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    Uchi-Soto (Us and Them)

    Kyouri Kai

    Knowledge :

    Uchi-Soto (Us and Them)

    Post by Kyouri Kai on Fri 22 Feb 2008, 2:23 pm

    This is one of the first things you will notice about the Japanese. The Japanese have been raised to think of themselves as part of a group, and their group is always dealing with other groups. This is viewed on many angles -- internationally it is "We Japanese" vs. everyone else (more on that later), but in schools, companies, sections of companies etc. there are many groups and sub-groups -- and not always in perfect harmony and cooperation as it may look on the surface. Dealing with Japanese on a one-to-one basis usually comes very easy to non-Japanese, but dealing with Japanese as a group can be a different matter altogether. And no matter how nice you are, or how good your Japanese becomes, you will always be treated as an outsider. In fact the literal meaning of "gaijin" is outsider. Many westerners see Japanese as aloof, shy, and always walking on eggshells. There is a lot of truth in that -- Japanese are extremely sensitive to what others might think of them (or worse -- what they say behind their backs, and Japanese really do engage in gossip) and are very hesitant to do something new, different, or independent. Being ostracized is one of the worst things that can happen to a Japanese, who is raised to be part of a group and depend on others. Therefore, when making requests, it often takes more time since the person asked usually consults others in the group to reach a consensus. It also might interfere with what your goals are -- when teaching an English class a teacher gave some subjects for the students to debate. Of course the goal was for the students to use as much English as possible and improve their abilities. But what happened was the students reverted to their old habits and tried to compromise and reach a consensus -- in which case, the debate promptly ended. In short, however, while the westerner starts so many sentences with "I", the Japanese "I" usually means "with the approval of the group". This is not to pass judgement on this trait, as in many things there are both positive and negative aspects. For the westerner, it can be good in that you are often not subject to what sometimes becomes excessive, even oppressive methodologies. On the negative side, even if you do find a group or niche that you want to be in, you may be frozen out or the last one to find out about many decisions that profoundly affect your schedule and work.

    Uchi-soto has one other important trait -- there are next to no strikes in Japan. Ever. Because Japanese labour-management relations are better? Partly, yes. But in Japan there are almost no unions like the Teamsters or AFL-CIO. But each large corporation has its own union, and they feel no bond with other company unions even if they're doing the same work. In one sense, the company union is almost a puppet, led by a management executive. But in another, everyone in a Japanese company knows that to succeed they need to act together, and being profitable in the long run is the only way to guarantee employment. You don't see a lot of the friction between labour and management in Japanese firms -- one reason is that the workers often cave in since they know a profitable company eventually benefits them. Another is that they know the CEO and execs don't make 100 times the money the workers do.

    taken from Japanese Culture: A Primer for Newcomers

    Uchi also has a longer definition, as you will see with many Japanese words, to mean 'our very own; one's own', and is usually simplified by westerners, as is the case here, to mean 'us'.

    Re: Uchi-Soto (Us and Them)

    Post by Lrules364 on Sun 06 Sep 2009, 8:13 pm

    wow, I never knew that. that was a really good article. I wonder if it is like that everywhere around the world