Foreigner is not a good word in English

school-girlPictured: A Japanese school girl


The word foreigner is often used in Japan, as the direct translation from the words gaikokujin or more casually or perhaps rudely (depending on your opinion) gaijin.

You cannot say the word “gaijin” on NHK, Japan`s national broadcaster.  Why not? It is because the word gaijin is regarded as being rude, or at least cold.

Yet if you live in Japan, you will hear the word gaijin everywhere.  Unless the Japanese is talking with a non-Japanese, then they will switch to gaikokujin or gaijinsan.  But if Japanese are talking with friends on the train for example, and they dont know you (an immigrant) at all, you will hear gaijin on the train, as they talk about non-Japanese.  They don’t care that you hear. And perhaps think that you won`t understand anyway. Or they simply feel it is OK to talk about non-Japanese as gaijin while a “gaijin,” is within hearing range.

In English, I feel you should avoid the word foreigner if you can.  We don`t use the word much, as it has a cold feeling to it.  It means, outside person, or not one of us.

In Canada, where I am from, you very rarely hear the word foreigner.

In fact it is best to not label people at all if you can.  There was a woman in a blue jacket. There was a man in a suit etc.

We usually just say things like: “There was a man waiting in line, and he ……”  We don`t label him in a story like this.  But a Japanese might say in Japanese in Japanese the equivalent of: “there was a gaijin waiting in line and he……”

If you have to label a non-Japanese person you can use words like these:

tourist, immigrant, guest worker, expatriate, non-national, not Japanese, non-Japanese, associate, colleague,  co-worker,  

It is Dangerous to label people as we are often wrong: 

Some of these words may be OK, depending upon the context.

Westerner, caucasian, white man, Arab person, African American, European, Asian woman, mixed person, North American, Latino, biracial, bicultural.  


But some people perhaps would take offense. They may well take offence if you mislabel them.  i.e.) call a person an Arab, when in fact they are Persian (non-Arab).  Do you see my point?

If you know the person`s nationality, you can say things like: he’s Nigerian.

I`ve Lived in Japan for almost 30 Years

For example, I have lived in Japan for 27 years at this point. So to be called a foreigner, is offensive to me.  I am an immigrant to Japan.  My wife and children are Japanese.  I speak Japanese. (not perfectly) – but I am pretty fluent.  I have lived in Japan longer than many Japanese.  So you really shouldn`t call me a foreigner.

There are thousands of immigrants to Japan.  Yet there is no word for immigrant in Japanese.  So Japanese mistakenly think that foreigner is OK to use.  In my opinion, at least, it is not.


This has been a very difficult topic to write about.  One reason is, the rules are fluid (or always changing).  I feel if you can avoid it, do not label people by colour, nationality etc. We are all humans after all.  But if you feel you must, be careful!  What may be fine with one person, may not be fine with another.



Would you like to Rent this Canadian House?

For your next vacation, why not stay in a Canadian house imported and built in Japan. It is located near Hakone, Odawara, Izu, Mount Fuji, Gotemba Outlet Mall and more!   Plus you can get great views of Mount Fuji from nearby!  Plus you will have money left in your pocket!

Romantic Fuji Views Whole House

Minamiashigara-shi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

My place is close to family-friendly activities and public transport. You’ll love my place because of the coziness, the high ceilings,all the beautiful wood. My place is good for couples and big gr…

Cleaning Staff Required 

Cleaning Staff required 掃除スタッフKevin Guest House/English School – 神奈川県 小田原市
時給 1,200円
Guest House/English School in Minamiashigarashi requires cleaning staff for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Shifts: 10am-12noon or 11am-13:00. Iizawa and Tsukahara. Pay ¥1200/hour plus one free English lesson/week. No experience necessary we can train you. Good work for housewife or retired person.
Contact Kevin Burns, Kevin’s English Schools Email:

南足柄にあるゲストハウス(民泊)、英会話スクールのお掃除スタッフ募集週に1,2回、南足柄にある民泊でゲストルーム、シャワー、キッチンなどのお掃除スタッフ特に木、金、土、働ける方歓迎10:00~13:00 までの間で2時間くらい(要相談) 主婦歓迎自給 1200円 (交通費はなし)とくにスキルは必要ありません。普段家で家事を行っている方。簡単な英語の読み書きができると助かります。

Kevin Burns

雇用形態: アルバイト…パート

給与: 1,200円 /時給


神奈川県 小田原市

とくになし: 1 年



Mixed Ability Young Learner Classes

Mixed Ability Young Learner Classes


From time to time in any teaching situation you will come across mixed-ability classes. People learn at different rates and develop different skills, so in any class you’ll have some people who are better at speaking, some which are better at listening, others at acquiring and understanding form and structure etc. Consider yourself and your peers, do you feel particularly less confident when discussing grammar compared to devising games for your learners, alternatively you may feel adept at organising your lessons and activities but just can’t get to grips with teaching pronunciation? – This doesn’t imply that any teacher is better than another it means that we acquire skills and information differently. This situation is the same for our learners, which can be frustrating both for them and the teacher.

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Want to Stay in a Canadian house near Hakone?


Romantic Fuji Views near Hot Spring 1st Floor

Minamiashigara-shi, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

Perfect romantic spot for couples. Our dream home! Stay in a Canadian house! 2 single beds. Much of the furniture and lights were imported. The house itself was made in Canada, then imported and bu…