View Full Version : The long term game.......is it possible to play and win or a
2003-04-03, 11:56 AM
Hey how you all doin.
I was recommended this site as a resource by one of my old Aikido students doing Tefl out in Nagasaki. So far in terms of locating accomodation its been spot on. I have some very useful advice from a few regulars that use the site. Thankyou very much to them I do truly appreciate that.
Its two o'clock in the morning here in the Uk and I have something on my mind. You may agree with it you may not but what the hell you were bored enough to read the start of this post give it a chance.
Ok here goes I have a a couple of points to make the first is fairly self evident. As an estimate 90% of the guys and girls reading this will be Aussies, Kiwis, yanks, or pommies within the age range of say 20-29. 10% will be other Europeans or English speakers from the first catagory who are probably between 30 and say 35+. Some of you will be nodding some will be trying to find an exception or two to my model. You won't as most people beyond that age are planning kids or have long term partners not keen to move to Japan.
What does this mean? It means that most readers of this post as much as they would have you believe otherwise have had similar upbringings probably with a university education featuring in there at some point. Like a group of people wearing "I'm different T-shirts" we are all essentially the same. Passionatly Liberal intellectuals who have travelled about a bit and are 'a bit worldly wise' or would like to be.
By virtue of this it means the community on the whole is very insular in both opinion and outlook. I feel this is the point you will perhaps disagree with me the most on as it hurts. However, hard as it may be ignore the protests of your ego for a sec and have good think about it.
Point two most of us will not be going 'native' i.e. not spending anymore than two or three years max in Japan.
Point three as most of the individuals here are between certain ages most of the problems are essentially the same and the solutions are no different from any of the problem pages in glossy magazines in the Uk, states, NZ, or OZ.
However, its not the average reader I am interested in. I am interested in the individuals who have been in Japan for a few years i.e. 10 years plus. If they have been living and working in Japan for this amount of time do they feel they have truly been accepted into the communities they live and work in or are they forever gai jin? If not what makes them stay?
I am raising this point because I became accutely aware of it recently during a conversation with a drunk anthropologist at a party in Bristol. She said something interesting and it was this. The lady in question was in her forties and had three friends. These three friends all began work in Japan some 15 years previously. All without exception have tried to return to the UK. The reason stated for this was a feeling of isolation and seemingly a lack of belonging to any community. Probably by then the worry of aged parents in the Uk also contributed but that was not mentioned.
However, all the individuals in question faced problems trying to reintergrate back into living and working in the UK. For one thing the time they spent working for companies in Japan counted for little on the UK job market. They found themselves having to compete for lower paid jobs against younger individuals. Essentially they found themselves no longer English and not Japanese either. The take home message from the toasted social scientist was this stay but don't stay past two or three years.
So whats my point? My point is I was born dumb and if I like the Tokyo I would like to see if I can buck the trend and go native. However, the thing is this is that is it possible to play the long term game and win. Is it possible to be completely accepted into a Japanese community or to the Japanese will you always just be 'gai jin aka Johnny foreigner' even after 10 years plus? I would very much like to here from anyone who has been here a while and find out if they are getting second thoughts or if times have changed.
There hows that long, boring, and full of bull. However, makes a change from I am a young white guy new in Tokyo and desperate to get laid how do I meet Japanese girls stupid enough to sleep with me though I speak little Japanese.....or the equally stupid female equivilant.
2003-04-03, 02:03 PM
You are always a gaijin here, even if you take Japanese citizenship and wave your passport. As in Thailand you are always a farang, or a gwailoh or gwaipoh in China. We just look different! The issues of being a less outstanding long-term Asian, or Middle-Easterner or South American in Japan are rather different, and their challenges and complaints are a little different.
However, there are many advantages of being a foreigner. We are not expected to perform the social rites of Japanese, introductions, niceties, etc., we are forgiven (outwardly) for indiscretions that would ostracise the locals, and we are able to behave in ways that would make them inwardly cringe.
You can be accepted to a greater or lesser degree, but that is dependent on how you behave as an individual, as well as your foreign attributes. I own a business, and get the same credit, contract terms, etc., as locals, though my paperwork is in Japanese which also makes clients feel comfortable. I do have enough written and spoken language to support that, which also makes a favourable impression. I do not wear a kimono or obi, have no great love of Japanese food, and whilst adapting and integrating to life here, I have not sold my soul.
But, life anywhere is what you make it. You decide your own comfort level. Some people need to have roots, others do not, and as a child I moved around a lot, and got used to being pulled out of friendships and classes to move elsewhere. Can remember at least 25 addresses to date. Maybe it is easier for me. The family have also enjoyed moving around.
I came here in my late 30s, later than most, but recruited for a specific position that needed both acadamic quals, extensive experience and language skills; not a spring chicken with a degree with wet ink. After promotions, being headhunted and then "restructured", I stayed for the challenge of running my own business, the higher income that I can get here, and the more interesting work that I can perform, though I could go to Europe tomorrow and walk into any number of jobs. Stay here for ever, probably not, as arthritis and WRULD takes its toll, so a move to a warmer climate would be good.
Remember it's your life - what you do with it is up to you.
Forgot to include: 15+ years in Japan, 10+ years elsewhere, permanent resident, probably qualifies me to write. And at 2:00 this morning, I was corresponding on anti-telomere antibodies - closer to your area!
2003-04-03, 04:22 PM
I don't think I'm up for a long reply.
A long term game is certainly possible in Japan, but I've noticed that it's played mainly by gaijin that are, well, more Japanese than the Japanese. And quite happy about it, too. I don't think they have any second thoughts about it, either.
That's probably because they never fit in their community back home, or more accurately, that local they came from originally. It probably just means that somebody got born in the wrong location. :)
Now, if you want to stay in Japan, yet have no desire to become Japanese heart and soul, I'm not sure what to say to that. Because, to be honest, it doesn't make much sense unless there is an external reason for it. For instance, I've stayed much longer than I desired, but I've got work reasons and partner reasons that have been the major reason for that.
As for moving back, I've no illusions - it will be difficult. As difficult as it was to move to Japan, or if I hadn't left my home country, as difficult as it would be to move from say, the deep South of the U.S. to California. The same problem always exists in that you get used to a certain culture and way of life, and when you go somewhere else, it takes a year or more to readjust. The reason it is more difficult for people going "home" from Japan is that you are not - home existed 10 years ago. In that decade of time, things change enough to make it seem like a foreign place. It is, in a way. Since you've used your memories of "home" as a security blanket when things got rough, it's hard to take that ceased existing about 3 years after you've left.
2003-04-03, 06:55 PM
"most readers of this post as much as they would have you believe otherwise have had similar upbringings probably with a university education featuring in there at some point. "
You obviously haven't read the million postings from people who want jobs in Japan but don't have a degree! Ok, not millions, but many. And, as for having similar upbringings, I will call you on this flawed hypothesis as well. With the 10's of thousands of foreigners working in Japan, how can you possibly say they have similar upbringings?
"as most of the individuals here are between certain ages most of the problems are essentially the same and the solutions are no different from any of the problem pages in glossy magazines in the Uk, states, NZ, or OZ"
Most of the problems are the same? Show me the data.
I have no idea what kind of problems in Japan have answers in glossy magazines in other countries.
Finally, to answer your rather long-winded question, even with 4.5 years of living in Japan, I can safely say that based on experience with many others who have been here longer, that foreigners will NEVER be treated as "native" Japanese. Don't even try. You can come fairly close, but even with Japanese citizenship, you can't succeed. Just ask David Aldwinkle. Then again, why would you WANT to be that way? Don't you value your individuality?
2003-04-03, 07:55 PM
Some people make community wherever they go.
Women have a harder time at this in Japan... I wont even touch the dynamics as to why because I dont know.
I will say this... Men in Japan often falter to lechery!! :D
Interesting point however living here is still no different to living anywhere else. As stated above "it`s your life - what you do with it is up to you". I have been here only for four and half years and relatively speaking, compared to some of the regular contributors to this site, this is a short time. During which I have seen many people come here, do nothing but compare it to their home country, leave and never want to come back. Vice versa, many have come, compared it to home, stay and want to stay longer. Whether you find the postives or the negatives about where you live is purely what you make it.
A second point which I personally think has a bearing on Japanese life is your Japanese language ability. Some foreigners can speak Japanese fluently some cannot. I wonder how long the latter half stay. I graduated from a Uni here, not a particularly well know one, however I have made a conscious effort to fit into daily life - where possible that is. Because as has been said above a gaijkokujin is a gaijin from wherever you are based.
It sound as if you are based out of the UK so Alan Booth`s "The roads to Sata" is well worth a read from the viewpoint of an Englishman who lived here for almost 25 years.
Many say that "Japan is special", both the Japanese as well as the foreigners who live here. But the question that you ask applies to many countries. Once you have lived in a foreign country, are you able to re-integrate in your home country?
Before I moved to Japan (only some 1.5 years ago) have I been warned by my company. My home country will change during my stay abroad and I will not change with it. On the other hand: my time abroad will make me change in a way which is different from everybody in my home country. Do you see the mismatch emerging?
Third warning that I received: do not think that you will be received with special "egards" when you return. Most people in your home country will be interested in your stories for less than one hour and start to yawn after approximately 30 pictures. The knowledge that you gained about your host country will very often not be used after your return in your home country. Do not expect to be considered as some sort of "expert" about the country that you have temporarily lived in.
The above overview seems to be the reasons why many expatriates get frustrated once they return. Both in their personal life as well as in their professional life do they feel that they no longer "fit in" in their home country. At the same time do they realize that they do not "fit in" in the host country (Japan) in which they lived for a certain period of time.
I can not judge if this is true, as I have not yet tried to re-integrate in my home country. And this post is not intended to scare anybody from taking on a job in another country. It is only intended to warn for the difficulties that may lay ahead. I decided to go for this experience of living abroad, surrounded by a culture which is completely different from the one back home. And I don't regret making this decision.
2003-04-03, 11:40 PM
J - good comments - 'culture shock' and the even stronger 'reverse culture shock' are quite well known. Few companies adequately prepare employees ( and their families) for a period living abroad, and even less for the return. In the average 3 year contract, an employee is only really effective in the second year, and represents a large investment for the company. In Tokyo, something like 50% never complete their contracts. Hence more companies are looking at more economic and effective local hires, and a few even target those bilingual foreigners who have spent time in the country, and can act as a bridge between different knowledge sets and cultures. Those are the kinds of jobs people really desire and seek, but you need experience and language skills for them, which many newbies do not have.
However there is big difference in someone being posted abroad for a period by an employer, and those who choose to come here and seek for employment.
Motivation, needs, goals, objectives, support are very different, and make an interesting comparison.
Having lived in 4 different countries for extended periods of time, and worked in another 10 more, I do not think Japan is any more special than any other country, and in most cases foreigners here are treated quite well. Re-integration here is even more difficult for Japanese (and their families), and Tokyo English Life Line now counts Japanese as the second largest group of callers.
The more you know of the situation, the easier it is to control.
2003-04-04, 09:50 AM
No reason for posting - just love the poncey pommie name
2003-04-04, 03:00 PM
You know, a thought occured to me about being viewed as anything but a gaijin here. It comes up quite often that comment, that desire to fit in, to be part of the crowd.
But looking around, there are quite a few Japanese that are Japanese to the core, are born here, edumicated here, have lived their entire life here - and are not part of the crowd any more than the gaijin are.
The whole problem with fitting in is that, in some cases, you need to have done that from age 1 month to actually fit in. :) I think, for the rest of us, whether or not we are in our home country, or another country, just living life without worrying about our relative position is good enough. Even in my home country, when I moved to the Big City (pop. 250,000, woo hoo!), I didn't feel like I was a "local" even after 3 years - simply growing up in a totally different lifestyle, yet in the same country, can and will do that.
thank you for your additional remarks. I noticed that most expats receive some training or warning from their company before actually going abroad. They have been warned for the culture shock and the reverse culture shock. But I noticed that this topic is almost never discussed on this board when many of these newbies ask whether or not they should come and live in Japan. Also these newbies will experience a culture shock and a reverse culture shock, is my guess. Should they take this chance of a reverse culture shock into account before deciding to come here? It would be sad if a pleasant period in Japan is followed by an unpleasant period in their home country.
2003-04-04, 09:10 PM
I just wonder about the whole Going Native thing - isn't this referred to as being Hen-na-Gaijin?
While I think that it is possible to build your own small community and network of japanese friends and business associates who may in time come to accept you as part of their Japanese experience, there will always be people every day of the week who will see/encounter you for the first time and will have no idea how long you have been living here, and will see you as nothing but gaijin.
As you learn the language you will have the experience of people assuming you don't speak or understand Japanese talking about you in front of your face(eg on the trains) and telling their kids stuff like"beware of foreigners, they are really dangerous"- this has happened to me while I have been out and about with my baby for goodness sake.
However, in my experience it has been possible to build a neighborhood community. It has taken time, but people around where I live are slowly accepting me and my family as part of the neighbourhood blend. My first time in Japan, I tried really hard to fit in, and had a huge identity crisis and period of severe culture shock whenI came to realise that I just was not ever going to be accepted as a "native", because, well, I'm not. This time around has been mush easier and much more pleasant. I have a mixture of Japanese and foreign friends, and I use a mix of Japanese and internatioinal facilities. Basically, I have come to appreciate that I am lucky enough to take what I need from what is available here.
In terms of reverse culture shock, for many people it is a big deal, for a lucky few, they don't notice any.But after a while it does become sort of easier being a foreigner in a foreign land than a being stranger in your own country. After living away from my owm country for more than eight years now, I find myself yearning for home leave, and yet treating my visits home as if I were going to yet another foriehn country because that's what it seems like to me now. Would I ever go back? Yes, absolutely, but never with the thought that anyone is actually interested in what I do here - experience has taught me that, and now it's quite nice to hget completely away from life in Japan, if only for a month or so, before coming back for the next year.
And as I think Glenski said, why would you want to compromise you own identity in order to fit in with what other people (who you've never met, or who'se ideals/opions you don't really know) want? Make your own community of like-minded individuals here. Be yourself, and you will attract your own mix of interesting, diverse poeple both japanese and gaijin. It makes for an interesting life, well at least I think so.
2003-04-04, 09:58 PM
Ok going to try to be serious here even though on this website (yes, yes and in real life) I appear to have painted myself into the cyber-corner as a blathering village idiot.
Came to Japan for the first time in 1993 on the off chance I might get to see the Boredoms. Within 24 hours I knew I would never leave. Here`s why-
1.The women. Good grief. I was 24 years old. At the risk of being accused of undue coarseness, my _____ literally spoke to me and said "hey doofus, learn enough of their mumbo jumbo to GET ME INVOLVED".
2.Record stores. Japan is a cultural black hole. IT ALL COMES IN.
3.Yen. Someone`s willing to pay me NZ $5,000 a month to just smile? Hello #2.
4.The women. Oh. Did I mention that one? I`m no lecherous loathsome Lothario though. 100% faithful to the ol` trouble and strife and all that.
Go native? You`re doomed alright. And deluding yourself. "Completely accepted into a Japanese community" is nutty talk. Normal people want to be accepted. Fu__heads like me from the fringes of society in our own countries are used to being marginalised and WOULDN`T WANT IT ANY OTHER WAY.
There does have to be something you love to do here to keep you here. Duh. A passion. A distraction (?). As the locals say, a "hobby". As those degenerate short-haired layabouts "Facade Burned Black" said on their "Ashen remains of mid-western flames" lp "Find a medium to express your soul... then bleed it dry".
2003-04-05, 03:34 AM
You got that right. Quality name isn't it? I used to tell people the <b>B</b> stood for Brian. That middle name has got me more abuse than you can possibly imagine. I think I would probably could not have had a worse time I had been called St John Templeton Mostyn Smythe the third.
The problem is I didn't go to a public school like Aundal I attended a really tough comprehensive school in Bristol. Hey we didn't learn Latin but if any of you ever lose the keys for a european car call me before you call a lock smith. The school boasted the lowest batting average in the county but the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the South west of England. Sadly the school didn't get government grants for successful rates of fertilisation. If only those blokes had played more sport..........
Boring fact but in my dads family the eldest son has had that middle name for <i>n</i> generations. Its the old name for Bristol my home town. Which is odd considering the family are farmers from wales and all pathologically hate the english. Not very interesting story but thats why the funny name.
Thanks to everyone who wrote back on my original post. The main reason I put it up was I just wanted to know if Japan was a harder nut to crack (for a white guy with a silly name) than any other culture. It seems that most people have got some quite passionate opinions on the subject. The points raised by long standing members of the ex-pat community interested me greatly.
I really just wanted to know if it would be possible to fit in if I decided that I loved the place. One step at a time I suppose. We will see how I go.
So, if on Tuesday 16th any of you see a little english guy carrying a big bag about 5'10", with spiky hair, and a silly name. He will be most probably panicing as he thumbs through a phrase book producing the most cringingly mispronounced Japanese expressions mixed with some more recognisable 'sailors' english.
If you see him please say hello and send him in the right direction. The worlds a lonely old place when you are new kid in town. Have a great weekend.
2003-04-09, 04:56 PM
Diggs, if your grandparents hadn't been deported, you might have had a poncey pommie name yourself.