From Canada to Tokyo: Whoa...I'm in Japan?
I’m Amanda, a girl on life’s journey – literally. I love to travel and my current stop is the fun, fascinating and sometimes frustrating country that is Japan.
1. Why did you move abroad? If I’m being completely honest, I needed an escape. Life had become too mundane, and the routine was digging into me like a slow brand, or a hole made by the constant slow drip, drip, drip of water.
2. How do you make a living? I work as an English Instructor. I like this job because I went to school for English literature and journalism, and I get to use all my English language and grammar knowledge. I also like talking to people and it’s rewarding to watch them learn.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how? I get in touch with my family at least a couple of times a week on Skype. I don’t know what I would do without it. I talk to friends on Skype as well, though less frequently, and also get in touch with people on face book. Sometimes I worry that I don’t keep in contact with my friends enough, and I get the paranoid idea that if I stay here too long I’ll lose them all. But that won’t happen...right?
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Japan? I like being exotic and interesting. I like that people notice me wherever I go, and want to know more about me. I like that there are so many new and interesting things to learn. I like learning Japanese and I like eating Japanese food.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Japan? I hate that I stand out so much when sometimes I just want to disappear into the crowd. I wish I knew more Japanese. I wish Japan was a little more culturally sensitive sometimes. There is a strange love/hate relationship with foreigners here, but the “hate” part is usually subtle. It can come out in an insensitively stereotypical TV commercial, or in the form of real estate agents who refuse to rent to foreigners.
6. What do you miss most? I miss my family and friends, my old hang outs, and some foods I can’t get here like certain breakfast cereals. Japan has a horrible breakfast cereal selection. I miss Fruit Loops.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home? I started taking Japanese Taiko drumming lessons. It’s really spurred me to learn Japanese as the lessons are all in Japanese, though some of the other students speak English and they help me out. Also my company has parties sometimes and I always go to those.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture? Eating on the street or on the train is still considered really rude here. Also talking on your cellphone on the train will get you some dirty looks.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country? I think some people think that when they come to Japan they’ll be in Anime and Manga paradise, and will finally be able to find like-minded individuals to share their passion without ridicule. Sorry, but you will be just as big a geek here as you were back home...just kidding (kind of).
Another myth is that Japan is safer than most countries and you can leave your purse or bag somewhere and go to the bathroom or something, and come back and it’ll be right where you left it with not so much as a finger print on it. All I can say is that two of my friends on two different occasions had money stolen when we went out because they didn’t keep a close eye on their wallets. And one night at a nightclub a friend had her $200 coat stolen when she drunkenly left it on a chair. So it doesn’t matter if “this is Japan” or not, if you don’t keep an eye on your stuff someone will take it.
10. What advice would you give other expats? Learn as much Japanese as you can before coming over – most people don’t speak English at a conversational level. Don’t allow yourself to become too isolated. Go out, or maybe live with roommates.
11. When and why did you start your blog? I started the blog about six months before I moved to Tokyo, before I even got my job. I started it after I had the job interview. I had been reading other blogs by expats in Japan to get an idea of what to expect if/when I moved, and I was inspired to do the same. I also want to break into travel writing, and the blog is a portfolio of sorts.
12. How has the blog been beneficial? I’ve made some friends through interacting with the Japan blogosphere; I’ve met a couple other bloggers in person. Sometimes I get emails from people who enjoy my blog and have questions about living in Japan, and it’s great to be able to help them. And it’ll be great to be able to go back and read about my time in Japan once I leave, to relive my emotions and thoughts.
Amanda's blog, Whoa...I'm in Japan?