Jun 22, 2016
Another of the common questions you get from Japanese people as well as friends and family when you’ve decided to make Japan your home away from home. So how long will you be in Japan?
What they mean is: "Are you gonna bail on me / Am I ever gonna see you again?"
I usually say forever (when students ask), unless I’m being honest (at interviews for example), then I say at least two or three more years.
Of course, it depends on some factors, but if nothing crazy happens, I’ll be here a while. It’s way too expensive to move back and forth or even to another place in Japan. Not to mention all the paperwork, changing addresses, and starting over in a new community.
I feel like I’m just starting to meet people with similar interests living in my new city, after being here for almost six months. When I moved to Japan the first time, it took longer, but by then I was preparing to move again. It takes some effort to leave the house and try to meet people. Making those contacts is important for staying anywhere long term. When we can’t make friends or connect with anyone, life can get depressing.
It’s in your best interest to stay put for those connections, but also so you aren’t leaving just as you’re getting used to things in Japan/people are getting used to you being there. It really makes sense that employers can benefit from less turnover (cost of finding, hiring, and training good people), plus students probably don’t like their teacher changing all the time. It takes small kids a little time to get comfortable with new people, and even longer for adults to warm up to new people. (Please don't take this to mean that teaching English in Japan is a stable and/or long term career, because it's not. At all.)
If possible, you want everyone to think well of you and be willing help you out in the event that you need help. If your neighbors are scared to say good morning to you and everyone seems shy and avoids talking to you, they’re probably just worried you can’t speak Japanese. More likely they’re scared you’ll speak to them in English and they will have to use English (scary). When we initiate conversations and practice the Japanese aisatsu (greetings), this helps show that we understand the culture.
At the same time, be yourself (and also respectful).
Don’t force yourself to act like an extrovert when you’re not (guilty).
When people hear that you aren’t ~ (insert generic stereotype about foreigners from your country) but love ~ (insert something you love that Japanese people know well), they’ll want to meet you!
So how long are you in Japan for? Have you decided? How will/did you find a community of friends in your city? Are you open to changing your mind when the unexpected happens? (It probably will.)
PS: More random ajisai (hydrangea) photos as it’s the season.
Originally published on my helloalissa blog here.