Oct 23, 2018
I have had plenty of bad experiences in Japan but the worst experience had to be at the unemployment office.
I had just had my son. I think he may have been 2 months old by then. I had had an absolutely awful birth and so my body was really really torn up. I had heard that if you didn't apply for unemployment benefits within 3 months of your job ending then you would no longer be eligible to receive them.
When I went to talk to HelloWork, the name of the unemployment office here in Japan, I first went to the one in a different town because I thought that I would need it to be there if I wanted to work in that area. But because I live in a different region they politely told me to go to the office that oversees such matters in my town.
It isn't too far of a walk from the station. I brought my son with me because there was no one to watch him and my husband was at work. It was an awfully hot and sweaty day though, so I was glad to finally arrive at the place, but then they told me I had to go back outside and across the street. This was where the foreign help center was. The majority of the foreigners who live in in my town are Brazilian. This means that most of the foreign residents will be speaking Portuguese. Staff helping foreigners at the HelloWork office only spoke Japanese or Portuguese. That was mostly okay because I understand enough Japanese. Or so I thought. This was probably the start of where something went wrong because I didn't 100% understand what the staff was talking about.
It's partly my fault because I didn't really understand what unemployment insurance is. I especially didn't understand how it works. I just knew that because I wasn't employed anymore I was entitled to certain amount of money back as long as I was willing to work. But I had gone to HelloWork mostly to figure out whether or not I was willing to work and if not, then how to defer the unemployment benefits. Turns out just getting through the HelloWork experience was enough to turn me off of wanting to work at all, ever again.
The lady at the foreign help desk told me that many people wound up just looking for work but they don't actually have to work -- they can do interviews and they can search for work and still get the money so that's what I should do. This is how she put me through filling out part of my paperwork -- she was basically wanting me to cheat the system but I didn't really understand this at the time.
I was then sent upstairs to fill out the rest of the paperwork and to talk to an actual agent. As soon as I pulled the number to wait the lady went away and left me there to fill everything out.
There were three caseworkers helping, two men and one woman. The number that I took wound up leaving me with one of the men. He was clearly very young and very new. He kept asking questions to the man next to him who, in turn, was very irritated.
I signed all the papers and went through everything so that I would get my 'unemployment.' I still wasn't really sure what was going on when they told me to come back for the seminar. That was when I realized that I had done something I didn't want to do.
When I got home I realized that I had actually only wanted to be able to defer my my application so that I could apply for it whenever I was actually ready to work. I read in the booklet that they gave me that I could because I had just given birth and I could put it off for 3 years. Once my son turned 3, I wouldn't be able to receive it anymore. But that was okay with me because I really wasn't able to work right away. I had tried to get out of it and I tried to explain that that was what I wanted to do. My husband even had someone from his work who is Japanese come with me to try to explain it to them.
The younger man, who was my caseworker, seemed to not know what to do and the older man sitting next to him was listening and got very angry with me. He wound up yelling at me telling me that I should be able to understand him, making me have a panic attack. I had my son strapped to me at the time. I went home with the promise to just come back to the seminar and go through that first.
On the day of the seminar, I went to try to talk to the man to ask him if there was any way that I could defer my application for unemployment. He got very angry at me saying that I was holding up the seminar and that I was late coming to it. He was also very angry at me that I didn't understand Japanese. I kept telling him to stop yelling at me but ended up having another panic attack.
I remember him saying that I should be able to understand Japanese because I taught Japanese a Japanese school. This was misinformation. The man was seeming to just make excuses for why he was angry. I didn't know what else to do so I just sat in the seminar crying the whole 2 hours.
Afterwards I tried to go and talk again except this time I refused to talk to the man. They set me up with the female caseworker instead. She was super polite and just told me that all I had to do was sign a couple of papers, send some files later on and that was that.
All of the problems that I encountered with this unemployment office are rooted in a bunch of different aspects of Japanese culture. One of them being the hierarchy meaning the older man was supposed to teach the younger man except he seemed to be very irritated that he had to do this and he wound up taking it out on me.
Another aspect is that most people, if there is some sort of mess up, would rather try to work their way around it so that it doesn't seem like anyone messed up, even if it means putting someone out. Me accidentally signing the contract papers before I knew what was going on probably made it so that they had just a little bit more paperwork that they had to do and someone had to admit that there was a mistake along the way.
Admitting mistakes is just not something that you do. So, instead, the man was trying to twist it to seem like I knew what was going on, so there was no mistake, and I was just trying to be difficult.
If you think about it, the original mistake was from the woman who was supposed to be helping me as a foreigner. I went for information and she wound up pushing me to try to cheat the system. Once I figured out that that's what she was trying to do I didn't want to do it. Luckily. in the end everything worked out so that I was able to just deter my my application for unemployment.
However, now I'm absolutely terrified of this place. If I ever do need to start applying for help to try to look for a job, I really hope that it's okay for me to go to a different town.
American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too