As non-Japanese people are a rare sight where I live, my presence has so far been met with mixed reactions. Some stare, some follow, some smile, some shout “hello”, and some just strike up a conversation in Japanese with me, which I like because they don’t just assume that I can’t speak any Japanese. This was one of those times: the shop keeper looked totally confused until I said “konnichiwa”, then suddenly she started talking to me in Japanese and was really super friendly.
It bothers me a little bit that sometimes when I interact with a Japanese person, they panic or think they have to speak English because I wouldn’t understand Japanese. I’m pretty sure in other countries, we wouldn’t just assume right away that the other person didn’t speak the native language if they’d already started talking in it. I get that some Japanese people want to use the English they’ve learned, but it’s kind of annoying when I’m speaking Japanese and they always reply in English. I don’t really like being a free English lesson. If I didn’t speak the language, then I would ask them if they spoke English. Then again some of my friends in Japan who have Asian ethnicity but don’t speak Japanese have had trouble where a Japanese person will assume they speak Japanese, because they look Asian. When they explain that they can’t, some Japanese people have a hard time trying to understand this.
The majority of the time though, I get to have fun conversations in Japanese with random people in my town. Because it’s so small, no one really speaks English here at all!