André: The Rising Sky
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Tokyo, etc.
My name is André Moreira, I'm 23, and I come from Mafra, Portugal. I first came to Tokyo as a tourist in August 2011 so I could have my first impressions of the country, and then came back to study Japanese for one year starting in April 2012. After graduating my Japanese Language School, I entered the Japan Electronics College to take a professional course of Computer Graphics, which I will be graduating in March 2015. Now looking for a job!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I first started blogging so I could tell my adventures to my family and friends. It was quite fun because it became kind of a diary where I could record whatever I thought was worth recording. It was my personal space. However I started thinking that I could make more of it by helping others, either by introducing the Japan I knew, or by giving advice on life in Japan and other things foreigners might want to know. And that's how my blog is today, mixing my personal experiences and adventures here, as well as a database with a little bit of everything about Japan!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Well, personally I very much enjoy writing the last post of the year, where I think about all the events that took place and how they changed me. I have only written that post twice, in 2012 and 2013. You can access both below:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Tokyo differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
In the beginning, it was a bit complicated to adapt to everything, as this is a completely different society when compared to the one I was living in. When I entered my Japanese Language School, I applied for a home stay program the school had, and that way I had a Japanese family to live with who helped me a lot with my daily life. It was also thanks to them that I was able to visit a lot of new places, meet a lot of new people, and have a lot of new experiences. With the new school where I am now, I had to move, but thanks to them I got quite used to the country, and I can do everything by myself now.
I think everyone experiences culture shock one way or another, and I'm no exception. There are a lot of things Japanese people do that we back in Portugal/Europe don't, and vice-versa. However I think the most important thing is to know how to adapt to the environment you are in, while keeping your own values and ideas.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Tokyo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No, I wasn't! In fact, I may still not be! And that's just fine!
There are still a lot of things that I have to learn, some things I don't understand, and some things I will never understand, but that's just the way it is. When I was back in Portugal it was just about the same. So no, I wouldn't have changed any preparations or decisions. Even if I made some mistakes, it's through them that you grow.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Well, it's not quite an anecdote but sometime after I moved here I had a funny experience. I went to the bank, and when I got out, there was an old lady carrying some shopping bags and trying to take out her bicycle (there were a lot parked there). By accident, while taking out her bicycle, another bicycle fell, and I helped her by putting the bicycle back up, to what she thanked me with a smile. I then took my bicycle and went home. However along the way, the same old lady called me back and came to give me a sports drink for having helped her with the bicycle. I was really happy to see her sincerely thanking with a so warm smile, and whatever bad things happened that day, I completely forgot.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Tokyo?
- Learn some Japanese. You don't need to be at a fluent level, but knowing the basis, some grammar and vocabulary will help you engage with others in conversation, and make the most of your stay in Japan.
- If you can, make friends through international exchanges or websites. It will be good to have someone you know, whom you can count on in case you need help. You can also hang out, and meet friends of your friends, which will broaden your network.
- Apply for a Japanese Language School. It will improve your Japanese ability and you will have help in thinking about your future and the best ways to proceed to new challenges.
How is the expat community in Tokyo? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
In my Japanese Language School, my classmates were, obviously, all foreigners, so in that period I had a lot of contact with them. Of course I still maintain contact with some of my best friends from then, but the school where I am now is attended mostly by Japanese, so my circle of friends is from Japan. Before coming to Japan I also had made some Japanese friends through the internet, and I still hang out with them.
How would you summarize your expat life in Tokyo in a single, catchy sentence?
Work hard, be thankful.