Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Japan Files ~ When Concerns Come Creeping In

It’s exciting, isn’t it? To be moving to another country to live and work for a minimum of one year. The idea of experiencing a completely different world, of trying to integrate into a new culture, and having to adopt a completely different lifestyle in addition to new rules and conduct sounds like a giant adventure. And in my family, this is quite a big deal because I know for certain – that on my mum’s side anyway – no one in my family has ever attempted to do something quite so radical. And with such a big deal comes a huge amount of thought and preparation. In fact, there is so much information out there that it’s a little bit difficult for me to narrow everything down. In fact, my brain is doing some serious overtime right now trying to make sense of what I need to do before I move, who I need to speak to, how I intend to get myself out there and above all how I intend to survive. But as the cogs in my head keep turning, there is a part of me that’s raising alarm bells. Because in fact, the first emotion I got after that lengthy period of “this doesn’t quite feel so real yet” was nervousness. Because the control freak in me is currently yelling a thousand obscenities because she can’t relax. She has a million and one worries about her journey to Japan and what won’t, might and probably will be in store for her so allow me to offload:

Language Barrier

I’m so used to be surrounded by foreign language speakers in the UK but I’ve never been that foreign language speaker myself and with the limited Japanese that I have, I’m royally screwed if I don’t pick up some of the lingo sharpish. I’m aware that in the cities, there are people who are keen to use their English but I’m not going to rely on that. I intend to come to Japan and as a gaikokujin living in Japan, it is only right that I learn some Japanese.

What I’ve noticed amongst my foreign language friends and colleagues is that at times they can become frustrated at not being able to communicate as they’d like. And even though I try to reassure them, I realise that their issues with their inability to communicate are quickly going to become mine. But rather than smile about my apparent lack of Japanese language ability, I foresee myself kicking myself in the shin at not being able to grasp the language fast enough and therefore, not being able to perform every day activities, such as grocery shopping, to a satisfactory standard.

Health Trauma

It’s inevitable. Every year at some point, I get sick. It’s usually in the form of a cold and in more rare cases, a migraine or upset stomach. So I’m gonna need to go to the chemist or see a doctor but how do you explain to someone what’s wrong with you and what you need when you don’t have a common language between you? I’ve heard that in some hospitals, some doctors are bilingual which is great but I can’t expect this really. I’m gonna need to pick up some medical-related words fast.

Money Matters

For some strange reason, my mind’s on my money. I mean I have the money I need; the problem is getting it over there. The easiest way is to bring cash but walking around with thousands of pounds just doesn’t seem plausible to me. I don’t even like walking around with £100. I might carry £30 if I’m going out for the evening or £200 if I’m undergoing some serious retail therapy but this is only because I know the money is going to disappear quite quickly. On average however, I never carry more than £10 a pop in general and I don’t usually withdraw more unless I run out. So yes, basically, I dislike carrying big money and what’s ironic is that I am well aware that Japan is a huge cash populace. Cards aren’t accepted as often as they are here in the UK so I’m going to have the shake this comfort fast.

In terms of the initial overhaul however, I could go down the route of Traveller’s Checks but I realise I know very little about them and am aware that they’re only accepted at banks or at the post office. I could bring my card but I don’t fancy being taxed through the roof for each transaction. Any other option just doesn’t seem attractive to me so I’m going to have to ponder on this one further

Social Damnation

I can be a rather antisocial person at times. I don’t always desire to go out and spend time with people. Sometimes I like being in the comfort of my own home and I often appreciate a lazy day in. But despite this, I’m not a complete recluse. I do crave social interactions and that leads me to my next concern with regards to making friends and attempting to establish a social life. What if I end up on my own a little too much? What if I find it difficult to throw myself even more so out of my comfort zone and what if via doing this, others find me unapproachable? It’s like a double-edged sword really.

Job Strain

In all the jobs I’ve worked in, there have been good times and bad times. Fundamentally, however, I have worked jobs that I’ve loved more than I’ve hated and vice versa. But the fact still stands. A job’s a job and no day will ever truly be the same. But my fear is what if I hate it? I like kids and when I was a kid myself, I often played with the younger children because I found them much more amusing than my classmates. But now I’m older and my experience with children has dwindled. I have no kids of my own and I’m not as maternal as I probably should be. I don’t want to do a bad job however. I wanna become great at it but the issue still stands. What if it becomes a little too much for me?

House Troubles

It’s no secret that Japanese homes are small. The counters are lower, the fridges are tiny and everything’s compact – or at least it will be when I move into my studio apartment. I don’t doubt I’ll be in some sort of apartment complex but I’m a tall woman by Japanese standards and also, a little heavy-handed (and footed too). My first concern is that I’ll break something. I’m not usually so clumsy but I’m much more used to wider spaces. My second concern is my neighbours. I had problems with my neighbours here in the UK who kept playing their music at ridiculous hours mid-week. What if I get horrible neighbours, or better yet, what if my neighbours don’t like me? My last concern in this category is the refuse system. Apparently, Japan have rather strict laws on separating rubbish whereas in the UK, recycling and the like is optional. Certainly, it’s better for the environment but most of us are a lazy people and we gather up all our waste into a black bag, chuck it in the council provided bins outside and wait for the bin men to collect them every week. What if I just can’t grasp it?

Japan Anxieties

Of the people I’ve come into contact with and of some of the blogs I’ve read, most people have talked about Japan favourably but with every situation in life, nothing is truly perfect. Some people have had their reservations while others have flat out hated their experiences but what both these types of people have in common is one denominator: culture shock. I aware of the four stages of culture shock and I’m also, aware that I’m guaranteed to experience it, but what concerns me is that I might end up staying in the Negotiation Stage whereby the frustrations of living in Japan become really apparent to the point that I just can’t hack it. I’m aware of some of the differences already (has anyone heard of the giant crackdown on dancing in nightclubs?) so in a sense, I expect them but I’m sure there are some customs and practises that I don’t know about or mightn’t become accustomed to.


I’m sure I have more worries (for example, shipping things over to myself and/or back home to the UK) but the above are my main areas for the moment. For some of them, I’m steadily getting my head around how I’m going to have to do things but I fully intend to revist this entry some time next year as an update to how I managed to conquer them or become conquered by them.

Here’s hoping for the former.


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