In Christian-predominant Western society, even if you don’t grow up in a religious household, you have likely grown up hearing the common threat “You’re going to go to hell if you do that!” For example, if you try to play a trick on your neighbor, your mother might say, “You’ll go to hell for that!”
When I was growing up, you could go to hell for almost anything, including using swear words or reading a dirty magazine.
This comes from the belief that after you die, you either go to heaven or hell. Sinning will send you straight to hell.
When Westerners come to Japan, we find things a bit different, perhaps even liberating. We no longer have the threat of going to hell because in Japan, it is not considered a sin to drink too much, read a porno magazine or take someone to a love hotel.
But Westerners be warned! In Japan, there is still a large threat of going to hell: Gaijin Hell. Gaijin Hell is where foreigners who brazenly violate the codes of Japanese society go. You know who I’m talking about. Yes, I may even be talking about you!
How do you know if you’re headed straight for Gaijin Hell or not? Take this quiz.
1. You’re getting ready to leave the house for the office in the morning. You’ve just laced up your shoes and you’re headed out the door when suddenly you realize you forgot your keys.
A. Take off your shoes and walk inside to retrieve the keys from the table.
B. Leave your shoes on figuring that just this one time it won’t matter if you enter the house with your shoes on. After all, you can see the keys sitting on the table just two steps away. Not only that, but you’re in a hurry and have to catch the train.
C. You leave your shoes on and crawl over to the table on your hands and knees, careful to not let your shoes touch the floor.
If you chose B, you’re going to Gaijin Hell. Absolutely never ever, under any circumstances, better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, wear your shoes inside the house.
2. You’re in the bank becoming increasingly frustrated with the antiquated banking system in Japan. First, you’ve had to come to the bank in person to verify an incoming foreign bank transfer into your account. Second, you’ve been told you can’t have your salary automatically deposited into an account where you can withdraw those funds from abroad. And to top it all off, you forgot to bring your inkan.
A. Maintain decorum at all times no matter how frustrated you get.
B. Storm out of the bank, grumbling, wallowing in self-pity and licking your wounds as you leave.
C. Give the teller a piece of your mind and tell her how ridiculous the bank is being, how much easier and more efficient it is in your country, and finish it off with a lecture on how Japan is never going to make it in the international banking world unless it changes its antiquated ways.
If you chose B or C or have ever raised hell in a bank or other institution in any way, shape or form, you are headed straight to Gaijin Hell. In a handbasket.
3. A Japanese friend stops by your house. As per Japanese custom, you put on some coffee and serve something to eat. Luckily, you have two pieces of chocolate cake in the refrigerator. Standing there looking into the refrigerator, you realize one of the pieces of cake is larger than the other.
A. Give the bigger piece to the guest.
B. Ask the guest to choose which piece she wants, with the hope that she will be polite and take the smaller piece, leaving the bigger piece for you.
C. Cut the larger piece down to the same size as the smaller piece and stuff the cut off bit into your mouth while she is not looking.
D. Serve the smaller piece to the guest and leave the bigger piece in the refrigerator for later, so she’ll never know you took the larger piece.
If you chose anything but A, you’re hellbent on going to Gaijin Hell.
But don’t worry. Once you get to Gaijin Hell, you’ll find most of your gaijin friends there. Because there’s a little bit of the devil in all of us.