You’re like Japanese!

We should meet soon, shouldn’t we?


Me:
I’m glad my comment was useful! Smile

Yeah, we should meet soon! I was thinking we could go for lunch or visit some less well-known neighbourhood with everyone********, for example [neighbourhood] or another one like that. As I said the other day, if you want you can tell me if you’re interested in any particular vocabulary or grammar topic and I’ll prepare it for when we meet!

Her:
Thank you. That’s a very good idea! Let’s eat the [local] food! Or do you want me to cook some Japanese food for you********? And I also want to go somewhere where I don’t know it in [city]!

Me:
Sorry, this time I really have taken long to reply!
Oh, I’d really love to exchange food! Although I wouldn’t like to inconvenience you or the group, since I’m a vegetarian… but I’ll cook something for you, since I’d really love to!
And going places too! Plus I love to walk around town. I’ve seen on your pics you’ve already visited lots of places, though, even more than we locals! You’ll soon be taking even us to new places, haha!

By the way, here’s a little correction:

And I also want to go somewhere I don’t know in [city]!

That’s because the fact of knowing that place doesn’t happen in the place itself, so you don’t use “where” (a place where I don’t know = 場所に(何か)知らない, a place I don’t know = 知らない場所). I’m not sure I’ve explained it clearly enough, I hope it’s of use!

********: It's probably not a big deal, but I think I sort of screwed up here. I said "with everyone", but the expression I used literally translates as "amongst all", so she might have got the impression that rather than saying "visit a little-known neighbourhood with everyone" I was saying "visit a neighbourhood that's little-known amongst all neighbourhoods", which sounds very awkward in English but I guess it might have been what she understood, since the "for you" she uses in "cook something for you" is a "for thee", not a "for ye". Well, it's OK I guess.



Last edited by litterature on Fri Oct 02, 2015 4:19 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Enail on Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:33 pm

The vibe sounds good, not at all creepy. It's clear you're genuinely interested in learning and practicing, and the fact that she suggested making food for you gives me the sense that she's definitely interested in spending more time with you specifically (though not necessarily non-platonically).
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Post by litterature on Sun Oct 04, 2015 2:07 pm

Thanks a lot! Apparently she isn't too uncomfortable with the vibe herself, because she asked me for my number on Facebook and has just asked me when and where we can meet one-on-one. So we'll meet on Tuesday morning, visit the neighbourhood I mentioned in the Facebook exchange I posted and have a little picnic by the river!

Now, I'm guessing this isn't really a date-date, but we'll see how it goes. Either way I'm really happy! Shiny/thrilled
(by the way, do you think there's something I should keep in mind? I'm not sure if I should try to drop some hints to gauge if it can actually turn into a date-date...)

ps. i think she's been studying hard because it looks like her language skills have become exponentially better since i last talked to her, to the point where i'm not sure i'll be able to use any Japanese at all...!

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Post by reboot on Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:09 am

I would take this as a chance to get to know her a bit better and gauge interest level in a 1:1 IRL setting a bit more. If it goes well, ask her on a date at the end.
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Post by litterature on Tue Oct 06, 2015 4:38 pm

Ok, so it went well... I think. We went to lots of picturesque places, she took loads of pictures, and I tried my best to explain some tricky verbal tenses to her. I had fun, but the picnic didn't go as I expected. She didn't touch any of the food I made and didn't say much at all (she had scarfed down a whole baguette before, though, so maybe she was full - amusingly enough that's her favourite food?!), although at one point she handed me her chopsticks and asked me if I could read what was written on them. It said "I like you" in Osaka-ben, which is a bit baffling. She also asked me what I think about Japanese women, to which I replied that she's the only one I know. Besides that, she didn't say anything and stared at the sky, and I wasn't too sure what to do. Well, I guess she was tired - it was a 5-mile walk according to her pedometer.

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Post by Caffeinated on Tue Oct 06, 2015 7:57 pm

litterature wrote:at one point she handed me her chopsticks and asked me if I could read what was written on them. It said "I like you" in Osaka-ben, which is a bit baffling.

I would take that as flirting.

litterature wrote:She also asked me what I think about Japanese women, to which I replied that she's the only one I know.


She might have been trying to feel you out as to whether you're interested in her as a woman as well as a friend.

litterature wrote:Besides that, she didn't say anything and stared at the sky, and I wasn't too sure what to do.


Harder to exactly know here, but maybe she was waiting for you to make a move of some sort?

litterature wrote:Well, I guess she was tired - it was a 5-mile walk according to her pedometer.

Could be tired, could be feeling like she'd put the ball in your court.

(Obviously, this is all just my opinion and my way of reading it. I'm not a magical oracle, and can't guarantee that my opinion is accurate.)
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Post by reboot on Tue Oct 06, 2015 9:29 pm

I think you should ask her out on a date at this point.

And your answer to what you think about Japanese women was perfect. It sounds like she was fishing to see if you had any squicky concepts. Your answer was spot on because it shows you have no stereotypes or preconceived notions.
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Post by litterature on Mon Nov 09, 2015 6:10 pm

Thanks a lot!
I think I waited for too long and lost momentum. I saw her two weeks ago and wasn't able to work up the nerve to ask her out, but at least I learnt a lot and I think she did too. I don't know, on the one hand she now seems to have made lots of acquaintances so it's probably more ethical to ask her out at this point, but on the other she's a valuable language partner and I wonder what would happen if I messed things up. At any rate I lost momentum so it's not happening...

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