Paris for the Japanese

Dear Japanese Visitor ! This site is designed mostly for American visitors but along the way, I have collected various information which could be useful for Japanese visitors. Thank you for your feed-back and suggestions : I hope some of them can help and this page is under construction. Welcome to Japanese visitors and expats to France!

Cher visiteur japonais ! Ce site est conçu essentiellement pour des visiteurs américains mais en le rédigeant, il m'arrive de trouver des éléments qui peuvent être utiles à des japonais. Merci de vos réactions et suggestions : j'espère que certaines pourront rendre service et cette page est encore en construction. Bienvenue aux visteurs et expatriés japonais en France!

 

 

  • Table of contents of useful pages of this site, for Japanese visitors
 Being a Japanese expat in Paris....    Dear Japanese visitor

Excerpt from" French Toast", by Harriet Welty Rochefort

 It seems like the Japanese have a particularly hard time understanding Parisian behavior .

The behavior of the Parisians may sometimes be incomprehensible to an American like me who has lived here for over twenty years but it is almost a total mystery to some nationalities. Although one million Japanese flock to France each year and approximately 25,000 live in Paris, it would be an understatement to say that the Japanese have a hard time penetrating the French psyche.

Many Japanese have such a hard time adjusting to life in the French capital that one Japanese psychiatrist, married to a Frenchwoman, has baptized the phenomenon "Paris Stress". Doctor Hiroaki Ota, the head of the Association
Franco-Japonaise de Psychiatrie et Sciences Humaines (Franco-Japanese Association of Psychiatry and Social Science), explains that this is not a malady strictly speaking but "a perturbed psychological state accompanied by indeterminate somatic symptoms such as irritability, a feeling of fear, obsession, depressed mood, insomnia, impression of persecution by theFrench".

This would sound almost funny if it weren't a very serious problem. Dr. Ota, who since 1987 has specialized consultations for members of the Japanese
community
at the renowned Saint Anne psychiatric hospital in Paris, has a private clientele of 715 patients, and of them three times as many women as men. His patients are divided into three categories: businessmen working for Japanese companies and in Paris with their family, Japanese or Franco-Japanese residents of Paris, and tourists. Some of these are "light" cases which can be dealt with in ten to twenty counselling sessions. Others are more serious and take longer.

One of the main problems for some of the Japanese businessmen is that they have jumped from one work category to another. They may have worked in non-professional jobs in Japan, but to be able to come to France, they have to qualify for "professional" (or, as the French say, "cadre ") positions to get a work permit. This means that they are asked to make decisions and carry out work that they are absolutely not used to doing in Japan, and all this in a foreign language. Under the strain of it, many become depressive.

The cultural shock for the Japanese is not just the language, but everything that goes with the language, all the nuances, the nonverbal talk. One thing that particularly mystifies the Japanese, as it does other nationalities, is how fast the Parisians talk and how often they interrupt each other's conversations. French humor, which consists largely of poking fun at other people, is no fun for the Japanese because they are unable to respond with alacrity. According to Dr. Ota: "They can't decipher the different levels of the meaning of a discourse and stop at the first level which, in French humor, often contains aggressive or vexing elements." (Americans as well often stop at the "first level", even though in France, it's better to probe more deeply into what is being said because it's not always what is on the surface).

 

For many Japanese visitors to France, with the barrier of the language, the French may appear very mysterious and somehow disturbing. But there are also many similarities between the French and the Japanese : both cultures admire what is elegant, sophisticated, romantic. As opposed to the Americans', both cultures have a very strong understanding that things are not necessarily black or white : most things are grey and nuances are more important than just being right or wrong, etc... Both cultures like what is complex and are highly contextual and implicit (read about corporate culture : the French and the Japanese are closer between themselves than with the Americans).
This is why, I think and I hope that you would enjoy a trip to France and notice many similarities with your own culture.
However, just a few words about the major cultural differences which could (partly...) explain that the Japanese are often surprised and disappointed by the French :

  • the Japanese are very polite and courteous : the French much less. Do not think that an abrupt answer or a vociferous question is targeted at YOU. Sometimes, the Japanese feel 'ignored" by the French, by a saleslady as well as by their next-door neighbor. Do not take it personally : this is the way the French act also among themselves.

  • the Japanese are very clean and meticulous, the French less so....

  • the Japanese have a very strong sense of collectivity in work situations (team spirit) and in everyday life (civic sense) : do not be shocked if you see people behaving as if they were alone in the whole world....


Try to meet old-time Japanese residents in France : many of them have succeeded in building a bridge for a better understanding between our two cultures.

Paris and Japan

  • Maison de la Culture du Japon (Japanese Cultural Center) 101 bis Quai Branly 75015 tel. 33-(0)1 44 37 95 50
  • The best collection of Japanese art is at the Musée Guimet (6 Place d'Iena, 75016) and the Musée Cernuschi (7 Avenue Velasquez, 75017), smaller, offers a beautiful collection in a delightful little palace.
  • Best known Japanese artists in Paris include
    • Issey Miyake (fashion)
    • Takada Kenzo (fashion)
    • Seiji Ozawa (conductor)
    • in the recent past : Tsuguharu Foujita (painter, died 1968), his house rue du Commandant Arnoux, 91 Chamarande, 30 km from Paris, is open to the public
  • Best known French writers and artists with a connection to Japan :
    • Emile Guimet (founded the Musée Guimet)
    • Paul Claudel (French Ambassador to Japan in 1920s)
  • Japanese supplies at :
    • Kioko, 46 rue des Petits Champs 75002 Tel. 01 42 61 33 65
    • La cave à Saké Fuji, 8 rue Therèse 75001 Tel . 01 49 27 04 39
    • Juji Ya, 46 rue Sainte Anne 75002 Tel. 01 42 86 02 22
  • Read online OVNI, the Franco-Japanese newspaper in Paris
  • More to come

The cultural shock for the Japanese is not just the language, but everything that goes with the language, all the nuances, the nonverbal talk. One thing that particularly mystifies the Japanese, as it does other nationalities, is how fast the Parisians talk and how often they interrupt each other's conversations. French humor, which consists largely of poking fun at other people, is no fun for the Japanese because they are unable to respond with alacrity. According to Dr. Ota: "They can't decipher the different levels of the meaning of a discourse and stop at the first level which, in French humor, often contains aggressive or vexing elements." (Americans as well often stop at the "first level", even though in France, it's better to probe more deeply into what is being said because it's not always what is on the surface).

Another hard thing for the Japanese to cope with, Dr. Ota tells me, is the changing moods of the French who are given to blowing up suddenly and calming down just as quickly. A Japanese thinks "it's because of me that that person is angry" and feels guilty. The Japanese take into account the emotions of the person or persons they are addressing whereas the French base their discussions on logic and rationality. Dr. Ota says he advises his patients, those who are only light cases, to confront French reality by observing the French but not trying to "move with them". In Japan he says life is more structured, calmer, more disciplined and the discipline is respected. "In France things appear to be without discipline but there is one."

One situation which Japanese businessmen in particular have trouble coping with is the business meeting (la réunion ). "In Japan we have a meeting once something is almost decided, and the meeting is just to confirm and
conclude. In France everyone is talking all at once and they are too tired to accomplish anything." For the French, "principles are very important which is why the French are such good diplomats," says Ota. "For the Japanese pragmatism is what counts."

Talking in general is a problem. For the Japanese as for Anglo-Saxons, the spoken word is important, serious. "The French talk as if they are strolling. The conversation doesn't go anywhere," says Ota. And this leads to confusion for the Japanese who have trouble, in any case, formulating an answer before the French have skipped to another subject. And yet, "if you don't talk here, you don't exist", another contradiction for the Japanese for whom silence and discretion are important.  

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? The French love Japanese mangas and France is (of course after Japan!) the biggest market in the world for mangas.

Crime in France : Asian visitors beware!

In France (like everywhere in Europe), there are forms of crime that do not exist in Japan. Some of them are committed by beggars from Eastern Europe (read more about it) who specifically target tourists form Japan, China or Korea. Here is my advice.Do NOT talk toand try to understand the people who beg for money, who try to inspire your pity for the child they have with them (who, by the way, is not always theirs), who want to make you sign a petition, who offer to give you a gold ring they just found on the pavement, or anything else. They only want to STEAL YOUR MONEY. Pass by and if they do not leave you alone, just say one word "police" and they will disappear immediately. Today (March 2014) I saw a young Korean student who just gave a check (yes : a check!) to a Romanian beggar. There is no doubt that this check of 10 Euros would have been cashed for 1,000 Euros or more, and it took him 10 minutes, with my help, to recuperate it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? Adjusting to French (and Parisian) life can be difficult for Japanese expats or students, especially if they came to Paris with a very idealized vision of Paris. A few books have been written on "the Paris syndrom" which illustrates the major difficulties they have to face : as opposed to the Japanese, the French are not discreet but very outspoken, literaly translated their humour sounds cruel and aggressive, their mood is fast-changing, their administration is slow and they always act as a person and not as a member of a group....

Useful addresses for Japaneses in Paris

Junkudo Librairie Japonaise (Japanese Bookstore) 18 rue des Pyramides 75001 tel. 33-(0)1 42 60 89 12

  • Websites about Japan and France : Japonline (in French, English & Japanese), Japan Information Network (in English & Japanese), Jipango or alma
  • A useful guide book in French : Le Petit Futé, Paris Nippon - Le Japon à Paris
  • Learning Japanese : Espace Japon, 9 rue de la Fontaine au Roi, 75011
  • Centre d'Accueil Franco-Japonais (A Franco-Japanese Welcome center) : 11 rue Ferdinand-Fabre 75015, tel. 33-(0)1 53 41 00 83
  • Amicale des Ressortissants Japonais en France (Association of Japanese Living in France-Nihonjinkai), 97 Champs-Elysées 75008 tel. 33-(0)1 47 23 33 58
  • France News Digest, 48 rue Sainte-Anne 75002 tel.33-(0)1 42 96 21 02, is a free magazine for expats (in Japanese) Fnd@club-internet.fr (rue Sainte Anne, near the Opera, is a "Japanese street" : restaurants and shops for Japanese tourists and the Japanese community in Paris)

Tips for Japanese visitors

  • Do you know that France has more than 360 different sorts of cheeses ?
   Click to learn about it and enjoy a Wine & Cheese Tasting with author Harriet Welty Rochefort.
  • French pastries are very popular and are delicious. Try a Paris-Brest (a tire-shaped cake filled with cream) a Religieuse (i.e. « a nun » : a chocolate or coffee cake with a lower part-the body-, an upper part-the head- and a top-the veil-), an Opera (a square chocolat cake with several layers, all different) and many others.
  • More to come....

More infos ?

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For more on intercultural differences, order Harriet Welty Rochefort's books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • (in French) : "French Toast - Heureuse comme une Américaine en France", Ramsay, Paris, 2005
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming events, testimonials, etc..)

Philippe Rochefort gives

P-to-P training sessions

for executives newly assigned to France

 

To email me  Together or separately, Harriet and Philippe speak about Intercultural Differences : click here for information.

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