10 Alternatives To The Word Gaijin (外人)

Gaijin. A word that brings up controversy and strong opinions among foreigners. It’s a topic that is hard to cover without stirring people up. I have no intention of doing that, but I thought it might be useful to know the alternatives, old and new.

7 Alternatives To The Word Gaijin (外人)

To start, for those not in the know:

What is Gaijin (外人)?

At its basics, the kanji means “outside” and “person,” and is best translated as the word “foreigner.” It is used to refer to a non-Japanese person.

The word has massive baggage due to a lot of varying viewpoints on it. Whether it is okay or not depends on who you talk to. You’ll find a lot of arguments both ways. But let’s get to some alternatives.

10. 外国人 (がいこくじん)

Outside + Country + Person

Currently considered the politically correct way of saying foreigner.

9. 外国の方 (がいこくのかた)

Outside + Country + Person (formal)

Politically correct way of saying foreigner in a more formal manner.

8. 外国人の方 (がいこくじんのかた)

Outside + Country + Person + Person

Grammatically incorrect (but still often used) way of saying foreigner in a politically correct, formal manner.

7. 外人さん (がいじんさん)

Outside + Person + San (Polite title)

Trying to make the word 外人 feel more polite by adding the San ending.

6. 異人 (いじん)

Different + Person

Older and slightly outdated (found more often in literature) version of the word foreigner.

5. 異邦人 (いほうじん)

Different + Country + Person

Older and slightly outdated (found more often in literature) version of the word foreigner.

4, 3, 2. 異国人(いこくじん)・異国の人(いこくのひと)・異国の方 (いこくのかた)

Different + Country + Person

Older and slightly outdated (found more often in literature) version of the word foreigner. This follows the same word structure as 外国人, 外国の人 and 外国の方.

1. YOU (ユー)

You, as in “you and me.” This is the most recent and was made popular by the fairly new TV show YOUは何しに日本へ (“Why Did You Come To Japan”). This currently is one of my favorite variety shows. It follows around foreigners as they enter and explore Japan. It’s very respectful (though often silly and ridiculous), and they refer to foreigners as YOU.

It can be a bit confusing at first because it’ll be used in the 3rd person. Ex. YOUがいっぱいいる (there are a lot of YOUs).

What have you encountered?

Which alternative versions have you heard the most? Which do you like best?

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


10 Alternatives To The Word Gaijin (外人) — 6 Comments

  1. あまりおすすめしないが、南蛮人でどうだ?夷人は?そして毛唐人という言い方もあるようだ。皆古くからの蔑称なんだけど。今使われそうなのは、在日、よそ者、西洋人くらいかな。相手を軽蔑しているなら、何と豊かな語彙であろう。普段なら西洋人しかまともに言えないじゃん。そしてよそ者以外は、「◯◯からの外国人」と言った意味なので外国人の下位カテゴリーと言ったほうがいいかも知れない。

  2. I have read the “guide” section of the website, and really like your philosophy and method; I am sure it has and will continue to help many people. But I can’t understand why you continue to write posts like this. Sure, they are fun and entertaining, but lets be real: they are not actually helping anyone learn Japanese. Following your philosophy, if someone has time to be reading these ENGLISH blog posts, should’t they be out reading some site written in Japanese? I think you agree with the idea that no one can teach someone else Japanese, only Japanese it self can teach Japanese. So why do you write these? I can’t help but feel like you keep writing these because you have already said all you have to say about HOW to learn Japanese, but just still want to keep the site active

    • Relax dude.It’s his (free) site, so he can post whatever he wants.It provides a nice change of pace and insights into the Language Culture itself. There are many posts in Japanese.

      But, I know the feeling. The “How” posts on this site are simply amazing, while others are sometimes are a bit meh. When a post like this (which I love btw) shows up, you tend to feel a bit disappointed. But there is a major thing you are overlooking.

      Check this out: http://japaneselevelup.com/japanese-quest-walkthrough/
      Almost every post present here is useful. Since they are collected at one place, you’d be tempted to think that Adam wrote all the “HOW” posts in that order. No. Looking at their time-stamps, they were NOT written one after another. Adam wrote the posts as the ideas came to him. Then he included the “HOW” posts that he thought were good at the front of the site, while many of his meh posts are still lying in obscurity. Maybe another brilliant post will pop up, and get added to the front age, while this one would take a back seat. Makes sense? (At least that is what I think happened and will continue to happen, like with any other creator of site/novel/youtube channel/TV Show).

      I also suspect (as mentioned in the JalUp Deck Update post), he’s working on a Kanji project. That might be the reason.

    • There is no reason you need to read these, just pick what interests you and leave the rest.

      There is no way Adam can knock it out of the park on every swing, this guy writes a couple of these per week…and he’s done this for years, frankly I’m stunned he keeps coming up with things to write about at all.

      As far as writing these in English, who are his readers? How many of us do you think are fluent enough to follow all of this in Japanese? Do you think he would have as many readers if he didn’t have English content for the multitude of beginners? Even Katz wrote his AJATT blog in English. How popular would he have been if his site had been completely Japanese?

    • Remember that even though you may not enjoy a post like this, we are all different. I personally don’t care much for the whole gamification aspect, tracking XP, and all that, but I know that others appreciate this. Despite this there is so much other awesome content on this site that I DO find very helpful. Instead of focusing on the stuff you don’t like, I would suggest that you ignore those things and enjoy all the stuff you do like instead.

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