Nandie: Novel Metropolis
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Tokyo, etc.
I go by Nandie, and I’m from Canada. I moved to Tokyo over four years ago and I work as a Freelance English teacher and Journalist.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging before I even came to Japan. I’d hoped it would open up some opportunities for me as a journalist, and it sure did! I’ve written for some of Tokyo’s top English magazines, and even been featured on the Travel Channel.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I think my most useful entry is on what it’s like to live as a black woman in 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?
When I first came to Tokyo, I was so excited to be here there was no room for culture shock. But after a few months I started to realize how different the Japanese communication style is. A lot of it is very much on you. You need to be able to pick up on cues that you’re doing something wrong. For example I wore a very classy, yet red coat (not blazer, but winter coat which I took off at the start of the lesson) to the office of a student. Under that was my usual grey work blazer, dress shirt and dress pants. My student commented, “Oh wow, your coat is so red!” That was my cue to wear an understated black coat to class next time.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Tokyo? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
If I could do it all over, I’d have just forked over the money for a Japanese course. It’s not impossible to get by without Japanese in Tokyo, in fact it’s pretty easy. I know people who have lived here for over ten years and are still beginners. My Japanese is not as good as I want it to be because it’s hard to fit studying in with working, and many people in Tokyo speak English. Unless you make a concentrated effort, you don’t actually have to speak that much Japanese. So if I had taken the course from home, I’d have more confidence with regard to speaking with native Japanese speakers.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I have a funny story about a horrible abomination of a sandwich that the Japanese came up with.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Tokyo?
- Learn hiragana and katakana (the two phonetic Japanese alphabets), and the first 1000 most common words in kanji.
- Take deodorant, toothpaste and medicine as they’re weaker in Japan.
- Bring lots of work shoes and clothes, since sizes are smaller here.
How is the expat community in Tokyo? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Blogging and twitter played a huge part in helping me connect with the expat community in Japan, especially the black community. It’s small, with six degrees of separation between everyone.
How would you summarize your expat life in Tokyo in a single, catchy sentence?
Learning the language of life in a novel metropolis.