Joanna: Joanna Mary
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Tokyo, etc.
I am British and I moved to Tokyo in August 2012 with my husband. This is our third expatriate assignment and we have previously lived in Mumbai and Hong Kong.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I began blogging about yoga and spirituality but I soon discovered that people were very curious about expatriate life and, more recently, I have started to share our overseas experience. For many people, a relocation overseas prompts many questions about their life purpose so I feel that the two subjects are inextricably linked.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
This post called A River Goddess Ritual is about one of my favourite hot spring destinations; another is how I felt during my first few weeks in Tokyo, and finally the one that I wrote when I was packing up our apartment in Mumbai to move to Tokyo.
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?
This is my second time living in Japan. I first came here in 1998 on a student exchange program and attended a Japanese university for a year. I wasn’t expecting to experience culture shock this time around but I was surprised to have to make one of the biggest adjustments of our expatriate life! We came here from Mumbai and the contrast between the two cities is enormous! I feel like we went from one extreme to the other!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Tokyo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing! As this was our third international move, I felt very prepared and my familiarity with Japan was of great benefit to me. I was thrilled to come back to Japan because I love it here!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I have many anecdotes from our life in India and there are too many to mention here! I am in the process of writing a book about it so you’ll have to stay tuned for that! As for some anecdotes about Japan, I am proud to say that I once stopped traffic in Kita-Kyushu wearing a miniskirt! I also switched on the Christmas lights at LaForet in Kokura. That was definitely a highlight!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Tokyo?
- Learn some Japanese. Even if you only learn a few pleasantries, it makes a world of difference and will give you some precious moments interacting with people.
- Don’t be afraid to try Japanese food. I am passionate about Japanese cuisine and there is nothing more frustrating than a fearful and fussy expatriate who won’t try new things.
- Take a dip in at least one outdoor hot spring. You’ll never look back!
How is the expat community in Tokyo? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
If you have children, there is a tight expatriate community here that revolves around school life. We are expecting our first child at the moment so we have yet to experience that side of Tokyo. However, I have been able to meet other first time Mums through Tokyo Pregnancy Group. In addition, we have met many other expatriates through professional organizations and clubs. In my experience, the best way to meet Japanese people is through a shared hobby or common interest. I met people through practicing yoga and taking cookery classes.
How would you summarize your expat life in Tokyo in a single, catchy sentence?
Delicious, cute and happy.