Student’s at Smith’s Kyobashi (スミス 英会話 京橋) often ask me how difficult is life for a foreigner in Japan. Although this question crops up numerous times, the question’s formulation, always surprises me. You see, I would expect something like ” Do you enjoy Japan?” or “What do you like about Japan?”. I’m not saying that it never happens, but nine times out of ten it would be, “Is life in Japan difficult for a foreigner?”.
I’m originally from The Czech Republic and when I was 20 years old I moved to England (London). I stayed in London for 7 years. There, I had my first proper job, met many great friends from all around the world and most importantly, met my wife and got married.
The reason why I mentioned my life in London is that to me, life in another country is not so unusual. But this type of experience is not common to our students. It is known, that Japanese people are eager tourist, always looking for new destinations and traveling around the world. Even in these difficult times, traveling is one of the most cited hobby by our students. I’m sure that all of our teachers can name at least few friends or family members living outside their home country. Off the top of my head I can think of 10 people, excluding many new friends living in Japan.
But, our students don’t know many people from another countries, let alone foreigners living out of their home countries.
They know us! English teachers from different parts of the world.
And that’s why this question makes so much sense to them and at the same time initially, manage to catch me slightly off guard.
So, “Is life in Japan difficult for a foreigner?”. Not at all!
The first thing I always tell to my students is that it “Can’t be better, here” and there are three simple reasons for that.
1. Kindness of Japanese People.
As you can see from the question I’m discussing in this article, they are not only curious about the aspects of life abroad, but you also get the sense that they care about you. Wanting to know how’s your life in their country. The kindness and respectful treatment of people is something truly nice here in Japan. If you haven’t already, check Mark’s article ‘The Wallet’, there you can see how the kindness works in practice. Amazing.
My personal example, would be the effort by my neighbors to help with anything concerning my house (collecting mail, checking windows and doors safety…) while I’m away on holiday. Mind you, that me and my wife usually go away for two weeks. It’s such a great feeling, not having to worry about anything. And of course, when our neighbors are away, we do the same for them.
2. Japan Is Beautiful.
Japan as a whole country has so much to offer. I count myself lucky to live in one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. That is of course Kyoto. The city vibrates with old culture and tradition. But this doesn’t apply only to Kyoto. For example, my plan for this year’s Golden Week is to travel to Hakone and also to Hiroshima. Both locations are spectacular. And both locations are accessible by a bullet train (新幹線) from Kyoto.
I also frequently travel to Tokyo to see my friends. There I can enjoy more modern architecture and life. Which brings me to the last point.
3. Modern Comforts
Life in Japan is modern and vibrant. Japanese companies are ‘top dogs’ in their fields and often produce cutting-edge electronics (check this ‘pulse checker’), modern concept cars, housing systems and home appliances.
I can’t stress enough how easy and satisfying all these comforts make my life here.
Whether I stay at home with my family or decide spend some time outside.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty more aspects of life in Japan that are great and inspirational. I could be writing about them for all day long. But one lesson(英会話) at Smith’s School of English is 45 minutes long and the three points I’ve mentioned above are just the right number for students to have proper English conversation with a foreigner (me) in the space of one lesson.