Throughout my time in Japan, I've learned a lot of lessons. I think that spending a long time living in another country can teach you a lot about other cultures (as well as your own).
Here are 5 MORE things I've learned after living in Japan for 4 years.
1. Japan is ruled by elders
Let's face it, none of us are getting any younger. That's very true for Japan in terms of demographics. The long work hours coupled with other social factors have created an environment where fewer people are having fewer children.
Recent figures state that about 1 out of every 4 people in Japan is over the age of 65. There are a lot of senior citizens out here!
This can really impact your life in a few ways. If you're the oldest of the group, you'll probably be put in charge. The person who is the oldest in your organization, or has been there the longest, will probably make most of the decisions for everyone. It can take some getting used to, but it's just part of life in Japan.
If you ever wonder why something in Japan is done a certain way, it's probably because somebody older than you likes it done that way!
2. People respect those who don't try to stand out
One thing that anyone who has taught English in Japan for a while has probably noticed is how much the students don't like to stand out. Rather than potentially be wrong, a lot of students will simply refuse to engage!
To a certain degree, a lot of this attitude carries over into adulthood.
People who seem to be trying too hard to "be different" can sometimes get the cold shoulder from others (but not always).
Don't get me wrong, standing out isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you are perceived to be putting on a show, get ready for some mean side-eye. I think as a non-Japanese person in Japan, the judgment won't be as harsh (since you already stand out).
3. People respect those who do their job
Although the maturity of some Japanese students is debatable, they have far more responsibilities to perform in the school than students in other countries. When the students grow up and start working, this continues into other aspects of their professional life.
Many positions in Japan require employees to perform responsibilities that you may not have originally signed up for.
Even from junior high school, students in the class are all assigned certain responsibilities and tasks that they're responsible for (like getting the keys for the classroom, collecting graded work from the teacher, erasing the board after lessons, etc).
While there sometimes isn't a punishment for not completing a task, those who consistently do their job well usually get shown some respect from their higher ups.
You won't always get praise in Japan. Much like with my martial arts classes, not getting any complaints is the praise!
Sure, there are some workplaces where what you do doesn't matter and the boss may only promote people who they like, but most of the time I feel like hard work pays off.
4. People love to work hard
Anybody who has worked in Japan for a while knows that a lot of people here really love working (or they just don't want to go home, I'm still not sure).
Most of the Japanese people I know who end up retiring or taking an extended period of time off of work complain about the boredom of not having a job.
In most Western countries, people typically work to live. In Japan, it can often feel like people live to work. There has been a lot of debate about how effective this system is, but the long hours most people work are far beyond those in other places (it's like the opposite of France).
Among people in the office, there is a certain pride that comes with putting in the extra hours. It's hard to say if they're getting a lot done, but they seem to enjoy it.
5. People love to play hard
With the long work hours, people need a way to unwind. One of the most popular (and readily available) ways is to have a few (or more) drinks with some food at an izakaya (Japanese bar).
For some, it can be a shock to see their usually reserved co-workers going H.A.M. at the local watering hole.
There's a time and a place for everything in Japan. If you join in on the fun and have a good time, you're bound to make some friends!
Just remember that having a good time with your co-workers at a party won't spill over into having a good time with them at work. It can be a funny experience to be best buddies with someone while you're drinking on Friday only to get the usual, stern, "Ohayou," on Monday.
So what do you think? Is there anything that surprised you? If you live in Japan, what has your experience been like? Drop a comment!
Check out these other posts!
4 Things I've Learned About Japan After Living Here For 4 Years