Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | facebook
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One of the great benefits of today’s social media – and why I urge everyone, young and old, to at least be on Facebook – is that it can connect you to people you know, people you don’t know, and maybe most surprisingly, to people you used to know. When baby boomers starting logging into Facebook about a decade ago, I...

I had an interesting thread of conversation the other day on Facebook, after someone sent me a friend request that ended with the person (he's Caucasian) calling me "Gil-san." He wrote this in good cheer and good faith, and as a sign of collegial respect. I know that. But it struck me odd somehow, that non-Japanese people (usually Caucasians) throughout my life have assumed that it's perfectly normal to call me "Gil-san," or to say "konnichiwa" ("hello") or "sayonara," as if I speak Japanese, or better yet, that I appreciate someoe else assuming that I speak Japanese. I do -- a little. But I'm not Japanese, and the only time I try to mumble and stumble my way through a conversation in Japanese is when I'm trying to speak to Japanese people... from Japan. So I posted this on Facebook and Twitter: "Is it culturally sensitive, condescending or just plain goofy for a Euro-American to call me 'Gil-san'? I'm Japanese American, not Japanese." As is often the case, I got a flurry of responses right away on Facebook. Interestingly, Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans, as well as European Americans, had different perspectives on this topic.