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From Singapore to Tokyo: Lioness in Japan

11 July, 2011 10:57  Erin Erin

lioness japan bike My name is Yu Ming and I’m from the Little Red Dot, also known as Singapore. I moved to Tokyo in Oct 2006 and from being just a “trailing spouse”, I’m running my own online business, Beauty Box, an online store that sells Japanese beauty products and supplements to the US and Canada.

1. Why did you move abroad?
My fiancé got a job with an Australian software company that needed someone to head up their Tokyo office. He moved there eight months before I did to have a feel for the place and to make sure he really liked the job. Once he decided it would be a permanent location for us, he asked me to move to Japan, so I quit my job, packed my bags, and flew over.

2. How do you make a living?
I started out teaching English lessons to Japanese adults but at the same time I was blogging like a maniac and got right into social media. After a year or so, I started Beauty Box because there are so many amazing Japanese beauty products that people want to buy. I only sold them to Singapore and Malaysia initially and got my mother to help me ship out the orders — yes, I used to fly home with a suitcase full of products but that’s a thing of the past. There was more and more demand from the US, so I became an Amazon merchant and ship from Japan to the US. My home is also my office/warehouse. I still teach English part-time because I don’t really like staying at home 24/7 and I need some human interaction or I’d go stir-crazy, and I think teaching Japanese adults gives me the opportunity to interact with locals.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I email my folks mainly but I would call on special occasions, like birthdays or Mother’s Day, via Skype.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Japan?
Life is always interesting, not necessarily blissful, but never boring because Japan has such a different culture compared to any other.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Japan?
Not being understood even though I can speak Japanese (badly)! It can feel like a chore when you can’t communicate your basic needs.

6. What do you miss most?
Spicy food!!! But ask any Singaporean and they will tell you they miss the food back home more than the people.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I met anyone who was introduced to me by friends back home. I also took classes like yoga and joined running clubs because I think interest-based groups are the best way to meet like-minded people. At least you have ONE thing to talk about!

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Japanese wear face masks when they’ve got the flu or hay fever so they keep others from catching it and prevent themselves from being further affected by the environment. It just looks too weird for me to emulate. In fact, I think it’s unhygienic to wear a mask all day long — you’re breathing in recycled germs! It also took me a while to appear less aggressive because people here are really measured and careful in their manners and attitude.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That Japanese do not have emotions just because they wear a poker face. They have lots of feelings — they just run deeper.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
Learn Japanese from Day One no matter how short your stay is going to be because it’s through the language that you can truly get to communicate with others and understand the culture better. It’s really common sense but many foreigners choose not to because Japanese is such a difficult language — I’m still taking lessons even after living here for five years.

11. When and why did you start your blog? lioness japan hooping
I was a magazine journalist and writing has always been part of me — if I don’t write, I feel left out in the cold. I love to communicate with other people, and being an expat, I like to reach out to others who can relate to what I’m going through.

12.  How has the blog been beneficial?
It gave me a sense of purpose, especially when I was unemployed, and it also helped direct traffic to the blog at my online store. I gained more confidence as I could give others advice on certain things that newbies would find hard and I also made a few friends here.

Blog LinkYu Ming's blog, Lioness in Japan

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