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One of the biggest fears people have when thinking about living in Japan is learning the Japanese language. Many of you are probably planning to live in Japan to study Japanese but do not know what the first years of adaptation in Japan would be like without Japanese.

Also, you’ll want to mingle with the local people and make Japanese friends, but the language and cultural barrier seems unbreakable. Surely you have heard that integrating in Japan is complicated for a foreigner. However, this is not completely true, and making Japanese friends without speaking Japanese is not impossible at all. Here we will explain what it is like to make Japanese friends without speaking Japanese.

The Uchi Soto System

All Japanese thought starts from a system called “uchi soto”. Which translates to, 内 (uchi – inside) and 外 (soto – outside).

Uchi soto is a way of thinking that allows the Japanese to differentiate how to treat a person from outside their environment to one from inside their environment. Their closest people would be part of their uchi (family and closest friends), while the rest of the people would be part of their soto.

Although this differentiation can be found in many other countries, it is especially strong in Japan. In a Western country it is difficult to enter a social group being the new one, but that integration always ends up taking place. In Japan it is not impossible but more complicated than in a western country.

But where does this way of thinking come from?

Although we have a whole article talking about the Japanese love of group culture, to make a long story short, in Japan individual opinions have never been of much value, since all family members had to consider family harmony first and foremost (which is still present), which gave …continue reading