sense of familiarity/closeness, affinity

meijin

Senior Member
Japanese
Hi, the following examples (slightly modified by me) are taken from a Japanese website where English teachers answer questions from English learners. One learner asked "How do you say xxx in English?" and two native English speakers respectively gave the following examples saying they would use the expression underlined.

1. When I see a foreigner using chopsticks, I feel a sense of familiarity/closeness.
2. Whenever I see/hear a foreigner using the Kansai dialect, I feel a (real) affinity.


The speakers ("I") in these examples are both Japanese, and the "foreigner" means a non-Japanese (and also non-Asian in the case of #1), who is presumably living or travelling in Japan at the moment.
The speaker in #2 is from the Kansai region.

Are "feel a sense of familiarity/closeness" and "feel a (real) affinity" both natural and what you would say in that context?
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    As a matter of logic, it is completely impossible to say what another person feels. As neither speaker has any reason to lie, I would say that they have expressed the emotion that they feel in a manner that is, for them, accurate.

    I would say "I feel that I can identify with them." but that is not the same nuance as given by either of the speakers.

    Familiarity and closeness are not synonyms, and neither is affinity a synonym of either. There are few true synonyms in English - all words "carry some baggage."
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    So, if you travelled to another country and unexpectedly saw people there having a lifestyle or habit that is similar to that of the people in your country or local area, would you say "Oh...what a surprise" and then "I can identify with them"? Or would any of the following work?: "I feel a sense of familiarity with them"; "I feel a sense of closeness with them"; "I feel an affinity with them".
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    "A sense of closeness" means closeness to the person: I "feel close to" the person using chopsticks.

    "Feeling affinity" means affinity to the person: I feel an affinity for the person using Kansai Japanese. I "like" them.

    A "sense of familiarity" may be a general feeling, or it may mean the person "seems familiar" to me: I feel comfortable around them.

    Are "feel a sense of familiarity/closeness" and "feel a (real) affinity" both natural and what you would say in that context?
    All three of these are natural in AE. As PaulQ points out, they are three different meanings, not a single meaning which I would express in some other way.

    (cross-posted: I haven't read #3 yet)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In reply to #3: When I have travelled to other countries, I often saw distinctly American customs. But they never caused those emotions to me. I never felt closer to people who acted in American ways.
     

    meijin

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    An interesting cultural difference. Maybe we Japanese feel so isolated (because it's a small island country and its language doesn't work in any other country) that we want to feel a sense of familiarity/closeness or an affinity? But even inside Japan we use those expressions a lot. Maybe many of us feel lonely and want to find common features with others...
     
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