Gaijin Engineer in Tokyo


You’re Not From Here



Cultural Differences

  • Not writing tests or enough tests before deploying code
  • Lengthy useless ritual meetings
  • Anything where they can’t find a logical explanation for irrational behavior

Real Cultural Differences

  • すみません — I’m sorry
  • そうですね — Yes, you’re right (but I will do nothing about this)
  • 仕方ないです — Nothing can be done (it is *inevitable*)
  • さあ — Who knows (I don’t know, maybe nobody knows?)
  1. Everybody looks around at other people
  2. One person begins to suggest something slightly
  3. Slight or emphatic agreement in a domino-effect across the group

Office Differences

Gaijin and Gaikoku

  • Do they have X in gaikoku? (you’ll be amazed what people will ask about, I was once asked if gargles exist in gaikoku)
  • How does kaigai react to X? (reactions from abroad to Japan often get more of a reaction than the original event)
  • Japan is not the same as gaikoku (this is similar to the “cultural differences” argument to explain away anything that’s inconvenient)

Foreigner Team

Foreigner Names

Formal Language

Technical Language

  • SNS — Social Network Service (what we call a social network in English)
  • PDCA — Plan Do Check Act (what we call “doing work”)
  • KPT — Keep Problem Try (I can’t make this up, lol. Search for it online and most results will be in Japanese)
  • Hearing — A meeting where people hear mainly you talk about things (no, you’re not on trial, don’t worry)
  • 関数 — function
  • 再帰的関数 — recursive function
  • 変数 — variable
  • 引数 — argument
  • 不具合 — fault / bug
  • 再起動 — restart/reboot
  • メソッド — method (“mesoddo”)
  • バグ — bug (“bagu”)
  • デバッグ — debug (“debaggu”)
  • パソコン — PC (“pasokon”, short for “paasonaru konpyuuta” i.e. personal computer)
  • ロールアウト — roll out (to deploy a new version of software; this one isn’t so out there, but is not often used in the web server software context, at least in California where I come from)

Working in Japan is exciting but nuanced




Backend web developer. Silicon Valley / Tokyo.

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Alejandro Wainzinger

Alejandro Wainzinger

Backend web developer. Silicon Valley / Tokyo.

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