Sep 29, 2018

When loved ones visit: A choice between salary and sanity

When loved ones visit: A choice between salary and sanity photo

For most of us, probably the first feeling that we get whenever we receive news of friends or family coming over is that of sheer joy. Excitement immediately comes after. However, let us also admit: the next thoughts and feelings that would hound us are those of frustration and stress. Frustration because of our inability to spend as much time as we’d like with them due to work, and stress because of so many reasons, including the one that causes the frustration.

The frustration of having to prioritize work above family and personal interests often comes from financial needs, especially if these include sending remittances to your home country. For these people who have families to support back home, the pressure of ensuring consistency in their remittances is so huge that they prefer to neglect their own physical and mental well-being just to fulfill those “needs”, which are sometimes more of “wants” and demands.

Add to that the popular opinion that Japan has a strong work-centered culture, making it extremely difficult for an employee to take longer days off to be with his or her loved ones. If he does, the feeling of guilt (for either causing work process delays or for causing a colleague to do double work in his absence) could sometimes take him away from being fully present with his loved ones.

As for stress, maybe this feeling is the same across countries, but perhaps what makes the situation peculiar to Japan is the lack of space in our residences to accommodate our visiting friends and family. Though their time with us would just be limited, those few weeks could still be an ordeal because we would temporarily have to bear with the crowdedness of our own home and the noise that even the tiniest movements can make.

However, much as their visits would bring about a certain degree of pressure and mental strain, it cannot be denied that we need our loved ones to keep ourselves - at the very least - sane. The joy and love they provide us by being physically present easily gets us back on track whenever we reach low points in our lives here in Japan. Or, it helps us to remember why we continue to commit to living our lives in the best ways we know how.

Thus, if you really look at it, part of the challenge of living abroad (especially here in Japan) is constantly striking a balance between our financial and our emotional (and even mental) needs. It's a moment to moment choice between the salary we get to earn, and our precious sanity.



A teacher by profession, yet always a student of life. Currently living in Kanto, but in love with Kyushu.