Five things that shock Japanese people living abroad
Travel-broadened Japanese Twitter users share their stories of culture shock and pleasant surprises.
Plenty of those who visit Japan, whether temporarily as tourists or longer-term to work here, experience various cultural shocks (People eat KFC on Christmas Day!? What madness is this!?) and obviously the reverse applies for Japanese who venture abroad too. Here we’ll examine five differences that we take for granted but that took Japanese with experience working abroad aback, so much so that they felt the need to share.
1. The cost of eating out
In Japan, even in smaller towns, choices for dining out abound. While there are places that cost an arm and a leg, there are also plenty of places you can eat out for not much more than cooking something yourself at home.
Japanese Twitter user @izawak, working in France, was shocked at the difference in price between going out for food in France and their native Japan.
“French food is too expensive, I thought ‘Nine Euros for just this? Can French people really afford this?’ but coming at it the other way, from talking to French people that have watched a DVD of Kodoku no Gurume [a Japanese drama about a salesman who visits restaurants and food stands to try the local cuisine], they think ‘All of that for just four Euros! How do the restaurant owners make a living?’.
2. News reports vs. real life
Unlike us cheery sorts here at SoraNews24, most news organisations spread a lot of doom and gloom. Look out at the world through the news lens of crime and disaster and there seems very little reason to leave the house, let alone the country if you live in comparatively crime-free Japan. Twitter user @imabayashikaito contrasted the warmth of the Brazilian people they had met with the country’s image abroad.
“The amazing thing about sports spectators in Brazil is that whether the players are successful or make a mistake, they cheer and show encouragement all the same. We always hear about the disorder and the criminals, but that’s not the whole story; there are also lots of kind, gentle and friendly Brazilians too.”
3. Day of rest
Sundays in Japan are near-identical to Saturdays for most people: a day off from work and another chance to indulge in the national sport of shopping. Some countries, however, have Sunday trading laws that limit or prohibit shops and supermarkets opening on what is still for some “the day of rest”. This can take some getting used to for Japanese living abroad, although Japanese Twitter user @fepfeil saw some benefits.
砂鉄@ポジティブ人間 (@fepfeil) May 01, 2017
“When I first started living in Germany, I thought all the supermarkets being closed on Sundays was a real pain but, then I thought they’re open on my way home from work so it’s alright. The way Germany society is organised is that Sundays aren’t for doing grocery shopping or stuff that feels like work, they’re for relaxing and enjoying yourself.”
Twitter user @mami0306 was surprised to discover that other nationalities don’t try to outdo each other with complaint one-upmanship, at least according to an article they read.
“I read an article that about how Japanese people love boasting that they’re ‘not sleeping properly’, ‘not eating properly’, ‘are always busy’ or ‘are in bad health.’ In other countries this just shows that the speaker isn’t able to manage their own time properly and it really left an impression.”
Given that we all like a good gripe, the veracity of the article might be debatable but @mami0306’s surprise isn’t.
5. Working hours
From interminable morning meetings through to the inevitable overtime (sometimes unpaid) that sees many returning home late in the evening, Japanese people spend more of their time at work than almost any other nation. Several Japanese Twitter users have been amazed at how people in most other countries don’t do overtime at all, and would probably have some choice words for their employers if they were asked to do so. Twitter user @halushiroi compared Japanese work culture with its German counterpart.
“The German way of working:
It’s usual for companies to offer flexitime.
You can ‘save up’ overtime so if you work an hour late, you can leave an hour earlier another day.
People who don’t do overtime are well thought of [by their employers].
Supervisors check workers’ time cards and doing too much overtime can be punished with a fine.
Japan, please copy this!”
@syuukaijp was similarly impressed by the more flexible attitudes outside Japan.
“Working in the U.K. [as opposed to working in Japan], I rarely feel something’s strange or unfair. If you’re ill, you can self-declare it and take a day off, if you’re a little bit late you can make up for it at the end of the day, deducting it from your pay is unheard of, there’s no overtime, you don’t have to fill in a physical time card. It feels like a good work-life balance.”
While we often cover the most bizarre sides of life in Japan, and the common mistakes and oddities to watch out for if you’re visiting, it’s refreshing to think that to Japanese eyes some of the things that we take for granted are equally curious and eye-opening.