Jun 18, 2019
When I look back to my first few years in Japan, I can only liken it to the honeymoon stage in any relationship. In my eyes, this country could do no wrong.
"The public transport runs on time to the minute!"
"People here are so polite and kind!"
"It's so safe here - I can leave my wallet on a table and never have to worry about it being pinched!"
Sound familiar? I'm sure we've all been there - the rose colored glasses effect. Now, edging into my 7th year in Japan, I've got to say that I've been in a bit of a funk lately when it comes to life here. My glowing remarks have turned into a disgruntled demeanor, and my inner monologue sounds more like this:
"I just waited three hours for a medical appointment - you are kidding me, right?"
"Why is everyone here so passive aggressive?!"
"This would NEVER have happened back home!"
I don't want to feel like I'm in a funk all the time, and I certainly don't want to have the time in Japan pass me by, only to miss it at a later stage.
If you're feeling down in the dumps as an expat in Japan and you're quite frankly over it, here's how to get your mojo back.
Remember that back home isn't Utopia either
Often it's easy to romanticize what you don't have - the old "grass is greener on the other side" effect. When I find myself getting into the mindset of telling myself that everything back home is better, sometimes I just log onto news websites from my home country to understand it's not.
Sure, I might be able to get into medical appointments on time back home, but I definitely wouldn't chance leaving a bag or purse on a table to save my spot. Perspective helps.
Visit somewhere in Japan that you've always wanted to
When I find myself getting "bleh" with my feelings towards Japan, I find that a change of scenery can help. This is a big country with lots to see and do, and embracing that can reinvigorate me. Particularly in the winter months in Niigata, getting out of snow country for a while helps my mind reset -- I truly believe that weather affects my mood in a huge way.
It might be an exhibition at a local museum, a fun cafe you've been itching to try, or exploring a brand new prefecture. Get out for a bit if your circumstances and budget can allow for it.
Redefine your expectations
Ever heard the saying that goes "expectation is the root of all heartache"? I relate to this in a big way. Anywhere in the world that you live is going to have pros and cons. Assuming that life in Japan isn't ever going to irritate me is wildly unrealistic and remembering this fact helps.
Remember that as an expat, you ultimately have options
This is a big one. As expats we're generally either here temporarily or have the option to move back home. Sure, it can be a lot to consider (particularly if your spouse is Japanese, you have children in Japanese schools etc), but if you're really struggling, heading home is always an option. Sometimes a reset gives you that fresh perspective that Japan is alright, after all.
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!
Great reminders for non-Japanese residents who’ve been here for only a year or nearly a lifetime! I follow radio news (CBC and BBC both have podcasts and streaming radio) from the old countries to stay on top of what my friends and family are experiencing. And the greatest antidote I’ve found is travel within Japan. The last trip was a brief but refreshing visit to Nasushiobara for onsen, fresh air, and great food. I find planning getaways is a lot of fun, and there is evidence to suggest that taking even a brief vacation has a significant impact on your quality of life. Pop psych, but maybe insightful is this article - https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/lifetime-connections/201807/you-really-do-need-vacation
The 7 year itch perhaps!? "Expectation is the root of all evil" I had actually never heard that before, but I feel there is a truth in that. Around my very own 7th year in Japan a realignment of expectations and increasing my level of acceptance were key in helping me get over the 7 year itch. Great piece, as always.