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Facebook isn’t all that popular in Japan (Mixi is currently king there), but it doesn’t meant that people don’t know about it. After all, the movie “The Social Network” came out in Japan, and I’m sure that Facebook hits the news every once in a while. But what about Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg? Apparently in a recent poll, Japanese women just thought he was a hamburger (for good reason, too!).

The Zuckerburger

In Japanese, the word ハンバーグ (hanbaagu) refers to hamburger steak. This shouldn’t be confused with ハンバーガ (hanbaaga), which refers to those things us Americans order three meals a day from McDonalds (fourth meal, of course, is タコス from Taco Bell). The second half of Mark Zuckerberg’s name, when translated to Japanese, is very similar to the word “burger” from the word for hamburger steak, which makes it sound very hamburgerish.

ザッカー (zakkaa) バーグ (baagu). That’s how you pronounce his last name in Japanese. The バーグ (baagu) is the same バーグ from the word ハンバーグ (hamburger steak). That’s where the confusion sets in.

When asked what “Zuckerberg” is in Japan, 35.6% of women polled thought he was a hamburger. Here’s what else they came up with:

35.6% said “Zuckerberg” is a hamburger.

19.6% thought “Zuckerberg” had something to do with soccer, because the first part of his name, ザッカー (zakkaa) is very similar to the word for soccer, サッカー(sakkaa).

14.4% got the correct answer or something close to the correct answer.

11% chose something miscellaneous.

7.6% thought it was some kind of abbreviation.

The really fun part, though, is when you start breaking down the answers. For example, one person thought that “The Zuckerburger” was a new menu item at McDonalds. My favorite is the person who thought it was a soccer ball shaped hamburger steak. That combines #1 and #2.

P.S. If you don’t know katakana, and want to understand why Zuckerberg is like Hamburger in Japanese, I’m going to (secretly, just for people reading this article) make the Katakana lessons on TextFugu free for a while, because it’ll help you enjoy this article more effectively. If you don’t know hiragana yet, though, you should learn that first (and to do that, you should start here)… anyways, carry on.

Facebook In Japan

One thing that also stood out a bit to me was the answers from the people who got the question right (and kind of knew who The Zuck is). There were only six examples, but two of them had to do with Mixi. One was “He made America’s version of Mixi” and the other was “a person at the Mixi America Branch” (which I’m pretty sure doesn’t actually exist). My favorite in this category, however, was “(Zuckerberg) is the name of the person who made the Internet” (c’mon, that’s Al Gore).

The examples on Mixi, though, are pretty interesting. I’ve written about Mixi, as well as some of the differences (though I’ve mostly just written about how to join and get in via various loopholes… which don’t really work anymore, so don’t ask). Mixi is the big SNS in Japan (though Gree has overtaken them recently… but it’s a bit different), and it’s really tailor made especially for Japanese people.

  • People rarely show pictures of themselves for their profile picture on Mixi (compare that to Facebook, where nearly everyone does).
  • People rarely upload pictures of themselves for albums (try doing that on Facebook… Where’s your face!?).
  • Real names are hidden and nicknames are king (Facebook has a use-your-real-name-or-get-out policy).
  • People on Mixi are generally worried about people knowing who they are (Facebook, it’s really easy to find out a lot of info about anybody).

It’s mainly a cultural thing, but Facebook’s openness is basically making it hard to grab a big foothold in Japan (though I think that will change in the next 5 years), though one article I read thinks Facebook is in its own little “professional networking” niche (which I can confirm through what I’ve seen too… pretty sure all my Japanese friends are CEO’s of startups). If you want to know more about Facebook in Japan, this is a great NYT article.

Other “Zuckerberg Meanings”

To close things up, though, here were some other fun explanations people had:

“Something young people say when they’ve seen something unbelievable” (everyone should start yelling “ZUCKERBERG” when you see something awesome).

One person thought it had to do with a lot of bugs because of the バーグ (baagu) sounding like バグ (bagu), which sounds like the English word for “bug.”

“Something you say when you when you want to express the feelings of ‘You idiot!’ or ‘Quit Screwin’ Around'”

“A store like H&M that came from Europe”

“A term for when you have a lot of small things / accessories in your car, and it is becoming dirty.”

P.S. Thanks to @HirokoTabuchi for tweeting about this survey. You should Follow Her On Twitter if you’re interested in smart Japanese things.

  • ampmjuku

    ooo secret lessons free (for a limited time)…. i’d jump on that but i’m already on textfugu lol well maybe i should pass this blog to my friends; thanks Koichi, that was an interesting read

  • http://iamthan.com Than R

    this one made my day.

  • http://twitter.com/spurious the orange

    Dear god, this is hilarious! I’m now tempted to ask my Japanese coworkers and see what their responses are…

  • http://alanagreen.blogspot.com Japan-a-lana

    Japanese people with foreigner friends use Facebook. That’s how they get invited to foreigner event and make friends with foreigners. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, just that’s my experience. My (Japanese) boyfriend starting using Facebook when we first met so we could get to know each other.

  • http://alanagreen.blogspot.com Japan-a-lana

    Japanese people with foreigner friends use Facebook. That’s how they get invited to foreigner event and make friends with foreigners. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, just that’s my experience. My (Japanese) boyfriend starting using Facebook when we first met so we could get to know each other.

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  • ゲスト

    “A term for when you have a lot of small things / accessories in your car, and it is becoming dirty.”

    This is what “Zukerberg” is going to mean from now on. It’s too amazing to pass up.

  • http://twitter.com/ichigoichielove Lisa W

    Personally I would have gone with a verb. “What’s wrong with it?” “I think it’s broken.” “ohh just Zuckerberger it and it’ll be fine.”
    Although from a Japanese language perspective an onomatopeia may be more fitting. ^^

  • ゲスト

    Like ザッカ ザッカ is the sound of your personal information being exposed to everyone? That kinda fits, too…

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    lol

  • http://bridgetbeaver.blogspot.com Bridget

    this is hilarious. thank you.

  • Thedestroyerofworlds666

    salisbury steak, not hamburger steak. and you are a cunt if you eat hamburgers 3 times a day.

  • Jonadab the Unsightly One

    That’s okay. If you ask Americans about Kan Naoto, most of the answers involve neither Japan nor politics. (Actually, I’ve recently taken to asking Americans how many current foreign politicians they can name. The mode is zero.)

  • http://twitter.com/OgiJima David @ Ogi Jima

    Except that Facebook ceased to be an American phenomenon and became a worldwide one circa 2006. But you’re right Japanese and Americans are pretty much equally ignorant to what’s going on in the rest of the world (for example, most Americans ignore that Facebook is a worldwide thing…)
    Do they even know what the first two W in www mean?
    :)

  • http://www.vietamins.com Viet

    That photo is so wrong.. Looks like the burger is his double chin! Fatten him up and he could probably pass off as Jonah Hill.

    http://www.examiner.com/images/blog/wysiwyg/image/jonah-hill(2).jpg

  • http://kellydolljapan.blogspot.com/ KellyDoll

    Win.

  • http://twitter.com/carlosabroad Carlos Abroad

    Ah I tried Mixi and didn’t find it to be nearly as interesting as Facebook. Without people posting their information it doesn’t make the experience very personal.

  • http://twitter.com/kamokow Zachary D

    Interesting article, sometimes it’s interesting to look at how things that are common knowledge in some parts of the world can be the exact opposite in others.

    And, for the record, contrary to popular belief, Al Gore did not invent the internet (though he did make some significant contributions to its early development).

  • http://kanjidaisuki.wordpress.com Leah Hicks

    Hah, this made me laugh. It’s not surprising though, at all. It seems like a lot of social networking sites aren’t popular in Japan, including Twitter – when you choose the location for your trending tweets, Japan isn’t even an option (which shocked me). I do have a few friends in Japan on facebook and twitter that I talk with regularly so I guess it isn’t fair to say nobody uses them there.

  • http://twitter.com/azutoame azuma mutea

    *crush on TOFUGU

  • Cirbeck

    hahaha, great article. It was enjoying. ;P
    I would challenge your choice of “hamburger steak”. Whether or not that’s the excepted translation of ハンバーグ, let’s be real, it’s meatloaf, anyway you slice it.
    Also, did you see the movie? I was surprised at just how GOOD it actually was! Trent Reznor score, Justin Timberlake W/O his dick in a box, both pleasant surprises.
    Anonymity is definitely key online in Japan, but maybe mention that FB’s name policy stems from their original purpose of finding out more about people who you know by name. “Facebook Stalking” is the new big term for the the 20-teens (2010-2019)

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  • Jonadab the Unsightly One

    Facebook is really only “worldwide” in the English-speaking world. Japan has this weird other language, which you may have heard of…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505023804 Aiko Reichard

    Haha! Interesting survey. Poor Zucker. It’s funny when transliteration into Japanese breaks down and gets confusing. Last year at the annual employee medical check I freaked out a little when I was told I had to take バリウム. I thought they were telling me I had to take Valium, when it was really just Barium.

    Recently my students, former students, and co-teachers have started to use Facebook and are enjoying it. Even an older lady (late 50s?) intently asked me questions about it and said she was thinking about joining. As far as I know, she doesn’t have any foreign connections. Hopefully the trend will continue…

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  • Austrianer

    Zuckerberg is a german name.

    Zucker=sugar and Berg=mountain

    Hmmm … a Sugarburger

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