Japan is an island, just like Ireland. However, this is where the similarities between the two countries end. If you are moving to Japan, you know you are going to experience serious culture shock and occasionally feel very confused, especially if you are not fluent in Japanese. It’s a huge move – culturally as well as geographically. Some of the surprises ahead will be delightful. You’ll feel you have moved to a wonderland and rejoice at your good fortune. Others will be disappointing. And of course, many things will just be confusing and bizarre.
Everyone’s experience of moving to Japan is unique. Studying in Japan for a year is not the same as relocating there for a job. A lot of the articles online about adjusting to life in Japan are geared to Americans, but Irish people will have a somewhat different experience. Here are five things you might not expect about moving to Japan.
1. Driving: Japan is famous for making excellent reliable cars. Irish drivers will be relieved to find that while they need to review the Japanese rules of the road, they will be driving on the left there. It makes it worthwhile looking into shipping a car to Japan. The public transportation is excellent, so you might not really need a car for your day to day travels. But buying or shipping a car to Japan does make it easier to explore the country.
2. Karaoke: When you think of karaoke, you might remember nights spent singing at a party with all your mates or nervously waiting for your turn in a pub. But in Japan, karaoke is often done in private booths with small groups of friends. Private, solo karaoke is also a surprisingly popular pastime.
3. Clean & Green: Tokyo’s massive crowds and towering glass buildings are popular images. And graceful, traditional Japanese pagodas also fill our western imaginations. But did you know Japan’s cities also feature a lot of green spaces, and that they are incredibly clean and safe? People just don’t litter in Japan, so public spaces are clean and pleasant. Nowhere is free of crime, but Japan’s cities are generally safer than Ireland’s.
4. Work Ethic: This is probably the least fun surprise for anyone moving to Japan for work. The hours are long and you will be discouraged from using your holiday time. Your Japanese co-workers will show up early to work and stay late, so don’t be fooled by the work times on your contract. You’ll need to be very assertive to stick your contract hours and take your holiday time. This is the country that developed the ‘death from overwork’ syndrome, after all.
5. Vending Machines: The surprise here is not that Japan has vending machines; it’s the incredible number and variety of vending machines. Your options go far, far beyond bad coffee and a chocolate bar in Japan. You can get a hot dinner from a vending machine. You’ll also find convenience stores everywhere.
Moving to Japan is an adventure. From cherry blossoms to Pokémon, many of the things you expect really are there – along with many other things you don’t expect! But that’s the adventure of moving overseas. Whether you are going for a short stint teaching English or shipping your car to Japan along with all your worldly goods to settle down for the long haul, you will be surprised often. And mostly, it will be delightful surprises.