From the UK to Japan: Turning Japanese
We’re James & Jesse, both from the UK and currently living Fukuoka, Japan.
1. Why did you move abroad?
In 2010, I (James) visited Japan as part of the WWOOF scheme. I travelled around the country, living with families and absorbing the culture. I fell in love with the country and had always been adamant about returning,
meaning that if Jesse was to marry me she had no choice but to one day agree to make the move to the land of the rising sun.
2. How do you make a living?
I work as a teacher for an international preschool for 1 to 6 year olds. The students are all Japanese natives, but the parents wish for them to be fluent in English before they reach elementary school. It’s a fully immersive experience for the kids- I teach them everything from maths to PE. It’s a pretty full-on job but the kids are super cute and I get nice long holidays.
Jesse works at an English conversation cafe, where locals come to either learn or practice their English speaking skills. She tells me that she has a great boss and loves her job, so there’s no complaints coming from her!
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I will Skype someone from my family about once a week, sometimes less often depending on how busy I/they are. Jesse is in constant communication with her family and friends via Whatsapp, Snapchat or Facebook- I can’t get her off the bloody things!
4. What’s your favorite thing about being an expat in Fukuoka?
We love living in a hip and happening city. After living in quite a quiet English town its exciting to be surrounded by so much to do and get involved with- including karaoke of course.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Fukuoka?
Not easily being able to find western food in the supermarkets. I miss being able to buy a block of cheese, and Jesse misses things like humous and falafel.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss going to the pub and watching the football. The time difference is a real problem if I want to watch any UK evening games, as I either have to wake up at 3am or record the match and wait until the next day to watch it
(whilst avoiding the internet and any conversations that may potentially reveal the results). Jesse misses her family.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I was fortunate enough to have made friends in Fukuoka the first time I came in 2010, so we were able to meet up with them and they helped us get orientated around the city. Also, at work I made an amazing friend who
helped us rent an apartment, get mobile phones and internet contracts, and furnish our apartment. Another great way to meet locals and integrate was to join a local church, Lifehouse Fukuoka.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The strangest thing about Japan is how they let children as young as 6 get public transport and walk around on their own. However, each child has a phone with a GPS and alarm built-in, and everyone is extremely vigilant and
keeps an eye on the children.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
The Japanese are not nearly as odd and perverted as Western media can sometimes portray them to be. Sure, we all love watching Takeshi’s Castle and seeing the cosplayers of Harajuku, but the only places in Japan that
you’ll find a used-underwear vending machine is in some seedy and illegal sex club.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived
in and how has that made a difference?
The cost of living is dramatically lower in Japan than in the UK. This means that we were able to get a great deal on an apartment by paying a year’s rent upfront with our savings (this would have been very much impossible back in the UK). Also, as the cost of eating out at a restaurant is much the same as cooking at home, we are able to wine and dine to our hearts’ content.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Learn the language (or at least a bit). If you can’t read the menu, ask for directions, or chat to a local you’ll never know what food you didn't get to try, where you didn’t get to go, or who you didn’t get to meet. Japanese
in particular can seem quite daunting to learn but just keep at it- sign up to community language lessons, get involved with a language exchange partner and just keep practicing, you won’t regret it.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
We started our blog just before leaving for Japan, originally as a way for our family and friends to keep an eye on what we were doing. But now we hope it can offer advice and insight for others who may be thinking about
Japan as a potential new home, or a great place for a holiday.
James & Jesse's Blog, Turning Japanese
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