Aug 9, 2019
To many people, expat life can seem glamorous - you get the privilege of living in a foreign country, which seems to conjure up images of a life that's lived on vacation all the time. One thing that people often don't take into consideration are the various costs that come with being an expat.
For our family, there's been the financial cost of moving half way around the world. We've had to purge items from back home to have space to reside in Japanese houses. That has meant either selling stuff at a massive discount to get rid of it, or giving it away altogether. Bye, comfortable sectional sofas...there was just no way they were going to work for us where we live right now.
Then there's the costs that come with simple logistical things like flying all the way here (unless you're lucky enough to have a company do that for you!), flying back home for visits, keeping stuff in storage if you haven't sold all your stuff, re-buying all the stuff that you sold to come here, buying stuff you never needed before just to ensure your stuff here survives (de-humidifiers, I'm looking at you), and costs for visas among other things.
The costs aren't just monetary though. It's not as bad for me with my loved ones being back in Australia - since we're basically straight down there's not a big time difference between here and back home. For my husband however who's from the States, the time difference makes it harder to link up with friends and family at convenient times. Missed calls on Skype or FaceTime often happen when we're fast asleep, and whilst it's doable of course to keep in touch, it's much harder when you're factoring in timezone differences.
Another emotional cost that we've found is that we never feel like we truly fit in here. We're like that incorrect puzzle piece that you try and jam in - even if we try to assimilate we stand out. Since we live in the countryside, we regularly get asked by people where we come from - and when our daughter proudly exclaims "Japan!" they laugh at her. Not maliciously (I don't think!) but in a "she's clearly not what your average Japanese individual looks like" kind of way. I hope that kind of attitude changes in the future, but we will see.
What costs have you gone through - financial or otherwise - to enjoy life as an expat in Japan? Have you found those costs to be worth it overall?
After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!
The big one for me is family reunion. In 20 years in Japan, I’ve seen my family members maybe 10 times. That’s pretty good, right? It’s expensive for me to visit them. My family members don’t believe me when I say airfare to Japan and cost of living is low. I’ve even got space to put them up, so it’s a cheap holiday. But they buy the hype that Japan is expensive.