InterNations Featured Blog
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Japan, etc.
My name is Rei, and I am ethnically Puerto Rican but born and raised in the USA. I moved to Japan in July 2012 to teach English.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
My first post on was published in June 2014. I began to blog as a way to share my experiences and discoveries in Japan.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My first two entries are actually my favorites. They are both topics that I feel strongly about and that I felt I could give some insight into.
The first is titled “Gay and Expat in Japan: An Introduction”. I wanted to create an informative resource for those who want an overview of the present state of Japan in regards to LGBT individuals.
The second touches upon the controversial topic of Japanese microagressions towards non-Japanese people in Japan. It’s called “Microaggressions or Macroparanoia?: Discrimination in Japan”, and I wrote it as a way to calm the nerves of those worried about potential xenophobia in Japan.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Japan differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Back in the USA, I was a university student, and I was set to work in Japan upon graduating. Therefore, my first full-time job is here in Japan teaching English.
The challenges I had when I first arrived here were less about Japan and more about just learning how to balance my work and personal life and live on my own. I don’t believe I experienced much culture shock.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Japan? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think that I was adequately prepared. Nothing can fully prepare you for the unexpected things that you will experience abroad, but it helped that I came to Japan with no expectations. I decided that I would just experience things as they come and approach new experiences or challenges calmly.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
When I visited my workplace for the first time, it was about 35 degrees Celsius on the first of August, and I was in a full suit. Japanese summers are known for being brutally hot and unforgivingly humid. Classes weren’t in session, but even though I wouldn’t be giving my formal introduction to the teachers and students for a few weeks, they decided to take my jet lagged and sweaty self around the school to meet all of the staff members present. I remember bowing so much that I felt like a bobblehead doll. I appreciated their enthusiasm for my arrival, but I had to relearn all of their names over the next few weeks, because at the end of the day, I could barely remember any!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Japan?
- Thanks to Japanese soft power, Japan is very well known throughout the world. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about Japan due to both the image it tries to project abroad as well as from non-Japanese people’s impressions of Japanese culture. I suggest that future expats experience Japan for themselves with an open mind before making any generalizations.
- Second, if you’re going to live here for any period of time, try to learn some Japanese. You can get by with travel phrases and gestures or occasionally can find a Japanese speaker of English, but you’ll make better connections with Japanese people and feel more connected to your surroundings if you learn the language.
- Third, while you don’t have to try to “become Japanese” please try to follow Japanese social rules as best you can. It will be greatly appreciated by Japanese people and other expats alike.
How is the expat community in Japan? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I have made some wonderful, worldly and supportive friends here in Japan, and I think that most of the expats that I’ve come across have been friendly. However, depending on the city, it may be hard to find other expats, and in the countryside, you may be the only expat around.
My only warning is to be wary of expats that aren’t well adjusted or are suffering from culture shock. Some people come here with fixed expectations of what life in Japan will be like, and if it falls short of these expectations, they may feel the need to constantly attack the culture. Especially if you’re just arriving in Japan, coming in contact with bitter or negative expats is not how you want to start things off.
How would you summarize your expat life in Japan in a single, catchy sentence?
Introspective meditation on countryside trains.