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Are you planning on moving to Japan? It’s one of the best places to live in the world and the country has plenty to offer an expat. It is a progressive, technologically-advanced country that’s home to friendly locals alongside outstanding natural beauty and fascinating history and traditions. There over two million expats living in Japan, and it’s a country that’s very welcoming to foreigners. It has a unique and distinct culture that’s very different from the life that westerners are used to, making it such a culturally appealing destination. Here are a few tips for anyone looking to become an expat in Japan.
Familiarize Yourself With Local Customs
Japan is filled with ancient traditions, and there are many local customs that you need to be aware of before you start living there. Above all, politeness is one of the most important forms of social etiquette and learning the language will really help you settle in.
Politeness is of the utmost importance in Japan so you will need to make sure that you know how to behave in different social situations as not to cause offense. The Japanese have countless ways of being polite. Some of the main ways include pouring a friend’s drink and letting them pour yours, using your whole hand to signal directions instead of just one finger, and calling for the attention of a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, as they’ll leave you to get settled before they bring over a menu. You’ll also want to respect the quietness that you’ll hear on the train and metro, and it’s considered to be a bad habit if you eat while you’re walking.
Learn the Language
While you can get by in most major Japanese cities without learning to speak Japanese, it’s still a good idea to at least master the basics of Japanese. In addition to making it easier to get by, this will also be well received by the locals as it shows that you have made an effort to immerse yourself in the country. Locals will be delighted to know that you’ve spent time learning their language and they will be more than happy to help with pronunciation.
It’s worth downloading a dictionary app to your phone and having Google Translate to hand. While Tokyo is an easy city to get around and locals are always happy to point you in the right direction, getting lost in a new place can be daunting and some of the other top Japanese cities are not as well sign-posted as Tokyo.
Find Property in a Central Location
As an expat, you will want to be close to the action so it’s a smart idea to find property centrally located — places like MetroResidences often have excellent apartments in the city center. Fortunately, the metro system is excellent in Tokyo so it can be quick and easy to get around, meaning you’ll have fast access to all the neighborhoods. It’s wise to buy a pre-paid card as opposed to paying for individual tickets for each trip if you decide to live further out and want to go into the city center.
It is always challenging to meet new people when you move to a new country but Japan is one of the better places for networking, whether for work or your personal life. One custom at networking events is to exchange business cards, so make sure you always have plenty of these to hand before. It’s worth checking Facebook and other social media sites to see if there are expat groups in the city that you’re in. For example, search Facebook for Tokyo Expats, and you’ll find groups where like-minded individuals and expats post about different activities in the city, such as meet-ups, business networking, language exchanges, and more.
Japan is one of the countries that experience the most earthquakes in the world due to its position in the Pacific Rim of Fire. Be prepared and read up on the safety measures you should take during earthquakes. Stay calm and don’t panic. You’ll want to position yourself near a strong part of a building, such as a doorway or a corner of a building, or under a sturdy piece of furniture.
It’s worth mentally preparing yourself for other natural disasters, including typhoons, super hot summers, cold winters, and tsunamis. Don’t lose sleep over the possibility of natural disasters — just read up about how to be best prepared in case of an emergency.
Making New Friends
When arriving in Japan, you have to be prepared that it might take a while to make friends with locals, as Japanese people tend to be culturally more reserved. The best thing to do is to sign up for a new hobby and meet new people through shared interests. You can also use social media and forums to find meet-ups.
Cost of Living
Japan isn’t a cheap country compared to its surrounding Asian countries, and you have to be ready to spend more on things that you normally wouldn’t want to. On the flipside, wages are good, and the general quality of life in Japan is very high. You can still get by cheaply by cooking at home — if you’re feeling lazy you can use pre-cooked rice machines that can be found in supermarkets, and just throw in some vegetables. Transport is expensive, but you can keep costs down by exploring on foot.
Overall, Japan is a wonderful country and one which is on the rise for expat-living, so it is no surprise that so many people are looking to move there. As with any place, an expat needs to know what to expect and there are a few unique aspects to Japan which are important to be aware of before you make the move. Generally, you will find it to be an accommodating, friendly, polite, and welcoming place which should help you to create an enjoyable lifestyle.