The Gaijin Nod
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The Gaijin Nod

There’s a phenomenon in Japan—and probably other countries—known as the “Gaijin Nod.” “Gaijin” is a more casual version of the Japanese word for “foreign person” and, while it’s sometimes used with a negative connotation by some Japanese people, it’s widely embraced by many foreigners.

It’s a simple maneuver to perform. When you see a fellow Gaijin, you may choose to tilt your head down slightly, hold briefly at the bottom, then return your head to its original position. Chances are the person at whom the nod is directed will respond in kind.

“The Nod” occurs most frequently outside of the major tourist areas. It’s not uncommon to see foreigners in Tokyo or Kyoto, but outside of these areas, we’re a sight to behold. As such, an automatic connection is formed between us, one that crosses the boundaries of race and nationality.

Today I took a trip to the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo to prepare for our next adventure. Most of the embassies are grouped together in the Roppongi district, so there’s a high concentration of foreigners. Along the way, I passed embassies for Madagascar, Iran and Qatar. At each, when I made eye contact with the embassy employee manning the door, we engaged in “The Nod.”

The great thing about “The Nod” is that it also transcends language. Off the top of my head, I know I don’t speak Malagasy, Persian or Arabic, yet we still share a bond simply because we’re part of a larger community…

We are Gaijin.

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