Adjusting to Building the Life that Fits You

As an expat, there are some dangers and pitfalls when crafting a life in Japan. There are a lot of assumptions made by those who have never lived in Japan about what should be easy. First, nothing is easy in Japan. The expat experience in Japan is not for those looking for an exotic destination that they can immerse themselves in. Japanese society is not an easy thing to become a part of, and life on the periphery can be all too much for some and all too little for others. For those that make it to year five, something amazing begins to happen. The life you live begins to be on your terms and all of those “I shoulds” go right out the window.

It doesn’t have to take five years for this to happen. Some experience it in their first year; others never do. The one constant for those who reach the point of being able to build a life that fits them is that they’ve stopped apologizing for who they are. They have stopped apologizing for their Japanese language level, job, friends, interests, and hobbies. They’ve stopped apologizing for not traveling more or doing more and just started living.

Self-acceptance is hard, and Japan offers a gift that many other countries do not. There is no “ideal” expat. The expat community is diverse, and this diversity provides variety. Because there is so much diversity, no one really knows how anyone else “should” be. This lack of a universal template for what an expat should be allows individuality to thrive. There is no mold to fit, making it impossible to be the wrong fit. Those who succeed in Japan get this and embrace it. Those who don’t do so suffer unimaginably and usually don’t make past two years in Japan. Japan requires authenticity to thrive, and that is not easy to achieve. Once you have the courage to find out who you really are, you will organically find your place in Japanese society. That’s what makes it so hard.

Becoming a part of Japanese society is a lot like falling in love - the harder you try, the more difficult it becomes. There is no one right way to do it. Except that there is. The right way is the way that is most organic. This can be disheartening for some. For others, it is the most rewarding and freeing thing they have ever done. If you can put down the yoke of who you “should” be and embrace who you really are, you will find that Japan is an open door and all you really need to be welcome is to enter with an open heart, an open mind, and your authentic self.

Posted on 07 Jun 2015 04:29

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