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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Tokyo, Japan

Sep 02, 2019


Tokyo

An expat talks about what it's like moving to Tokyo. It took some time adjusting to the crowds and culture, but he's happy now and looking back the culture shock wasn't as bad as he anticipated.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Tokyo

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

Yes, after the move.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I do not speak Japanese and I don’t plan on learning it.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

I was not worried, because I have traveled to many Asian countries before and have experienced the major cultural differences already. But, I would advise to others to do their research on Japanese culture before moving to Japan, because there are a lot of unsaid rules.

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

My culture shock wasn't significant. I've already visited Japan before I moved, but visiting a country is very different to moving and living in a country. I struggled with homesickness and feeling alone, but I remedied that by getting involved with various hobbies.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

For me personally, I feel I went through those stages in a very minor way. I expected the worst outcomes for when I moved to Japan, and when it wasn't the worst, I was pleasantly surprised.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

I experienced homesickness and mild depression. I have learned to cope with it by getting involved in my community. Also, I experienced anxiety due to the overwhelming crowds of Tokyo, but I have adjusted.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

I appreciate the public transportation system, the cleanliness of everything, and everyone's courtesy.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The crowds are the worst for me, but I also frequently get frustrated by Japan's traditional way of thinking.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I was on the train and it rocked and I wasn't holding onto anything. I fell over onto an older lady and I was mortified, but she was very nice about it.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Make sure to get involved in your local community and expat community. It helps a lot.

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Comments about this Report

Cupofchino
Dec 14, 2019 10:26

Wouldn't it be a great benefit to learn the language, at least a little? I'm surprised you have no plans to even try. It would be nice to be able to apologize when you fall onto an elderly woman on a train.

Cupofchino
Dec 14, 2019 10:27

Wouldn't it be a great benefit to learn the language, at least a little? I'm surprised you have no plans to even try. It would be nice to be able to apologize when you fall onto an elderly woman on a train.

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An expat talks about the challenges she's had adjusting to the culture in Japan, where people are much quieter and keep to themselves compared to the US. She explains that even acquaintances keep to themselves and this makes it hard to feel connected.

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An expat talks about adjusting to life and working in Japan. She appreciates the kindness and generosity of strangers, but says that not being able to speak Japanese can be isolating.

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