- 07 . 10 . 04
My time in Japan has given me approximately no advantage over anybody in recognising Japanese from Chinese from Korean.
This is the most obvious stereotype that western people have of Asian people; that you can’t tell the difference between them. Of course it’s not true. In fact, it’s nowhere even close to true. I reckon there are as many different types of Japanese people as there are Caucasian.
What is true is that I really can’t tell the difference between Japanese and Korean people, who make up about 1% of the population. This was further emphasised by a test I took today at All Look Same. The test is a simple one, showing 18 modern Japanese, Chinese and Korean people. The task is just to correctly identify their nationality.
Having lived here for 6 months now, I thought I’d have an advantage over the rest of you and was quietly confident. Ha! Out of 18, I scored 7, exactly the average score of the 1.3 million or so people who have taken the test, and one more than pure guessing will get you. How many can you get?
Does this mean that all Asian people look the same to me? No, I can recognise individuals just fine. All of my Japanese friends and students are unique. It just means that I can’t recognise nationalities. I don’t feel so bad about that; I couldn’t differentiate between a Norwegian, a Dane and a Swede either.
The ironic thing is that I’m frequently told by Japanese people that all Caucasians look the same. I guess that’s not particularly surprising given that gaijin make up less than 1% of the population. It just goes to show that people are the same all over the world…